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article imageBoeing 747-400 Global Supertanker: An amazing firefighting tool

By Karen Graham     Jul 17, 2018 in Technology
Sacramento - With wildfires raging across California and other western states, firefighters need all the help they can get. First used in the state in 2017, Cal Fire has again called in the Boeing 747-400 Global Supertanker to assist firefighters.
The U.S. Forest Service has contracted to use it again this year. The aircraft is stationed at McClellan Air Force Base outside Sacramento, and the Forest Service is just waiting on a software upgrade, according to the Mercury News.
The Global SuperTanker, a Boeing 747 airframe modified for firefighting, received approval from Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service on July 6, 2018, to begin dropping water, retardant, and suppressant on wildfires, according to Global SuperTanker Services CEO Jim Wheeler.
Image of Thomas Fire near Hwy 150 and Hwy 126  north of Santa Paula (Ventura County) on December 7  ...
Image of Thomas Fire near Hwy 150 and Hwy 126, north of Santa Paula (Ventura County) on December 7, 2017.
Twitter user Henry Galvan via Cal Fire
The modified Boeing 747 has been named the Spirit of John Muir, to honor this country's most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist. The Supertanker can operate from any airport with an 8,000-foot (2,400 m) long runway and suitable facilities
The nimble firefighting plane can fly up to 600 miles per hour and deliver up to eight drops totaling 19,200 gallons in a single flight. This is nearly double what the next largest tanker plane can carry, and it only takes 30 minutes to fill it up.
"We thank Cal Fire and the USFS for their tremendous professionalism and diligence throughout the (approval) process and look forward working with the team in 2018," Wheeler said in a statement.
"The severity and multiple locations of fires this early in the season is another indication that the country needs additional air assets in order to fight fires effectively and efficiently." Wheeler also added that authorization was held up this year due to bureaucratic and technical glitches that prevented his plane from being authorized in Colorado and California.
Boeing will still build the 747 as a freight carrier and for select clients  including the US presid...
Boeing will still build the 747 as a freight carrier and for select clients, including the US president, who has used a specially-outfitted 747 as Air Force One since 1990
NICOLAS ASFOURI, AFP/File
Development of the Supertanker
Initially developed by Evergreen International Aviation, the first Supertanker was based on a 747-200 (N470EV, tanker/tail number 947), and never entered service. The Boeing 747 Supertanker replaced a C-130 Hercules and a Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer that were lost in air crashes in the 2002 fire season.
The second Supertanker (N479EV, tanker/tail number 979) was based on a 747-100 originally manufactured by Boeing in 1971 for Delta Air Lines. It entered service in 2009, fighting a fire in Cuenca, Spain. In December 2013, Evergreen International Aviation filed a Chapter 7 petition for bankruptcy that included all its assets, including the 747 airframes.
N130HP Tanker 130 circa early 2002 at Union Co. Airport  La Grande  Oregon.
In Memory of the crew of...
N130HP Tanker 130 circa early 2002 at Union Co. Airport, La Grande, Oregon. In Memory of the crew of Tanker #130 pilot Steve Wass, co-pilot Craig Labare, flight engineer Michael Davis Lost in the line of duty, June 17, 2002, Walker, CA.
Armen Woosley from La Grande, USA
In 2015, Global SuperTanker Services, LLC purchased all the physical assets and intellectual property related to Evergreen’s original Supertanker (except the 747-100 airframe itself) from Jet Midwest.
They have transplanted the existing sprayer tank system from the 747-100 into the newer Boeing 747-400 (N744ST) airframe. With all the improvements to the Supertanker, it is now the largest aerial firefighting aircraft in the world.
SuperTanker Arrives in Santiago  2017.
SuperTanker Arrives in Santiago, 2017.
Global Supertanker/Bill Gabbart
The Spirit of John Muir does have limitations on where it can fly. Right now, Wheeler has contracts with Cal Fire, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the state of Colorado and several Colorado cities and counties, and Wheeler is working on a contract with the U.S. Forest Service.
"These deployments are dependent on many factors – weather conditions, containment, available assets – that are impossible to predict," Wheeler said. "It is our understanding that Cal Fire is currently stretched to the limit with its current assets, but we do not know how things will change in the coming days or weeks. One of the reasons wildfire is so terrifying is because it is unpredictable."
The Supertanker fought fires in Chile in 2017 and was deployed in Israel in 2016.
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