The history of Tanker 134

The aircraft crashed January 22 in Australia, killing the three members of the crew

Coulson's L-130Q
Coulson’s C-130Q which later became Tanker 134. Coulson photo, April 2017.

As this is written the names of the three crew members that perished in the crash of Coulson’s Tanker 134 have not been released. While we are waiting on that, here is some information about the aircraft itself. (UPDATE: the three men have been identified)

It is an EC-130Q, one of only 12 that were manufactured. The model began as strategic communications links for the U.S. Navy 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. They are similar to the C-130H, but the 12 “Q” models were outfitted with complex electronics systems, including a six-mile long trailing wire antenna, for communicating with submarines and bombers. Some of them still have the remains of a vent in front of the main landing gear for cooling the winch that was used to reel in the long antenna.

air tanker 134 C-130Q
C-130Q that later became T-134, on the way to a makeover May, 2017. Coulson photo.

Tanker 134 (N134CG, Serial #382-4904) was manufactured in 1981. Coulson began converting it into an air tanker in early 2017. At that time it looked like it was far from what it later became.

By August of 2018 it was essentially complete, but still had not been painted. During the 2018/2019 bushfire season it was in Australia on its first firefighting contract. Its first drop on a wildfire occurred around November 1, 2018 a few kilometers away from NASA’s Deep Space Network of satellite antennas near Canberra, Australia.

c-130q tanker 134
Air tanker 134 dropping on a fire near NASA’s Deep Space Network of satellite antennas near Canberra, Australia. The first drop by T-134 on a live fire was on this fire.
t-134 c-130Q
Air tanker 134 seen on the first live fire it dropped on, in Australia, around November 1 , 2018.

It continued to serve throughout the bushfire season and by April, 2019 it received new livery after migrating back to the U.S.

Tanker 134 at Medford, Oregon
Tanker 134 at Medford, Oregon July 27, 2019. Photo by Tim Crippin.

During the 2019 fire season in the United States T-134 was on a contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was seen across the state that summer, and for a while operated out of Ramona, an airport with a relatively short runway that presents a challenge for some large air tankers.

Air Tanker 134 C-130 Ramona
Air Tanker 134, a C-130Q, parked at Ramona Air Attack Base August 3 2019. Photo by K. E. Pack Photography.

In August November or December, 2019 it began working in Australia again.

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14 thoughts on “The history of Tanker 134”

      1. Happy to help.

        RIP to the crew, I saw Tanker 134 during air attack training in May, and then several times throughout the season. It’s beyond tragic.

  1. Tanker 134 was making drops on the Briceburg Fire Near Yosemite in October last year and I believe it was assigned to the Kincade Fire later that month . They few a ton sorties out of McClellan as they were being used to train Cal Fire’s future C-130 pilots. They will be missed by all of us in California, Rest In Peace all .

  2. Regrets for our colleagues who died in the fight against these monstrous fires in New South Wales
    #Megafires are one of the real subjects of reflection for #firefighters around the world
    Firefighters or waterbombers, field fighters or air attack we are from the same family
    Proud to be part of this corporation
    Ch’elli riposinu in Santa pace

  3. A great loss to the aerial fire fighting community. As part of a retardant mixing and loading team at Avalon LAT base in Victoria Australia, I met Ian, the chief pilot, and we loaded T134 whilst it was based here during our 2018/2019 season.

    1. 134 was assigned to the Briceburg Fire most of the week. I saw it on Oct 7 along with several LAT and VLAT and S-2’s . I saw it make 3 drops and I’m sure there we’re more that day.

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