A Boeing 737 jet with Coulson Aviation paint scheme flies a low pass over the runway at Alberni Valley Regional Airport on Friday, May 26 during a media event. KARLY BLATS PHOTO

A Boeing 737 jet with Coulson Aviation paint scheme flies a low pass over the runway at Alberni Valley Regional Airport on Friday, May 26 during a media event. KARLY BLATS PHOTO

Coulson Aviation’s first 737 jets arrive in Port Alberni

Company known for Martin Mars waterbombers will convert jets to air tankers

A Boeing 737 jet landed at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport on Friday afternoon, heralding the beginning of Coulson Aviation’s new air tanker conversion business.

The 737, painted in the Coulson “Fireliner” red and white scheme and piloted by Jim Young of Seattle, conducted a few low passes for the crowd gathered at the airport before landing and taxiing to Coulson Aviation’s hangar at the west end of the airport.

The 737 is one of six Coulson Aviation purchased from Southwest Airlines and will spend the next seven months converting them with new 4,000-gallon capacity tanks at their Port Alberni facility.

“They’re upgrading their fleet,” owner Wayne Coulson said of the American airline. “They’re going to be retiring 53 airplanes this year, so we got our hands on a few of them.”

Coulson said they will be biding on multiple contracts in 2018 in the United States, Europe, South American and Canada if opportunities arise.

“This plane operates from air tanker bases and there’s 62 bases in the US that we work from,” Coulson said. “We have a tanker base we go and plug into and they fill us full of retardant and off we go.”

In the world market, Coulson said there’s only about five businesses that operate large air tankers.

“We’re the largest operator in Australia of large air tankers and one of the bigger ones in the US market as well, but it’s a growing market, that’s why we’re so keyed on South America,” he said.

Britt Coulson, vice president of Coulson Aircrane, said all six Boeing 737’s will have the capacity to move 63 passengers.

“We would be able to load up 63 firefighters, fly [to a fire], off load them while we’re filling our tanks and go work together and move around strike teams like that,” he said. “We’ll be the only air tanker in the world that can do that.”

Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan, Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns and Mid-Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser were part of the crowd gathered at the airport to greet the 737.

“This is the reality we were hoping for with our airport when we chose to expand,” Ruttan said. The expansion—which should be complete by mid-July, when installation of new runway and taxiway lights is finished—will cost $8 million when complete.

“It’s a great project for us and it’s something the citizens of the [Alberni] Valley will be paying for over a number of years, but that we’ll get back over many times in just the economic activity,” Ruttan said.

Ruttan hopes the activity at Coulson Aviation will draw other business to the airport.

“There’s a number of support services that are interested in coming in here, including helicopter companies, parts companies, companies that would be based at the airport and needing this facility to get their product out of the Valley. So yes, there’s interest,” he said.

There is not enough room to store all the jets at once at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport, so they will likely store some at an American airport, Coulson said. Once all the conversions are done, the planes will be flown to southern California “where we will be verifying, drop-testing and all the processes we have to go through with the U.S. Forest Service. It’s a world standard for the airplanes.”

Meantime, Coulson will bid on “multiple” firefighting contracts in 2018 with the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe, he said.

There are two 737s and a 727 on the apron at Coulson Aviation in Port Alberni right now. The 727 landed on Sunday, and the first 737, adorned with Southwest Airlines’ signature blue and red paint job, arrived Thursday afternoon.

The 727 was previously owned by a Saudi Arabian prince, then ex-National Basketball Association superstar Michael Jordan. The Coulsons bought the plane from a private citizen in the Victoria area, and will use it for spare parts for the 737 conversion project, Coulson said.

Britt Coulson said the Martin Mars Water Bomber is expected to be back flying again by mid August. The plane was damaged last year at the Oshkosh Air Show.

– With files from Karly Blats

editor@albernivalleynews.com

facebook.com/albernivalleynews

twitter.com/alberninews

Aviation and spaceCoulson Aviation

Just Posted

The visitors’ centre and courtyard are the first places that greet visitors to McLean Mill National Historic Site in Port Alberni, B.C. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
McLean Mill exclusion application now in ALC’s hands

Decision on whether to remove national historic site from ALR ‘could take months’

NIC’s new president Lisa Domae assumed the role of president on April 12. Domae has worked at NIC since 2000, most recently as the executive vice president, academic and chief operating officer. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
New North Island College president launches draft strategic plan

Lisa Domae assumed the role of president on April 12, 2021

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of homicide in Port Alberni

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Residents living in the 41-unit King George Apartments on Fifth Avenue and Argyle Street in Port Alberni will be able to remain there after the Canadian Mental Health Association and Province of B.C. partnered to purchase the building in May 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Province steps in to secure housing for Alberni apartment tenants

CHMA receives $3-million grant to help purchase building near city hall

Port Alberni’s first movie theatre, started before 1920, was originally located on First Avenue, across from Alberni Hardware. This photo is one of 24,000 included in the Alberni Valley Museum’s online archives, available for public viewing at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN09360 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Port Alberni’s first movie theatre

The Port Theatre was destroyed by a fire in 1952

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

The new wing at the Victoria International Airport opened up on Thursday (File contributed/YYJ)
Pandemic takes ‘hundreds of millions’ out of Victoria Airport, Vancouver Island economy

Airport authority head says passenger volumes down as much as 98 per cent

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Reigning women’s World Champion Kaetlyn Osmond, who also took bronze at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, will debut two brand new programs for the 2021 Stars On Ice tour, in Victoria May 15. (File photo)
Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko hit the ice when Stars On Ice returns to Vancouver Island

The star-studded lineup is makes a return after pandemic hiatus

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred last Friday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read