VANCOUVER - A forestry and aviation company based in Port Alberni, B.C., has signed an agreement with Airbus to help turn a workhorse transport plane into a water bomber.

The Coulson Group of Canada has inked a memorandum of understanding with Airbus Defence and Space to work on the water bomber version of the Airbus C295W transport aircraft.

Under the agreement, Coulson will tailor its retardant dropping system to the C295W, switching the turboprop from a transport plane to a water bomber.

Two removable, 3,500 litre tanks will be built, with each tank capable of being filled with water or retardant in under seven minutes.

Coulson spokesman Britton Coulson says the upgrades will make the C295W a cost-effective firefighting aircraft that can easily be used for other duties when the fire season ends.

Coulson owns two massive Martin Mars water bombers, two C-130 Hercules aircraft and several powerful Sikorsky S-61 helicopters, and has a dependable record of supplying and maintaining large aircraft suitable for fire suppression.