Canterbury helicopters get new firefighting weapon

There's a new piece of equipment taking to the skies to help tackle Canterbury fires.

A helicopter company says it was looking for ways to keep its pilots safe in often challenging and dangerous conditions.

It's a day off firefighting duties for helicopter pilot Dougal Monk. He's been busy this fire season, helping put out blazes with a new piece of equipment not used in New Zealand before.

Instead of a monsoon bucket there's a 1200 litre tank attached under the helicopter - which packs the same firefighting punch.

Christchurch Helicopters says they decided to look for alternative firefighting options following the Port Hills fires in 2017. They claimed the life of pilot Steve Askin when his monsoon bucket swung into the tail rotor causing him to lose control and crash.

"As a pilot I like that I'm not worrying about that bucket underneath," Monk says.

"I've done a lot of time with buckets underneath me - fertilizer buckets and monsoon buckets and I don't have to worry about this."

Monk says the tanks are used to fight about ninety percent of bush fires overseas and he can see why.

"You don't have to stop and set up buckets," he says. "As soon as you get there you're straight on the job."

But it doesn't mean Christchurch Helicopters will be retiring their monsoon buckets anytime soon.

"We still have a fleet of helicopters with buckets and they still have their place," says Christchurch Helicopters CEO Terry Murdoch.

"The tanks come into their own in the urban interface area, mainly, there's no question about it. We won't be getting rid of our buckets - there's still a place for them."

They're just equipped with a new weapon in their arsenal as they help fight fires this season.