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Published On: Friday, 09 June 2017

Coulson Group Bringing More Business to Alberni Valley Airport

Coulson Group Bringing More Business to Alberni Valley Airport

- Pat Deakin is the Economic Development Manager for the City of Port Alberni. He can be reached at 250.720.2527 or Patrick_deakin@portalberni.ca.

PORT ALBERNI - Two years ago my July column for the Business Examiner focused on the proposed Alberni Valley Runway Expansion and the $5.9 million estimate for lengthening the runway to 5,000’ and widening it to 100’.

Since then, staff and Board Members at the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, supported by staff and Council at the City of Port Alberni, have addressed a myriad of issues, including financing, Obstacle Limitation Survey requirements, existing tenures of several sorts, road allowances and Agricultural Land Reserve matters.  

I am delighted to report the paving is now complete and the runway is expected to open to air traffic in mid-July. In the meantime, work on the medium-intensity lighting, painting of lines and the installation of civil works continues. The airport runway extension was done for the purpose of increasing aerospace sector opportunities rather than accommodating scheduled passenger service although that is also being looked at.  

Existing lease-holders at the airport have been given limited openings to land aircraft and, thanks to the runway extension, the Coulson Group used their opening to land a Boeing 727 and two of the six Boeing 737-300’s they have acquired from Southwest Airlines with the purpose of bringing about a new age in aerial forest-fire fighting.

One of those jets was repainted in the Coulson 'Fireliner' colours at an International Aerospace Coatings facility in Spokane, Washington before coming to Port Alberni.

Work has already started on that aircraft for the installation of a 4,000-gallon rapid fill and deployment tank for water and fire retardant. The converted jets will be able to dump up to 2,100 gallons per second using systems the company originally developed for its fleet of four Lockheed C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.

The modifications on each jet will require approximately 20,000 hours.  The jets will also have room for 63 passengers, or enough for three strike teams of 20 firefighters each to drop at airports in fire zones.

The company employs approximately 200 people and its Aerospace Division operates a fleet of C-130s and Sikorsky S-61 helicopters in Portland, Oregon, Melbourne, Australia and Port Alberni. The company also operates an air tanker base in Reno, Nevada and has an MOU in place with Airbus for modifications to their C-295’s for aerial forest-fire fighting.

The company currently has employment opportunities for 20 Aircraft Maintenance and Structures Technicians, a Logistics Coordinator/Purchaser and a Component Shop Supervisor.