Coulson Aviation is adding not only more air tankers to their fleet, but also is branching out into a different model of aircraft. The company has purchased six 737-300s and intends to convert them into 4,000-gallon Fireliner air tankers.
According to company Vice President Britt Coulson, the company recognized an opportunity when Southwest Airlines made a decision to replace its 737-300s with the new 737-Max. Since the Federal Aviation Administration only allows Southwest pilots to fly two of the 737s with the same rating, the airline opted to sell its 737-300s, even though these aircraft have accumulated a relatively low number of flight hours.
While the company was satisfied with the three C-130s that it previously converted to air tankers, finding additional C-130s for the civilian market can be difficult. In addition, due to its shorter wingspan, a 737 potentially could utilize some air tanker bases too small for larger aircraft.
The Fireliner air tankers are being designed as multi-use aircraft with the ability to haul passengers. Coulson said, “With a full retardant load and 4.5 hours of fuel, we are so far under max gross weight [that] we are going to leave the full interior and galleys in, even when just in air tanker mode.”