Wayne Coulson

Coulsons upgrade their firefighting fleet

No solution yet for keeping the Hawaii Mars in Alberni, said Coulson.

Coulson Aviation USA—the American operating arm of the Port Alberni-based Coulson Group of Companies—showed off their newest acquisition at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport on Sunday, Nov. 16. The C-130 Hercules was on display for the public from 1-3 p.m. that afternoon and will be flown to Australia on Dec. 3.

The planes are unique because Coulson Aviation USA hold a patent on the water holding tanks.

According to Britt Coulson, the C-130 on display holds 3,500 gallons and another modified firefighting C-130 tanker under construction will hold 4,000 gallons.

“Our second C-130 is getting that [4,000 gallon] tank installed right now in Singapore,” said Britt, adding that the plane will come back to the Alberni Valley Regional Airport in February.

While the Coulsons’ goal is to use the C-130s as water tankers, the planes have removable tanks should they be needed for other purposes.

“If there was a requirement for somebody to just move freight or cargo… the tank wheels bolt on and then in about half an hour for two or three guys the tank just rolls right back down the ramp and you’re back to a fully unrestricted C-130. We’re the only ones in the world with that.”

While the C-130 drew a huge crowd, the fate of the biggest aviation attraction in the Alberni Valley hasn’t yet been decided. Wayne Coulson said that earlier on they had tried to trade the Hawaii Mars waterbomber for the C-130.

“We tried, we were working with the federal government to see if we would be able to do that but it didn’t go very far.”

The trade is complicated by the C-130s being American ex-military planes.

“It’s probably not in the realm of possibility,” he said, adding that the planes’ ex-military status “makes them a lot harder to bring into the country. We’re a U.S. registered aircraft and we don’t have registration for it in Canada, so I couldn’t operate this aircraft in Canada but I could in the United States or Australia.”

As far as other initiatives to keep the Hawaii Mars in Alberni, Wayne hasn’t seen many promising ideas.

“There was a movement to keep [the Hawaii Mars] in Alberni but of course the challenge there is the cost of keeping it and where do you put it and all those things.”

Even if the community was able to purchase the plane and had a place to display it, upkeep would be another challenge.

“Because of its age and it’s got fabric flight surfaces a lot of damage can happen. Keeping the aircraft in a serviceable state where it’s not going to deteriorate too bad is the key.”

While the Hawaii Mars awaits a decision, the Philippine Mars has already been acquired by a Florida museum and will be flown down there sometime in March or April.

“We’ll have a celebration before we turn it loose.”



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