Coulson Aviation receives $3.4 million for Fireliner program

Canadians will benefit from a stronger aerospace industry and better aerial firefighting technology thanks in part to a new investment in a British Columbian firm specializing in firefighting aircraft.

The first Fireliner, acquired from Southwest Airlines, arrived in Port Alberni on May 26. Over the next few months, Coulson Aviation will convert the aircraft into an air tanker capable of carrying 4,000 gallons (15,141 litres) of water or flame retardant.
Coulson created the first Fireliner, a converted Boeing 737-300 aircraft, in 2017. Derek Heyes Photo

On Oct. 11, 2018, Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Minister of Accessibility and Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Federal Recovery Efforts for the 2017 and 2018 British Columbia Wildfires, on behalf of Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced a repayable investment of nearly $3.4 million in Coulson Aviation Ltd., a small aviation company based in Port Alberni, B.C.

This investment helps create good middle-class jobs and strengthens Coulson’s position in the aerospace supply chain. The project will facilitate collaboration with post-secondary institutions, ensure workers have the skills they need and generate new Canadian intellectual property.

This funding supports Coulson’s first-of-its-kind research and development (R&D) initiative to convert a Boeing 737 plane into a dual-purpose aerial firefighting tanker and passenger aircraft that can be used to fight fires in Canada and elsewhere.

This investment is being made through the Strategic Innovation Fund, a program designed to attract and support high-quality business investments across all sectors of the economy by encouraging R&D that will accelerate the transfer of technology and the commercialization of innovative products, processes and services and will facilitate the growth of innovative firms.

“Our government’s support for Coulson … demonstrates our commitment to Canada’s aerospace industry–a major engine of innovation and a key contributor of well-paying jobs to the national economy,” said Bains.

“By investing in innovative projects like this one at Coulson, we’re creating new opportunities for Canadians from coast to coast. That’s how, through the Strategic Innovation Fund, we’re investing in innovation today to create the jobs of tomorrow.”

“Innovative companies such as Coulson … are a key part of our government’s plan to grow the economy and create well-paying middle-class jobs for British Columbians,” said Qualtrough.

“As a world leader in aerial firefighting, Coulson is a testament to the kind of quality work that this region is capable of–and the quality talent that is right here in British Columbia. The development of this innovative technology will better protect our forests from wildfire damage and increase efficiency by providing the ability to deliver both fire retardant and fire-fighting personnel at the same time. This is a great demonstration of how Canada can lead in the technology economy.”

“Coulson Aviation is appreciative of Minister Qualtrough’s announcement of Government of Canada support for innovation in Canada,” said Wayne Coulson, CEO, Coulson Group.


“This investment has been instrumental in our company’s conversion of airliners into tankers for fighting fires as well as carrying passengers. Extensive aircraft modifications took place here at the Port Alberni airport, involving 140,000 hours of work in the community. We are proud that the newly completed air tankers will begin fighting forest fires globally this fall and that we are currently converting another airliner.”

Quick facts

  • Coulson Aviation is a family-owned company and a key player in the aerial firefighting business. The company works with firefighting agencies in Canada, the United States and Australia;
  • Canada’s aerospace industry includes 700 firms, directly contributes close to $12.6 billion in GDP to Canada’s economy and employs more than 85,000 Canadians;
  • The Strategic Innovation Fund is a flexible program that reflects the diversity of innovation in all sectors of the economy;
  • In addition to the Strategic Innovation Fund, there are hundreds of programs and services to help businesses innovate, create jobs and grow Canada’s economy. With a simple, story-based user interface, the Innovation Canada platform can match businesses with the most fitting programs and services in about two minutes.

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