Coulson aviation became a significant contributor to aerial firefighting efforts by the Bolivian government to combat raging fires burning in the Amazon Rainforest. The company announced Aug. 30 that they had reached an agreement with the Bolivian Ministry of Defense to deploy three type 1 helicopter assets to South America to support firefighting efforts.

“We are honored that the Bolivian Government had chosen to work with Coulson Aviation in order to help offer support during their time of crisis,” said Wayne Coulson, CEO Coulson Aviation as part of the statement released by Coulson on the deployment.

The first helicopters to begin the trek south were two of Coulson’s S-61T’s. One of which was in Yakima, Washington, the other located in Elko, Nevada at the time they were tasked.

Coulson teams ready two of their S-61T helicopters for the 4,900 mile ferry flight from San Bernardino County, California to Bolivia. Coulson Photo

Both were immediately flown to San Bernardino, California to load. Where they departed from on Sunday, Sept. 1 for the first leg of their substantial ferry flight that consisted of traveling 4,900 miles to reach their destination in Bolivia. The S61’s made stops in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama City, arriving in Bolivia Thursday, Sept. 8 before commencing fire operations shortly after.

Joining the two S61’s for the first time is Coulson’s CH-47D Chinook. This will be the first international deployment in South America, which is also the first time a CH-47 has been deployed internationally for firefighting operations.

To move the giant CH-47, Coulson had to partially disassemble the rear rotor housing to fit inside a rented an Antonov AN-124 transport aircraft that flew the helicopter to Bolivia, arriving in the country on Sept. 7, 2019. Coulson crews then reassembled the CH-47, the process only takes a little over 24 hours thanks to Coulson’s experienced and dedicated teams.

The partially disassembled Coulson/Unical CH-47D is loaded on to an Antonov AN-124 for its trip to Bolivia. Coulson photo

“The process of getting these aircraft disassembled and reassembled isn’t easy, and it wouldn’t be possible for us to manage these moves without the dedicated team we have here, we wouldn’t succeed as we do around the world without them,” said Foster Coulson, who is heading the Coulson effort in Bolivia.

Coulson has been an innovator in the aerial firefighting market for decades, setting the standard for moving rapid attack crews during a pilot program with the USFS in 2001. Coulson is now the only Type 1 operator in the world with approval to move teams of up to 18 in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Coulson teams worked around the clock to ready the CH-47D once on site in Bolivia to commence firefighting operations. Coulson Photo

Coulson also built and certified the first 1,000-gallon Belly Tank for the S61 that can drop water, but also features a foam and gel injection system. The tank is designed to be installed or removed in an S61 in less than 30 minutes.

Coulson is also a pioneer in delivering the 737 Fireliner large air tanker and a real-time accountability and measurement system for firefighting customers. The system is capable of transmitting live data through the Iridium Network that tracks exact locations and quantity of every load delivered.

The Coulson teams with one of the S-61T helicopters during their 4,900 mile ferry flight to Bolivia. Coulson Photo

Coulson is the first company in the world to NVG Certify an S61 airframe, developing best practices and processes to safely fight fire at night as the certification work took place. The end goal for Coulson -proving that fighting fires at night is possible with the same or more safety than daytime operations.

About The Author

Ryan Mason is the editor in chief of Aerial Fire Magazine and has been working in the aviation media world for over a decade. Ryan is also an accomplished aerial photographer that has had work featured worldwide in manufacturers advertising and marketing campaigns, along with work featured in dozens of international publications over many years.

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