About SAU
The History of the State Aircraft Unit
Aircraft play an invaluable role in the Department of Environment and Primary Industries' and Country Fire Authority's fire suppression activities. Aircraft have been used for fire management operations since 1925 when an Air Force Westland Wapiti aircraft was first commissioned for aerial reconnaisance by Forest Commission Victoria. Since this time both organisations have developed the use of aircraft for fire and land management, with each organisation coordinating their own fleet of aircraft.

On 1 August 2000 the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the then the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) both signed the “Safe Forest Firefighting - CFA and NRE position paper”. With regards to aircraft the joint position was that:

  • CFA and NRE will establish a joint aircraft management unit;
  • Any use of aircraft will be coordinated through the joint aircraft management unit, including any ad hoc use or casual hire;
  • CFA and NRE agree that only competent staff will be used in aircraft roles; and
  • CFA and NRE agree that aircraft use will be based on operational priority after a consideration of the level of fire danger,
    community risk and existing resource commitments.

CFA and NRE subsequently agreed that the joint aircraft management unit would be known as the State Aircraft Unit (SAU). The primary objective in establishing the SAU was to create a “one stop shop” for all aspects of coordination and management of aviation resources and activities between the CFA and NRE.

On 20th December 2001 the “Co-operative Agreement between the CFA and NRE” was executed, confirming the position taken previously regarding the sharing, use and management of aircraft.

In 2002 the NRE was split into the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and the Department of Primary Industries (DPI). The DSE took over the aviation responsibilities previously held by the NRE.

In 2013 DSE and DPI merged back to become the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI). DEPI took over the aviation responsibilities previously held by DSE.

The State Aircraft Unit Today
The SAU has built on the 80 years of aviation experience by previous agencies and now coordinates a large fleet of modern firefighting and support aircraft. Each year the SAU provides aviation resources for hundreds of fires. In the 2006/2007 fire season alone, the SAU coordinated aircraft for a combined flight time in excess of 8,700 hours.

The SAU played a pivotal role in the suppression of the Great Devide fires of December 2006 and January 2007 which eventually burnt over 1.2 million hectares. The combined efforts of SAU aircraft and the hardworking firefighters of the CFA, DEPI and assisting agencies, saved many townships in north-eastern Victoria and Gippsland.

In addition to supplying aircraft for fire management, the SAU coordinates aircraft used in other DEPI emergencies such as whale entanglements, and for various land management activities such as aerial seeding operations.

The State Aircraft Unit Team

The State Aircraft Unit comprises:

Adam Lawson Manager, SAU
Kylie Hyland Senior Project Officer, Procurement & Business Services
Claire Kidley Management Services Officer
Barry Scott Aviation Services Manager
Vacant Aviation Support Officer
Hayden Biggs SAU Innovation Officer
Brett Boatman Operations Officer-Aviation
Bryan Rees Training and Safety Manager
Eain McRae Aviation Technical Officer – Audit, Analysis & Systems Review
Graeme Briggs Aviation Equipment and Training Officer
Adam Damen Technical Systems Specialist
Vacant Systems Specialist Assistant
Gary Turnham Project Manager, Enhanced Request and Dispatch

SAU Annual Reports
SAU Annual Report 2011/12
SAU Annual Report 2010/11
SAU Annual Report 2009/10
SAU Annual Report 2008/09
SAU Annual Report 2007/08
SAU Annual Report 2006/07
SAU Annual Report 2005/06
SAU Annual Report 2004/05