Coulson Aviation awarded 10-year airtanker contract with US Forest Service

A Coulson Aviation C130 Large Air Tanker
Photo Credit: Coulson Aviation
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
3 Min Read

Aerial firefighting operator Coulson Aviation has been awarded a 10-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity Large Airtanker (LAT) firefighting contract with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

Coulson Aviation is one of five organizations to be awarded the 10-year LAT firefighting contract which is valued at $7.2 billion.

The contract forms the foundation for operations and maintenance service for Coulson’s fleet of C-130H Hercules and Boeing 737 FireLiner aircraft.

Expressing his gratitude, Britton Coulson, President and COO of Coulson Aviation, conveyed the company’s honor in continuing to support the U.S. Forest Service.

Coulson highlighted the remarkable expertise and efficiency of their crew members, operating some of the most advanced aircraft available.

With over six decades of experience in aerial support operations, the company is eager to collaborate with the USFS and contribute to fire suppression efforts in the foreseeable future.

A Coulson Aviation C130 air tanker on the tarmac.

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World’s largest civilian fleet


Coulson Aviation boasts the world’s largest collection of civilian Lockheed C-130H aircraft and is rapidly expanding its Boeing 737 Fleet.

Notably, they’ve pioneered the transformation of a Boeing 737 commercial airliner into the innovative FireLiner tanker. The meticulous process of readying each tanker involves more than 40,000 technician hours to ensure full compliance and operational readiness.

Setting their FireLiner apart from other modern Large Airtankers (LATs) is its exceptional capability to transport firefighters without the need for reconfiguration.

Furthermore, it can maintain maximum speeds and altitudes even when loaded with retardant, a feature not typically seen in similar aircraft.

The C-130H aircraft has been instrumental in Coulson Aviation’s firefighting missions due to its adaptability in utilizing makeshift runways for takeoffs and landings. It also offers temporary infrastructure on board, enhancing its effectiveness.

Photo Credits: Coulson Aviation

Integral to Coulson’s aircraft platforms is their retardant aerial delivery system (RADS), a robust tool for any firefighting endeavor.

The company’s RADS products, with a tanking capacity of 4,000 U.S. gallons, are recognized as the most widely employed and highest-volume systems globally.

This speaks to their effectiveness and reliability in combating fires across the world. Coulson’s RADS systems eliminate the need for extra crew or equipment, provide real-time flow rate data, offer superior drop zone coverage, and ultimately reduce pilot workload.

Coulson Aviation is the sole aerial firefighting entity equipped to operate both large fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft for aerial support missions.

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