The 737 air tanker that New South Wales Rural Fire Service purchased from Coulson received a new paint job over the Australian winter. Besides needing to be identified as Bomber 210, there is a report that flying through ash during the incredibly busy 2019-2020 bushfire season stripped away enough paint to justify the new livery.
After a career of hauling passengers for Southwest Airlines, the aircraft made its first drop on a fire in August, 2019.
It was repainted by Flying Colors Aviation in Townsville, Queensland and made its first drop of the 2020/2021 bushfire season a few days ago.
The design of the livery on the aircraft when it was converted into an air tanker by Coulson was based on a Boeing concept seen on some of their new aircraft.
The NSW government first announced the acquisition May 15, 2019 saying it was part of a $26.3 million investment to enhance the aerial firefighting capacity in the Australian State.
“This type of aircraft can deliver 15,000 liters (3,960 gallons) of fire suppressants, transport about 70 firefighters and operate from a number of regional airports,” Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said.
NSW RFS Acting Commissioner Rob Rogers said the Service had evaluated a number of different Large and Very Large Air Tankers over recent fire seasons and had settled on the 737 as the preferred option, operated by Canadian company Coulson Aviation.
NSW will purchase one Boeing 737 Fireliner and two Lead/Intelligence Aircraft. They are accompanied by a ten-year operational contract where Coulson will provide all flight and maintenance personal. The 737 is scheduled to be delivered in July of this year.
Britt Coulson, Vice President of Coulson Aircrane, said the company will supply two Cessna Citation V/560s to serve as lead/intelligence aircraft for NSW RFS.
This was the second 737-300 air tanker converted by Coulson Aviation. The company purchased six in 2017 in order to modify them into 4,000-gallon “Fireliners” that can also carry up to 70 passengers when it’s not hauling retardant. Mr. Coulson said they saw an opportunity when Southwest Airlines made a decision to replace their 737-300’s with the new 737-Max. Since the FAA only allows Southwest pilots to fly two of the 737’s with the same rating, the airline opted to sell the 737-300’s even though they have a relatively low number of hours in the sky. (I wonder if Southwest is regretting getting rid of the 737-300s now that their new 737-Max airliners are all grounded.)