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Reaching New Heights - The Bronto Skylift Aerial Ladder Platform


FBY 202 F33-2T1 Bronto Skylift Aerial Ladder Platform at the 1993 Rescue Expo [Museum of Fire Collection]
FBY 202 F33-2T1 Bronto Skylift Aerial Ladder Platform at the 1993 Rescue Expo [Museum of Fire Collection]

In the 1980s is when the aerial ladder platform became an appliance of interest to firefighters in NSW. The implementation of the raised monorail through Sydney and especially Darling Harbour was of greatest concern to Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) as the current fleet of turntable ladders and aerial pumpers were not as effective. Emergency evacuation of the monorail system or a fire occurring onboard or on a nearby building would not be able to be effectively managed by the current aerial fleet alone, thus in June 1987 the Brigade began a proper investigation into an alternative rescue appliance, the Bronto Skylift. Deputy Chief Officer W. Rogers visited New Delhi, India where the fire brigade there had been using a Bronto Skylift system for the past two years. Upon inspection of the vehicle’s utility the Deputy Chief Officer was comfortable with recommending that FRNSW should purchase a system of their own.


The advantage of an aerial ladder platform system such as the Bronto Skylift over other aerial appliances was that it featured a multi section solid telescopic boom with a long-hinged fly section at the top. The ladder was attached to the right-hand side of the boom making the appliance ideal for rescue operations in unique positions as well as acting as a more versatile water tower in instances of multi-storey building fires. The first iteration of these Bronto Skylift aerial ladder platforms was installed on a Kenworth chassis and commissioned in 1987 at Headquarters Fire Station (now known as City of Sydney).


The aerial ladder platform would be of significant operational success that it prompted the Board of Fire Commissioners to purchase further units. These would be to slowly replace the aging fleet of turntable ladders and hydraulic platforms (colloquially known as snorkels) due to the Bronto Skylift systems having the advantages of both alternative aerial appliances, making them much more versatile and leading to considerable savings on behalf of the Fire Brigade.

FBY 202 Bronto Skylift with stabilizers out [Museum of Fire Collection]
FBY 202 Bronto Skylift with stabilizers out [Museum of Fire Collection]

Whilst aerial ladder platforms possessed a range of versatility, they were and still are some of the most expensive vehicles in the fleet resulting in our next generation of aerial ladder platforms occurring in 1992 with the updated F33-2T1-HDT ladder system. At this time the ladder was installed on a Mercedes 2435 8x4 chassis which was the preferred choice as it allowed for the chassis to be sent directly to the factory for the installation of the aerial ladder platform, leaving final body work to be completed by the purchaser’s preferred builder.

FBY 202 with the Hon. Ted Pickering Minister for Police and Emergency Services in rescue basket, testing the aerial ladder platform for the first time, July 6 1992 [Museum of Fire Collection]
FBY 202 with the Hon. Ted Pickering Minister for Police and Emergency Services in rescue basket, testing the aerial ladder platform for the first time, July 6 1992 [Museum of Fire Collection]

The 2nd generation aerial ladder platform was officially inaugurated on July 6 1992 by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Hon. Ted Pickering as the appliance was officially dedicated to the firefighters of FRNSW. The appliance was predominantly purchased as a result of the Treasury Managed Fund which was a government initiative set out to deliberately reward good performers in managing risks and consequently reducing insurance payouts. In the 1991/92 financial year, FRNSW received $1,173,000 ($2,493,910 today) from the government fund, with $600,000 ($1,275,657 today) of that going towards the purchase of the $919,000 ($1,953,882 today) aerial ladder platform. As a result, a stainless-steel plaque was produced and fitted to the appliance to record the excellent occupational health and safety performances.


The aerial ladder platform would then officially enter service in August 1992 first being stationed at Headquarters Fire Station, whilst the 1988 aerial ladder platform transferred to Alexandria. The 2nd generation 1992 aerial ladder platform would then transfer to Wollongong in 1996 followed by being allocated to Huntingwood, although, never installed in 2004, and finally stationed at Hornsby in 2005 until its withdrawal from service in 2010.


-Story by the Curator

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