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Pilots escape injury after 737 firebomber crashes in WA

written by Adam Thorn | February 7, 2023

Coulson Aviation’s 737-300 (N619SW) doing its weekly test drops at Busselton airport in 2022 (HCR Media)

A converted 737 firebomber aircraft crashed in regional WA on Monday – but the two pilots onboard escaped without serious injury.

The aircraft is thought to be the Coulson-operated N619SW, which has been in the state since mid-December after working previously in the US.

The ATSB said in a statement it would assemble a team from its Perth and Canberra office to investigate.

“Initially, investigators will seek to interview the pilots and witnesses to understand the circumstances of the accident, and determine the accessibility of the accident site with the aim of conducting an on-site examination of the aircraft wreckage,” said the bureau’s chief commissioner, Angus Mitchell.

“The scope of the investigation and its timeframe will be determined as the ATSB builds its understanding of the nature of the accident.”


The incident took place at the Fitzgerald River National Park, south of Ravensthorpe, at 4:40pm, after the aircraft took off from the Busselton-Margaret River airport at 3:25pm to respond to a fire.

The two pilots were airlifted to Ravensthorpe Airport and then taken to hospital via St John Ambulance.

Shire of Ravensthorpe president Keith Dunlop wished the pair a speedy recovery.

“Let’s just hope they are all okay, and best of luck to their family,” he said.

The aircraft involved was a Large Air Tanker or LAT. Except for a single LAT-owned by NSW (Coulson Aviation’s ‘Marie Bashir’, another converted 737), the 11 used nationwide during the Black Summer season were contracted overseas.

Coulson said in a statement, “Both pilots walked away from the crash and have been medically assessed. Our thoughts and our immediate concern is for those team members and their families.

“We’re very grateful the two team members on Tanker 139 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.”

More to follow…

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