Removing Coulson’s C-130 tank

These photos show the removal of the 3,500-gallon retardant tank from Coulson’s C-130 air tanker which is being converted in San Bernardino, California. Just going by the time stamps, it took about eight minutes. The pictures were taken today and sent to us by Britt Coulson.

C-130 retardant tank unload

C-130 retardant tank unload

C-130 retardant tank unloadWe thank Britt Coulson for sharing these photos.


19 thoughts on “Removing Coulson’s C-130 tank”

  1. “Hey fellows put the tank back in!” Fire season 2013 is just taking a short breather. Third week in August? The tank photos reminds me of the C119 (aka, crowd killer). If one engine failed the other engine would get you to the scene of the accident.

  2. This Tank system is fantastic.
    IAR&TBM IncC-130’s still have it…
    Too bad the A model won’t be considered anymore.

    For a Herc’ this is the best system.

    1. Yep Jerome I agree. Been around when they pulled the tank out of 64 -at Butler. Good system,,,
      Good Airplanes…

  3. Perhaps someone in the know can help me with this question. Can the C-130 use airfields that other tankers of similar size can’t because of the design of their landing gear and STOL abilities? I know that the C-130 was designed for rough/short field operations. If they can, I would think it would give them shorter turn around times.

    1. Good question, B.Morgan. I don’t know how authoritative this site is, but it says the minimum runway length for a C-130 is 3,000 feet. So perhaps it could be used at airfields normally only used for SEATS… if the retardant mixing equipment could dispense 3,500 gallons at one time.

      1. Bill / B.Morgan

        Minimum required runway length is a function of aircraft gross weight and density altitude.

        I used to be the program sponsor for the Navy C-130Q’s when they flew the TACAMO mission. So when they say the C-130 can operate off of a 3000 ft runway there are significant payload and fuel load “qualifications”.

        Here’s a more authoritative document on the C-130Q. Not exactly the same one as the Coulson model but close enough.

        6300 ft of runway required at sea level with standard conditions [assumes a 50′ obstacle clearance capability]. With higher density altitudes [hotter / higher], significantly more runway is required.

        I’m sure Coulson stripped out the aircraft as much as possible
        but the aircraft is still going to be operating near max allowable pay load with 3,500 gallons of retardant so the above numbers probably reflect a reasonable performance estimation.


  4. Bean,

    Thanks for all the good information on the C-130Q.

    It sounds like once load/temp/altitude are taken into consideration it does need a long runway.
    I’m wondering if portable retardant set ups are available. In my travels I have made it a point track down and visit old military air bases. But using them would get into having them approved and then getting a portable set up out there. I wonder how much more effective plain water is verses retardant if turn around time is significantly reduced? Seems like a good water source, high volume pump and some hose would make a water reload simple. But I’m getting onto ground I’m not familiar with, being a helicopter guy for many years.

    Thanks again.


    1. Perhaps some Canadian CL-215/415 folks could enlighten the discussion on their view of water versus retardant effectiveness and turnaround times?

      I like helo people … they came to get me when my fixed wing thing stopped working.


      1. The province of Alberta found that a diversified fleet works the best with a mixture air tankers, water scoopers, and helicopters. See article…

        “From a fleet diversity perspective, working different tankers together is a key strategy. Skimmers are used in direct attack to reduce fire behavior and support line-building operations by the long-term retardant aircraft on scene. When land-based retardant airtankers are working with skimmers, the highest priority is placed on facilitating the delivery of water to the fire in what Alberta calls the “liters per hour concept.” Based on cost effectiveness, skimmers are priority processed over long-term retardant tankers.”

  5. I’m just confused about the 12″ high “Next Generation” letters painted all over company assets. To what do they refer? The tank is an old First Gen (1980s design) that sits inside an older airplane (1960s design). I suppose that’s to buffalo the Fed contract administrators into believing they’re getting something new & improved.
    Ah, maybe Coulson has installed a glass cockpit? No wait, that’s This Gen and every new Cessna 172 has one. It must be the shiny Nascar truck, it’s gotta be. Mystery solved: it’s a Next Generation decal applied onto a standard trailer unit.

  6. Mr. Gabbert, I Like your website was told about it by a friend specifically this article. I use to work for Aero Union a long time ago when these tanks were built. I think the tank system works fine. But what I find entertaining is calling this plane a nex gen tanker. Also prior to this c130 showing up as a nex gen tanker it was sitting on a ramp on the east coast with no plugs in the engines or apu ect… with a sever list to the right. After months of looking at this plane I asked the person in charge if there was a strut issue with N427NA. I was told It was not a strut issue but a massive fuel imbalance, because the left wing when filled with fuel would leak all over the ramp and create a mess that the base did not like. It sat like that for years. Now a snake oil salesman has it, shines it up parks a as equally shinny tracker trailer next to it with a picture of the plane on it and sells it to the USFS, only in America. No disrespect to Mr. Coulson he has every right to produce this product and find work for it. But it saddens me to see a Gov agency that apparently has no memory or Idea of what they had or need to do to essentially wright the ship that they are sinking with there decisions. So we are right back were we started in the nineties with a busted up old ex military lockheed product with a new fancy paint job. It will probably do a better job than a jet Im guessing. You might want to inquire if this plane faces the same aging aircraft airworthiness issues that the P-3 had to incur to keep its FS contract after 2004. Direct any and all questions to the type of maintenance that is preformed on the wings, a military depot would take years and a un-godly amount of money and specialized equipment to get a aircraft through with a clean bill of health. Last time I checked San Brenardino airport did not have a C-130 maintenance depot on the field. Its like star wars when O’b one waves his hand at the storm troopers and says these are not c130’s you are getting these are shinny nex gen c130’s you are getting. I want my hard earned tax dollars back.

  7. It is surprising how many people resent or disapprove of what the Coulson company is doing with their C-130Q. They came up with an aircraft that apparently will meet the specifications in the USFS contract, so why is there so much hate directed at the company? If you disagree with the specs in the contract, it seems like the anger should be directed at the organization that wrote the contract, not the company that qualified under the criteria. Another player in the very, very small world of large air tankers could improve the DNA of the herd.

    And when someone says, “No disrespect intended….”, as in a comment above, you know what’s coming next.

  8. Bill

    I think I see the problem here…

    Coulson is doing a GREAT job. The problem I see here is: The ol USFS put an end to the LAT program when Hawkins and Powers lost their PB4Y2 and C130 lineage aircraft.

    I see SteveO’s reasoning…..Coulson aircraft is a “Q” model, which I am not totally familiar with. Nonetheless, a C130 that the USFS has said before they would not contract and yet they did with Coulson and a C130

    BUT….A through E/F models when working with the Army…I had some direct and not so direct familiarity.

    Somehow the USFS see the “Q” some thing different……I would not know if the wing boxes were newer or up to date.

    The problem is….if you are not contracting anyone else’s C130 A through H models…and still using MAFFS ships….,,,,you see where this is going….

    There sure is a contradiction of contracting issues….when calling ol C130 A-H as ex military aircraft they would not like to “use” anymore and then all of a sudden contract an aged C130 ….if indeed the “Q” is an let’s a 1980 or older model..

    Then….with that said…I would respect SteveO’s observations…….A FUBAR contracting system with the 1950’s through 1970’s in mind.

    Those MD 87, B747, DC10, BAe146, RJ85 etc are NO spring chickens….the are “Next Gen” only , AGAIN, to the people that THINK these “new” jeeeets are only “Next Gen” because they love the moniker and suffer (SJS) shiny jet syndrome.

    The rest of us and maybe ask the operators of their DC10 and others if they consider the 20-40 yrs ship “Next Gen”….you might get another answer…a true answer…..the aircraft are not “Next Gen.”

    AGAIN , “Next Gen” is only a moniker “cuz the LMA world has never actively participated in an truly expensive world with jeeet technology. Until now …and finally using some common sense in progressively doing EU contracts. But the contracting world at the USFS will probably say they are at the expense of,once again, pinching more pennies and expecting $100 dollar bills

    Like the kids say nowadays….jus sayin!!

  9. If you think about it, no one speaking with authority to my knowledge ever said that “next generation” air tanker meant current day, new, newest, or modern aircraft. The word “next” simply means the one that followed the previous generation.

    Using the federal government’s low bid or best value contract award system, and considering the shrinking federal budgets, there is no way in the foreseeable future we will see purpose built or new generation aircraft serving as air tankers (the five-year-old C-27Js may be the exception). We are stuck with, even in “next-gen” versions, aircraft that are 20 to 40 years old at best. These BAe-146s, DC-10s, C-130Qs, and C-130Hs are the next generation, the one that followed the 60-year-old World War II, and then the 50-year-old Korean War vintage aircraft. Not “new”, simply next. Like in football when a player is injured, “next man up”.

    In other words, Neptune’s 20 to 30-year-old BAe-146s, Coulson’s C-130Q, and Aero Air’s MD-87s ARE “next generation”. Not “new generation”, just the NEXT one. The best one, the ONLY ONE right now, that the USFS and the taxpayers are willing to pay for.

    By the way, a C-130Q is basically a C-130H that was modified to carry a sophisticated antenna system so that it could serve as a strategic communications link aircraft for the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine force and as a backup communications link for the U. S. Air Force manned strategic bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile forces.

  10. Sorry for the miss understanding Bill, its not resentment at all. Hey If I could get my hands on a P-3 for next to nothing then go and grab a proven design with out any cost out of my pocket just the build and install and a panel pulling party in a hangar, I’d do it too. But the fact is that this c-130 is ex-military, my understanding is it was a trade with a museum, for something that he didn’t want, that the museum thought would be more interesting I suppose. I was under the impression the FS did not want ex-military aircraft especially ones that another agency being nasa could not afford to maintain or as a static display at a museum for the past eight years and all c130’s have wing issues as do P-3’s. Also the FS tried to convert a few P-3’s years back, they were given to them from the MILITARY, they threw away a ton of money and had nothing to show for it but a hanger of P-3 parts in Missoula. Which I thought was hilarious. I do not dislike Mr. Coulson’s company or the dog and pony show with the semi, I find that part a little entertaining and a bit silly but hey its his thing I guess. The Snake Oil Salesman statement above, Ill explain. Bill I’d like to think that today the society we live in (USFS) has some common sense just like if I tried to sell you something you knew you didn’t want because from your experience in the PAST it didn’t work out so well, so you said no more ever ever ever ever. Then suddenly you fold and bring it back, It makes the USFS look extremely week and incompetent. Again I think the C-130 will work but there will always be that black cloud following it around. One last thing here take a hard look at what Minden, Aero-Air, and Aero flight are doing…. Designing there own new tank systems that hopefully will work well, that is what the NEX-GEN stands for in my opinion. Mr. Coulson got a free jalopy and did not have to design anything except the paint scheme and pay for the tune up. I resent the FS for their weakness.

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