New South Wales Purchases Fire Fighting Boeing 737-300

New South Wales, the Australian state that contains the famous city of Sydney, has bought a fire fighting Boeing 737-300!

Coulson Aviation Boeing 737
Coulson Aviation Boeing 737. Photo: Coulson Aviation

The aircraft was chosen out of many different options, and will be operated by a Canadian contractor. It is expected to be operational in the next two months.

Australia is expecting the risk of bush fires to increase as the planet heats up, and investment into this technology will greatly improve their ability to save lives in the sun-drenched land.


What is a fire fighting 737?

Unlike a normal Boeing 737 which transports passengers and mail, a fire-fighting 737 has had much of the passenger compartment converted into a storage tank for fire retardant materials.

Coulson Aviation
The plane deploying its fire depressant load. Photo: Coulson Aviation

Different fire fighting agencies can choose what ‘configuration’ ratio to have, be it mostly a tanker aircraft or a full transport for fire-fighters. The NSW government for example, has retained the ability to transport 72 passengers whilst carrying 15,150 litres of fluid.

“With a full retardant load and 4.5 hours of fuel we are so far under max gross weight we are going to leave the full interior and galleys in even when just in airtanker mode.”

The plane was originally purchased from Southwest back in 2017. Southwest is restricted to only allow their pilots to fly two types of Boeing 737s, such as the 737-800 and the 737 MAX. Thus they had to find a buyer for their older fleet of Boeing 737-300s. The fact that the Boeing 737 MAX is now grounded might mean Southwest regret the sale, but at least the aircraft are being used for a good cause.

Coulson Aviation
Fire fighting 737. Photo: Coulson Aviation

What are the contract details?

The NSW government has purchased a 10-year lease for $23.6 million AUD, from the Canadian firm Coulson Aviation. This deal also includes two other Citation V lead/intelligence aircraft for commander duties.

“With this contract now in place, Coulson Aviation PTY will establish a year-round operation in NSW to support its contracts at the RAAF base in Richmond where the B737 Fireliner will be pre-positioned to support the RFS this coming July.” – Coulson Aviation

Australia normally rents the aircraft they need for each fire fighting season, as they are generally required during opposite times of the year from the north (for example in California). But with temperatures rising throughout the year, it’s likely that these seasons will start to overlap and NSW will need a water bomber on standby all year round.

“Last fire season there were more fires during winter than across the summer months,” said NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott to Australian Aviation.

“The NSW Government is committed to ensuring our firefighters have the tools they need year round to help protect lives and property.”

The Canadian company has said that they will be hiring nearly all Australian staff, from pilots to ground crew, to operate their fleet.

What do you think? Is this a good purchase for the state? Let us know in the comments.