Alberni Valley company to convert 7-37’s into firefighting water tankers


The Coulson Group believes it’s new water bombers will be a hit

This Boeing 737 is part a new wave of jobs landing in the Alberni Valley.

It’s one of seven planes Coulson Aviation has purchased. The company plans to convert six of them into water bombers to fight wildfires.

“No one has converted a Boeing 7-37,” Wayne Coulson, Chief Executive of Coulson Group of Companies, said. “So we’ve got the crown in the jewel. It’s the highest produced plane in the world and we’ll be the first one to convert one into an air tanker.”
The company says it plans to be testing it later this year for the U.S. forest service.

The company has converted other planes in the past but feels 7-37’s, which it bought from Southwest Airlines, will be a real winner.

“It will have a four thousand gallon tanking system in it,” Coulson said. “Our edge in the market place, if you will, is we’re going to have 63 seats retained in the airplane so we’ll be able to pack passengers to a fire, let them out and then go work with them on the fire line.”

This is also the first week Alberni Valley’s newly extended runway has seen air traffic. Work is still happening but Coulson was granted special permission to land his planes.

The $8-million expansion has been controversial but Port Alberni’s Mayor who’s also a Regional District Director believes those who have been opposed are coming around.

“The reason for rebuilding it was for our economy, for jobs, for bringing people into the community and being part of developing a whole new industry,” says Mike Ruttan. “For us, aerospace is new.”

A 10 person engineering team has already come to Port Alberni to work on the planes.

Coulson says he’d like to potentially use the planes to fight fires in BC, across Canada and around the world.

“So we’re hoping with a model like this, with a new energized (BC) government, maybe we’re going to have an opportunity to bid.”

One of Coulson’s new planes a famous past. It was formerly owned by a prince in the Middle East before basketball star Michael Jordan owned it for five years.
Now it will be used for parts as Coulson carves a new market for water bombers from the Alberni Valley.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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