Coulson Aviation Leading the Way

Wayne Coulson, Chief Executive Officer of Coulson Aviation attended Aerial Firefighting Europe 2017 to deliver a presentation on his latest aircraft – the Boeing 737-300 Fireliner and to attend the exhibition.

Coulson Aviation based in Vancouver, has acquired six of these airliners which it will convert into water-bombers. The conversion is being carried out at Alberni Valley Regional Airport where the first one arrived on May 26 this year.

“Since then we having been converting the aircraft into the Fireliner,” Wayne Coulson the told the author “It’s a game changer and will separate us from the rest of the market.”

The airliner will complete the Boeing 737’s conversion into an airborne firefighting aircraft at the company’s Vancouver base, by integrating the Coulson-developed gravity retardant aerial delivery system (RADS). “It will be capable of carrying 4,000 gallons of water or fire retardant and drop 2,200 gallons per second. No other air tanker on the planet can match that!

The biggest difference compared to the C-130 tank is we have increased the size of the doors. So this tank is going to deliver 2,200 gallons per second rather than 1,800 as is on the C-130. Direct attack, high and faster but hits the same coverage level as the other tankers.

We will have the first back together and should be ready by December and the second one goes in and we should spin out a tanker every four months. All the work is being done at our facility in Vancouver Island. A 16,000 man-hour conversion, and we have 16 engineers and 32 sheet metal guys, we are running 24/7 on the aircraft. We should have all six available by the end of 2019. We see multiple markets for them – US, South America and Australia which will diversify our market away from just the one in the USA. So we are excited about getting them out.

We got to keep ahead and that’s why we have ended up with the 737, which is comparable to our benchmark C-130.” However, he is not stopping with the Boeing 737-300s!

“A customer who has a 737NG wants us to put a tank in it for him. One of the things that makes this project interesting is the seating arrangements. We can put standard seating in the front of the aircraft, a boardroom in the middle between the tanks and a VIP office behind the tank. We have some customers who are looking at that option. The aircraft will obviously be multipurpose!

“In time, we think a 757-200 with Rolls Royce engines would be cost effective – lots of horse power and as we bring more technologies into the aircraft like a Night Vision Goggle (NVG) cockpit. Fighting fires at night is the next frontier and we have to ensure we have the tool and technology to measure the risk and the reward.

“We are using the same things to get the same results, but the only way of getting different results is getting bigger iron. So we are standing in the wings but at some point we are going to get one of our large air tankers into the European market place. We just got to get our potential customers used to using the bigger aircraft.

“I showed some video today of us fighting fires in California and we were 150 feet over people’s houses in the urban interface all day long and that’s all we do with CalFire. We are so used to seeing them take off from airports and will get used to seeing them low in the urban interface.

“We hope we will have 1-2 Fireliners operational in USA. I think Europe is a tough nut to crack because of the -415s. For decades everyone wanted propeller aircraft for firefighting. Then in 2013 the US Forestry Service said ‘we want a next generation aircraft’ and now 90% of them are jets and the C-130 is the only turboprop left. It just takes some time for change. Five years on they are doing an excellent job.

“The RADS technology is superior to anything else out there. We have signed up with Lockheed Martin for the LM-100J, Embraer on the KC390 and the Airbus C295 so every new aircraft has a Coulson RADS kit. It’s a constant flow system so we get all the fluid out of the doors.

“We have computerised and developed our own intellectual property on the aircraft, which includes a GPS and radar altimeter in the tank doors – that’s why we call it a smart tank. So if we input two GPS points the aircraft will open its doors between them so the water can be dropped on the targets and everyone becomes a Topgun! The technology is key. That’s a big driver for us to work with new customers.”

Talking about the conference, he said: “When we first started working with Tangent Link, we were preaching to the converted but more and more, as we move with TL conferences around the world, the involvement we are getting from people is outstanding. This year we have drones here which we have never had before. Tangent Link have been on point and on game.”

Alan Warnes
Independent Journalist