Forest Fires Rage As 747 Supertanker is GROUNDED – Forestry “Service” Won’t Give It Permission to Battle Fires
Originally designed 13 years ago, the 747 Supertanker was intended to be the biggest forest fire fighting weapon the world had ever seen. Evergreen International Airlines, based in McMinnville, Oregon, took one of their cargo 747’s, and redesigned the interior with firefighting equipment. There was even room in the top part to house a logistical command center, chock full of computers and other equipment to analyze and manage the firefighting operations.
The only problem was when the government came along to “help”. Though the plane had been approved by the FAA in 2006, it sat dormant. The US Forestry Service refused to contract it, opting instead to use smaller planes, with much smaller capacity for water or chemical fire retardants, even as small as 1/8th the capacity. Though the plane itself costed more to operate than the smaller planes, this was offset by the massive capacity, speed, and overall efficiency.
Evergreen Aviation eventually went bankrupt in 2013, due in part to the investment into the Supertanker which never paid off. Their converted 747 sat in the desert for a few years, until a new company, Global Supertanker, came along and purchased the plane. They removed the equipment and transferred it all to a newer model 747, the -400 version.
Except the government decided to “help” again. According to an article on CBS News, the U.S. Forestry “Service” ONLY took bids for fire fighting planes with between 3,000 and 5,000 gallon capacity. The Supertanker can hold nearly 20,000 gallons, which is almost twice what a DC-10 based tanker can hold, which is about 11,000 gallons.
The CBS article continues:
“We’re the very largest in the world — there’s nobody out there that comes close,” said Jim Wheeler. His company, Global SuperTanker, turned a 747-400 series passenger jet — one of the biggest in the sky — into the world’s largest fire extinguisher.
“We can drop a line of retardant about three kilometers long, about a mile-and-a-half,” Wheeler told CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann, as the plane performed a test run in Colorado last fall.
But in this country, it’s virtually worthless unless the U.S. Forest Service gives it permission to fight fires — something the agency has yet to do, even though the plane was certified by the FAA last September, and has since fought fires in Chile and Israel.
“The frustration factor is exceptionally high,” Wheeler said. “It’s very hard to watch property burn and lives lost, and we can’t get in and help.”
In May, the Forest Service issued a request for new airtankers, but said it would only give contracts to planes with a dispensing capacity of between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons. The supertanker can drop more than 19,000 gallons of water or retardant at a time.
As wildfires continue to ravage Rocky Mountain and west coast states, the governors of these states have hardly uttered a peep about the Supertanker. While Global Supertanker has been awaiting approval in the US, it has been hired to fight fires in Israel and Chile.
Thanks a lot, government bureaus!
Here’s an old promo video from Evergreen International Aviation: