Another air tanker company moves out of California


Coulson's T-131 at Reno
Coulson’s Tanker 131 at Reno, April 18, 2014. Photo by Ryan Coulter.

The Coulson Group has moved their air tanker operation from McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California to Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada. This is the second air tanker operator that has moved out of the state in the last six months. In October, 10 Tanker Air Carrier relocated their corporate headquarters from Victorville, California to the airport at Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10 Tanker has two DC-10 air tankers and is converting a third, while Coulson has one C-130 on U.S. Forest Service contract and hopes to acquire another. Coulson expects to have a minimum of 20 employees on their payroll at Reno.

Still left in California is Air Spray, who in 2012 took over a hanger at Chico formerly occupied by Aero Union. The company has a  Call When Needed contract from CAL FIRE for an L-188 Electra “Long Liner” air tanker and is converting two BAe-146s into air tankers at the facility. Several employees that formerly worked for Aero Union are now employed by Air Spray at Chico.


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Thanks and a hat tip go out to Britt, Ryan, Dave, and Scott.

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10 thoughts on “Another air tanker company moves out of California”

  1. I’m glad they moved here to Reno, there is quite the talent pool to pull from, and not to mention the Nevada Air Guard across the runway with plenty of people full of C-130 knowledge.

    1. Hi Scott, I’m sure the move had little to do with the accumulated knowledge of military C-130 staff in Reno; the company has hired their own in-house experts. I imagine the move has to do with availability or comparative lease rates of facilities and/or a more favorable tax/business climate. Coulson is not a US company, and will of course migrate to wherever makes the most business sense for them.

  2. CA is not only not business friendly it is anti business. There will be a time and probably in the not too distant future when it goes bankrupt. You can’t keep driving businesses and the tax base out and keep raising benefits for those who produce nothing. I left 12 years ago and most people I know who are still there and nearing retirement are making plans to get out.

    It makes sense for Air Spray to stay since their contract is with CAL FIRE but the others who are USFS contractors can operate from anywhere.

    1. California and a number of cities in it are already bankrupt, their Washington’s welfare state. There are more non-taxpayers in this state then anywhere. Also when you give employee’s 100% retirement pay what do you expect to happen. California hasn’t learned from the massive aviation company move out years ago. You are so correct in saying the state isn’t business friendly, which really makes no sense on a managerial aspect. The tax base in CA will kill almost any small business. It is sad. Coulson’s move to Reno makes total sense.

  3. Looking at their newsletter, they include a different picture of the C-130. Their photo features the twelve (yes, 12!) people who are needed to keep the plane on fires, and the logo of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation decal on the plane as well as a statement saying Coulson supports the efforts of the WFF. I couldn’t find a statement from them saying why they moved to Reno. But if they fly fires all over the western states and Canada, it makes sense to move support crews that travel by ground to a more central location. Perhaps the airport at Battle Mountain, Nevada was too remote.

  4. Coulsons own 2 Martin Mars tankers, though I’m not sure if either one will be flying on fires in 2014. They also operate some Sikorski S61s, which fight fires in Australia, Canada and (a few years ago) in the US.

  5. So, I was curious what their plan was for hangaring the airplane, then I noticed yesterday that they towed it into Atlantic Aviation’s new hangar. The thing is, they can’t fit the entire airplane in the hangar, or even close the doors around the empennage. They must have plans to build a hangar on the field somewhere, because parking on the FBO’s GA ramp and working out of a much-too-small hangar seems like a very temporary solution. Any word on what their long term plans are in Reno?

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