As this is written the names of the three crew members that perished in the crash of Coulson’s Tanker 134 have not been released. While we are waiting on that, here is some information about the aircraft itself.
It is an EC-130Q, one of only 12 that were manufactured. The model began as strategic communications links for the U.S. Navy Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine force and as a backup communications link for the U. S. Air Force manned strategic bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile forces. They are similar to the C-130H, but the 12 “Q” models were outfitted with complex electronics systems, including a six-mile long trailing wire antenna, for communicating with submarines and bombers. Some of them still have the remains of a vent in front of the main landing gear for cooling the winch that was used to reel in the long antenna.
Tanker 134 (N134CG, Serial #382-4904) was manufactured in 1981. Coulson began converting it into an air tanker in early 2017. At that time it looked like it was far from what it later became.
By August of 2018 it was essentially complete, but still had not been painted. During the 2018/2019 bushfire season it was in Australia on its first firefighting contract. The first drop on a wildfire occurred around November 1, 2018 on a fire a few kilometers away from NASA’s Deep Space Network of satellite antennas near Canberra, Australia.
It continued to serve throughout the bushfire season and after migrating back to the U.S. it received new livery by April, 2019.
During the 2019 fire season in the United States T-134 was on a contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was seen across the state that summer, and for a while operated out of Ramona, an airport with a relatively short runway that presents a challenge for some large air tankers.
August November or December, 2019 it began working in Australia again.
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Author: Bill Gabbert
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