B.C. firefighting aircraft crashes in Western Australia, 2 pilots sustain minor injuries

Feb 7, 2023

Photo: The Canadian Press

Australian authorities say the plane crashed while fighting a bushfire

Two pilots have walked away unscathed after a Boeing 737 air tanker owned by a B.C. company crashed in Western Australia while on deployment to a fire. Coulson Aviation, an aerial firefighting company based in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, wrote in a statement it is grateful the pilots are safe.

“We are offering all the support we can to our local and international crews. We’re also grateful for the support being provided by our firefighting and aviation industry colleagues in Western Australia.”

The plane crashed around 4:15 p.m. local time on Monday while responding to a bushfire in the Fitzgerald River National Park — about 475 kilometres southeast of Perth — according to a statement from Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).

It says the tanker departed the nearby Busselton-Margaret River Airport around 3:30 p.m.

The DFES says the two pilots freed themselves from the airplane and were retrieved by helicopter and brought to a nearby airport, then taken to a medical facility. The Western Australia police force said in a statement the pilots sustained “minor injuries.”

While it is unclear what caused the crash, the police force says officers from the ATSB, Australia’s national transport safety investigator, will attend the crash site when possible to conduct an investigation.

Angus Mitchell, Chief Commissioner of the ATSB wrote in a statement to CBC the accident occurred after the aircraft had conducted a second retardant drop on the bush fire.

Mitchell said the Boeing 737 that crashed was formerly operated as a passenger airline in the U.S. before being extensively modified by Coulson Aviation for aerial firefighting.

“At this stage there is nothing to suggest this accident has wider implications for the global Boeing 737 airliner fleet,” wrote Mitchell.

Photo: Coulson Aviation (Facebook)

Second crash in 3 years for company

Mitchell said they are working on collecting evidence, including interviewing both pilots and witnesses, recovering the cockpit voice recorder, and recovering flight data.

It’s the second time in three years a Coulson aircraft has crashed in Australia. In 2020 a Coulson air tanker crashed while fighting a fire in southeastern Australia, killing three American crew members.

Coulson announced last month that it had been awarded a contract to provide the 737 Fireliner as Australia’s new large air tanker. At the time, the company said the state-of-the-art aircraft was capable of dropping more than 15,000 litres of retardant or water at flow rates of up to 11,000 litres per second. (READ MORE)

(Source: CBC News, Michelle Gomez)



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