Coulson air tankers and helicopters are following the fire season to the southern hemisphere

The aircraft and crews will be assisting firefighters in Chile and Australia

Coulson firefighting helicopters
Coulson CH-47 prepares for a voyage to Chile. Coulson photo.

Coulson Aviation is in the process of deploying firefighting aircraft to the Southern Hemisphere for the summer wildfire seasons in South America and Australia.

For several weeks they have had three Sikorsky S-61N helicopters in Australia and in November flew air tanker 137, a Boeing 737 (N137CG), across the Pacific to join the helicopters. They will also have a Sikorsky S-76B in the country.

Two C-130 air tankers, T-131 (N130FF) and T-132 (N132CG), departed from San Bernardino, California December 12 for Australia. They both recently received new livery, featuring a new paint design for the Coulson aircraft.

Coulson Air Tankers 131 and 132
Tankers 131 and 132, before their flights to Australia. Coulson photo (heavily edited by Fire Aviation).

In the last week or so Coulson loaded two CH-47 Chinooks (N47CU and N40CU) and a Blackhawk onto a large ship to begin a voyage to Chile where they will assist firefighters.

Coulson firefighting helicopters
Coulson CH-47s and a Blackhawk prepare for a voyage to Chile. Coulson photo.
Coulson firefighting helicopters
Coulson CH-47 prepares for a voyage to Chile. Coulson photo.
Coulson firefighting helicopters
Coulson CH-47 prepares for a voyage to Chile. Coulson photo.
Coulson firefighting helicopters
Coulson CH-47s prepare for a voyage to Chile. Coulson photo.
Coulson firefighting helicopters
Coulson Blackhawk prepares for a voyage to Chile. Coulson photo.

Australia to have six large air tankers during the 2020-2021 bushfire season

The list includes: B737, Q400, RJ 85, and C-130

Air Tanker 141, C-FFQEQ, Q400
T-141 (C-FFQEQ) Q400AT – Refueling at Majuro, Marshall Islands in August , 2020 while en route to Bundaberg, Queensland for the 2020-2021 bushfire season in Australia. Photo Credit Brendon Sutton.

Wildland fire authorities in Australia expect to have at least six large air tankers working on exclusive use arrangements during the 2020-2021 fire season which is already underway down under. Five will be under contract and one, a B737, is owned by the New South Wales government.

Richard Alder, General Manager of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) said on October 13, “We will continue to monitor how the season develops and consider the need for additional large airtankers if required.”

A year ago Australia started the 2019-2020 fire season with a plan to have five large air tankers, but when the fire activity grew to unprecedented levels, NAFC added two in November, 2019 (a DC-10 and a C-130Q) then in January, 2020 added four more (two DC-10s and two MD-87s).

Currently active:

  • B737, Bomber 210  (formerly Tanker 138), N138CG, purchased from Coulson and now owned by New South Wales Rural Fire Service, at Richmond, NSW. Year round.
  • Q400AT, Bomber 141, C-FFQE, supplied by  FieldAir/Conair, at Bundaberg, Queensland. Started September 1, 2020.
  • RJ85, Bomber 166 (Tanker 166), C-GVFT, supplied by FieldAir/Conair, at Dubbo, New South Wales. Started October 1, 2020.

Due to start November 1, 2020:

  • B737, Tanker 137, N137CG, supplied by Coulson, at Richmond, NSW. The contract allows Coulson to substitute another aircraft, their “new” Tanker 132, a C130H, depending on the status of the overlapping fire seasons in Australia and the US.

Due to start December 2, 2020.

  • RJ 85, Bomber 391, C-GVFK (?), supplied by FieldAir/Conair, at Avalon Victoria.

Due to start December 16, 2020

  • C130Q, Bomber 390 (Tanker 131), N130FF, supplied by Coulson, at Avalon Victoria.

According according to a September through November outlook from the Bushfire and Natural Hazard Cooperative Research Centre much of Australia may be looking at a slower than average fire season for the next two months.

The National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) was formed by the Australian States and Territories in July, 2003 to provide a cooperative national arrangement for combating bushfires. It facilitates the coordination and procurement of a fleet of firefighting aircraft that are readily available for use by State and Territory emergency service and land management agencies across Australia.

Videos and photos of firefighting air tankers

SM-100AT Air Tanker
Stavatti introduces the SM-100AT air tanker. A clean-sheet-of-paper, new design, the SM-100AT will deliver 4,000 gallons of fire retardant.

The video below shows the effects of air tanker drops in timber. The first part shows a dozer line or road on the edge of the Glass Fire in Northern California. Then you will see where red fire retardant dropped by air tankers has slowed the advance of the fire. When it can be done safely, firefighters on the ground or on dozers will need to construct a bare-earth fireline where the fire has burned into or through the retardant. Aircraft dropping water or retardant do not put out a fire, they can only slow the spread, and only if the wind is not very strong.

Continue reading “Videos and photos of firefighting air tankers”

Another C-130 is almost ready to join the Coulson fleet

October 2, 2020   |   4:46 p.m. MDT

Coulson air tanker C-130 T-132 (N132CG)
Coulson Air Tanker 132, a C-130H (N132CG) with its fancy black props. Coulson photo.

The first of five C-130H planes that Coulson Aviation purchased from the Norwegian military completed its heavy maintenance in Crestview, Florida October 1 and was ferried to Spokane, Washington for new paint and an inspection.

The aircraft has already been converted to an air tanker, Tanker 132, with the installation of a 4,000-gallon internal gravity-powered retardant tank. As recently as 2017 Coulson operated another C-130 known as Tanker 132. It was leased and was returned to its owner.

Coulson air tanker C-130 T-132 (N132CG)
Coulson Air Tanker 132, a C-130H (N132CG) fueling up before ferrying to Spokane, WA for new paint and inspection. Coulson photo.

A second C-130 was pulled out of mothballs at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona at the same time as this aircraft. It will also be outfitted as an air tanker and is going through heavy maintenance at Crestview.

Tanker 132 Coulson
After being delayed by Hurricane Sally, Tanker 132 was back outside completing is final ground runs and ops checks.”TY” is sporting its overhauled black propellers and painted rudder.
Coulson air tanker C-130 T-132 (N132CG)
Coulson Air Tanker 132, a C-130H (N132CG), completing its Functional Check Flight after maintenance. Coulson photo.

The first of five C-130s purchased from Norway departs from Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson

Coulson intends to convert them into air tankers

Coulson T-132 departing Davis-Monthan C-130H air tanker
T-132 departing Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, April 20, 2020. Coulson photo.

The first of five C-130H planes that Coulson Aviation purchased from the Norwegian military was ferried Monday from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona to Crestview, Florida. Over the last seven weeks two of the aircraft were brought back to life in order to fly them to the facility in Crestview for heavy maintenance and conversion into air tankers capable of fighting wildfires.

Coulson  Aviation (USA) Inc. purchased the five C-130Hs through a complicated procedure that started in March, 2018 and was finalized at the end of 2019.

Coulson T-132 departing Davis-Monthan C-130H air tanker
T-132 preparing to depart Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, April 20, 2020. Coulson photo.

From Coulson:

The airplane was crewed by Dawn, Travis, and Charlie for its uneventful 3.7 hour flight. One down, four more to go.

This aircraft is called “TY” by Coulson, but officially will be Tanker 132.

Coulson T-132 departing Davis-Monthan C-130H air tanker
T-132 departing Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, April 20, 2020. Coulson photo.
Coulson T-132 departing Davis-Monthan C-130H air tanker
T-132 departing Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, April 20, 2020. Coulson photo.

Coulson air tanker begins its down under bushfire season

Coulson’s Air Tanker 132, known as “Thor” in Australia, began its bushfire season contract with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service at Sydney September 1. Shortly after being introduced to the media it was dispatched to a fire.

Another of their C-130’s, Tanker 131, will be heading down there later this year. It will be based in the state of Victoria.

A variety of C-130 air tankers at Medford

MAFFS 5 Medford Oregon

On June 30 there was a variety of C-130 air tankers working out of Medford, Oregon, and Tim Crippin was able to capture them on celluloid an SD card. It kind of boggles the mind to see three C-130 air tankers at the same air tanker base, all operated by completely different organizations.

There was one privately owned tanker, Coulson’s T-132, and two government-owned. T-116 will eventually, one of these days, way down the road, perhaps, be officially transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service. And MAFFS 5 is from the Colorado Springs Air Force Reserve base.

Two other MAFFS C-130’s are also activated — one each from Air National Guard units at Cheyenne and Reno.

Tanker 116 Medford Oregon
Tanker 116 at Medford, Oregon, June 30, 2017. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Coulson T-132 Medford Oregon
Tanker 132 at Medford, Oregon, June 30, 2017. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Picture day for Coulson’s C-130’s

Coulson C-130 air tankers

While Coulson’s three C-130-type air tankers were all together in Reno last month for carding by the U.S. Forest Service and pilot training the company took the opportunity to grab some photos of the aircraft while they were flying in formation.

They are all variants of Lockheed’s C-130 platform — Tanker 131 is a C-130Q while Tankers 132 and 133 are L-382G’s. Tanker 133, the newest addition to the fleet, just became operational a couple of weeks ago.

Scroll down to see how Dan Megna got the photos.

Coulson C-130 air tankers

Coulson C-130 air tankers

Coulson C-130 air tankers

Coulson C-130 air tanker

To take the photos Coulson rented an OV-10 that conveniently has a small compartment in the rear. Professional photographer Dan Megna sat in that tiny space to get the shots.