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Coulson Aviation, headquartered in Port Alberni, British Columbia, announced in early March that at least one more C-130 Hercules aircraft is joining the company’s fleet this year — to be converted from a military transport aircraft into an airtanker to fight wildfires.
The aircraft, known as “FROY,” is one of five C-130Hs that Coulson purchased from the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency in late 2019. All five aircraft were stored together at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona; this is where Coulson quietly began heavy maintenance on “FROY” roughly two months ago to prepare the aircraft to fly. The company on March 7 said maintenance on the aircraft was still ongoing in the U.S.
As part of the airtanker conversion process, “FROY” will receive Coulson’s proprietary RADS-XXL roll-on roll-off tanking system. RADS stands for “Retardant Aerial Delivery System,” and the tank can be “installed on virtually any C-130,” the company said. With the RADS-XXL, the C-130 is capable of carrying 4,000 US gallons (or 36,000 pounds) of retardant.
The aircraft will also receive a significant avionics upgrade, as the military avionics are outdated and are only partially useful in a commercial environment, the company said.
According to Britt Coulson, the company’s CEO, the tank heavy structures installation will take place in Port Alberni.
Coulson anticipates that “FROY” will be ready to enter service in mid-2023, and will be identified as Tanker 133.
In December 2020, the first of the five ex-Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130s – Tanker 132 — was brought online by Coulson. That aircraft, known as “TY,” headed to Australia from Port Alberni for its first mission to provide aerial firefighting assistance.
Two years later, in December 2022, Coulson shared that it was awarded a four-year firefighting contract with the Western Australia government, which Tanker 132 would take on. “TY” made the trip from the U.S. to Australia before the end of the year, and is now supporting fire suppression efforts from its base in Busselton.
“Western Australia is like a second home for this aircraft,” said Britt Coulson. “It was the first place the airplane fought fire after we converted it, and we’re pleased to see it return to its proving grounds.”
In an email to Skies, Britt Coulson shared that another C-130 from the ex-Norwegian Air Force fleet, known as “BALDER,” will be joining “FROY” during the week of March 13 to undergo airtanker conversions.
A fourth C-130, “BRAGE,” is currently located in Port Alberni, “and is being used for engineering for our new, upgraded RADS-XXL tank and avionics modifications,” he added.