The Group Support Brigade provides communications facilities and radio operators for air and heli-bases within the Blue Mountains district and elsewhere as required. Aviation Radio Operators (AROs) are drawn from the more experienced members of the Communications Unit or others who may have already have an aviation background. ARO training is provided by the state based RFS Aviation Section and graduates will qualify for a Civil Aviation Safety Authority proficiency certificate or the RFS equivalent.
Communications facilities at an air base are usually provided by the District Operational Communications Vehicle (OCV) staffed by two or three operators from early morning to last light. This facility allows radio traffic between the Incident Management Team (Air Operations Manager), Aircraft and air base as well as local comms on the base itself.
In addition to providing communications facilities our AROs also provide the pilots with a mandatory safety service known as flight following. This is a procedure whereby a responsible person keeps track of the progress of a flight at regular intervals and initiates search and rescue action if contact is not maintained or if there is any doubt as to the safety of the aircraft. The use of aircraft for fire fighting is an extremely hazardous exercise due to the operating environment (heat, smoke, low altitude, other nearby aircraft with buckets attached, long work hours etc.) so operators must be constantly aware of the disposition and tasking of all machines and the people on board.
Helitack 402 - Bell 214B. Photo by Peter Horn, 15 Nov 2006, Katoomba Airbase