The CEO of Coulson Aviation says he’s heading to Australia after one of the company’s firefighting planes was involved in an accident in Western Australia, and both pilots survived.
In a post on Facebook, Coulson Aviation says Tanker 139, a 737 FireLiner was involved in the accident while responding to a fire on Feb. 6, 2023.
“I got the call in the middle of the night. It’s one of those calls you never want to get,” said Wayne Coulson in a phone interview.
There were two crew members on board at the time, and both walked away from the accident and have been medically assessed.
Coulson says he has spoken to both pilots but can’t reveal what they’ve said about the crash in light of the pending investigation.
He did say the plane landed on a bed of trees that were about eight to 10 feet high which cushioned the aircraft before it burst into flames. Coulson says the two pilots got out of the plane and walked about a kilometre before another aircraft fighting the fire airlifted the pair to hospital.
“We’re very grateful both men are okay,” Coulson said. “Planes can be replaced but people can’t.”
The Australian government has confirmed it is investigating the crash in the Fitzgerald River National Park south of Ravensthorpe.
Transport safety investigators from Perth and Canberra offices will conduct the evidence collection phase.
“Initially, investigators will seek to interview the pilots and witnesses to understand the circumstances of the accident, and determine the accessibility of the accident site with the aim of conducting an on-site examination of the aircraft wreckage,” the government says on its website.
“The scope of the investigation and its timeframe will be determined as the ATSB builds its understanding of the nature of the accident.”
Tanker 139 is the newest addition to Coulson Aviation’s fleet, and was just announced to be based in Sydney, New South Wales, on Jan. 17.
Coulson says both pilots are U.S. citizens and have been flying with the Coulson Group for years.
“They’re incredible and they are among the very senior air tanker pilots in the world,” said Coulson.
This is the second recent incident for the company, after one of its planes crashed in January 2020 in Cooma, New South Wales, where three crew members died.