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The early 1980s feral and BTEC animal eradication programs in the North West Kimberly region and across the top end of of Australia mainly utilised Bell47G-3BI turbocharged machines.

 

 

 

They were often modified to improve agility by having the Main Rotor system stabiliser bar and damper system removed.

 

 

The Turbocharged Bell47G 3B1 - with an increase in Turbo boost pressure up to 34 or 35 inches of Manifold Air Pressure as an emergency safety margin - enabled the machine to handle the hot and humid ambient temps with markedly improved performance.

 

Flight endurance was extended by carrying three or more 20 litre Jerry Cans strapped to the cargo racks.

 

 

This type of flying translated into pilot fatigue after 4 or 5 weeks at 3 X 3.5+ hour sorties every day

A real problem was the shock wave from the rifle muzzle blast. It travelled around the bubble and seemed to come back thru the pilots door and, even though I wore a helmet, hit me squarely and painfully in the forehead. I had to train myself not to flinch as every round was fired, even though it physically felt like someone was hitting me with a hammer.

 

Ordnance was two or three 7.62mm (308) SLR military heavy duty barrel rifles (see one in the machine below) required due the high firing rate contributing to coking and therefore jamming or misfiring. These rifles where set for single shot rather than automatic as humane shooting required a single head shot.

Normally spare guns were strapped to the RH cargo rack so that the shooter could quickly access them when the primary unit went unserviceable due the heavy fire rate.

In the photo, you can see the ammunition (1500 rounds+) and spare clips in a wooden box strapped into the space where the centre seat has removed.

Often when the firing was intense, it was not uncommon for me to be furiously loading the spare 20 round clips while trying to make sure the machine missed all the obstacles and maintaining it in a sideways slip to set up the .5 of a second moment when the opportunity was available for the shooter to aim squarely for and take a head shot at an animal - which itself was ducking and weaving at high speed among the boulder and trees.

The RH door frame in this photo is severely chipped from the ejecting hot cartridge cases. About a meter of the front of the RH skid tube was also usually shot off after three weeks into the season due to the shooter quickly firing as an animal moved quickly from side to side or I had to maneuver the helicopter to avoid hitting trees or rocks.

 

 

 

 

The shooter had to be very careful, as the close range meant that we had problems with rock chips and spent rounds flicking up and back at us. The rounds would sometimes flatten on the rocks and turn into a ricocheting spinning hot and lethal disc which occasionally flicked back in our direction.

A good shooter would average about 2 to 3 rounds per animal over the 5 weeks (40-50,000 rounds during the 4 week period). The best - a wonderful aboriginal friend of mine - Cyril Hunter - averaged 1.5, shooting the SLR mainly from the hip. He had rhythm!

My records show one sortie of 480+ in 1.7 hours (including the return ferry flight). We had to cease as we ran out of ammo and burst (split) the heavy duty barrel of one rifle and the others went US.

The Government shooter for that sortie was a bloke named Macca from the town of Halls Creek. We both never forgot that sortie and it was like old times when we had a beer together while catching up 15 years later when I presented a Safety course in Derby to the new Government shooters.

'On ya Macca! You were great.'

 

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Tony Ca

 

     
 
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