The Coulson Group has signed a memorandum of understanding to provide fire retardant systems for Airbus’ C295W aircraft.
Under the terms of the agreement Coulson will develop and manufacture a version of its Retardant Dropping System (RDS) which is already being used in two C-130 air tankers operated by Coulson.
The system installed in the C295W will consist of two roll-on/roll-off internal tanks which can be removed after the fire season. The aircraft will then be available for its conventional role as a ramp-equipped, multi-role transport able to carry cargo, troops, paratroops, or stretchers.
The RDS for the C295W will include two internal tanks of 924 gallons each (3,500 liters), for a total of 1,848 gallons (7,000 liters). When dropping, the flow-rate can be adjusted via the cockpit control panel according to the desired coverage, aircraft speed, and height over terrain.
A prototype C295W air tanker has been flying since 2013 as a proof of concept. After it was deemed a success, Airbus turned to Coulson to adapt their existing C-130 system to the smaller C295W.
Coulson Aircrane manager, Britton Coulson said:
We are an on-going partner for Airbus and expect to deliver multiple systems per year on a continuous basis. There are over 130 C-295’s flying around the world with many more on order that are potential RDS upgrade candidates.
The C295, manufactured in Seville, Spain, was introduced in 2001. An enhanced performance version with winglets and uprated engines, the C295W, was announced in 2013. As of August, 2015, Airbus had delivered 136 of the C295 series aircraft with another 26 on order.
Coulson had the following promotional video produced for the 2015 Hercules Operators Conference.
As Fire Aviation told you on October 22, Airbus is experimenting with a C295 that has been converted into an air tanker. The first tests were designed to monitor the performance of the aircraft as the water was released. In the second phase the company conducted seven water drops at a range near Cordoba, Spain where water was dropped into a grid of cups which measured the amount of water. After the engineers analyze the data they will know the volume and consistency of the drop pattern across the grid. The Interagency AirTanker Board requires similar tests before issuing federal certification for air tankers in the United States.
During the tests the C295 was outfitted with one tank in the cabin which held 924 gallons (3,500 liters). The water was gravity-ejected through two doors installed in the belly of the aircraft. Airbus plans to use two of the roll-on/roll-off tanks, raising the capacity to 1,848 gallons (7,000 liters). This is about the same number of gallons the C-27J is expected to carry if it were converted into an air tanker.
The concept is similar to the system used on Coulson’s Tanker 131, a C-130Q which carries 3,500 gallons in what Coulson has named the Coulson RADS-XL Tank after they bought the rights package for the RADS tank from Aero Union. Britt Coulson told us that if anyone wants to outfit an air tanker with that tank they will need to talk to his company.
Airbus Military has begun tests near Cordoba, Spain of a C295 aircraft modified as an air tanker. The flights went well, according to the company, and further tests are planned in the near future to make a more detailed analysis of the C295 as a firefighter aircraft.
The C295 looks similar to the C-27J but it has less impressive performance. According to Wikipedia (see the links above) the payload capacity of the C295 is about 5,000 pounds less and the engines have 57 percent of the horsepower of the C-27J. It would probably carry about 400 gallons less retardant than the C-27J, with a capacity of around 1,400 to 1,700 gallons is our guess.
Rumor has it that France is considering replacing their fleet of Conair Turbocats, which are retrofitted Grumman S-2 Trackers.