Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Evergreen Airlines Boeing 747 aircraft of World's Largest Fire


The plane made its first-ever drop in the continental United States when fire officials summoned it to the Oak Glen fire east of Los Angeles mid day on Monday. After the successful first drop, the Supertanker was called back into action Monday evening where it made further drops on the massive Station fire north of the city which grew to more than 164 square miles and threatened 10,000 homes. Nearly 2,600 firefighters from as far away as Montana are throwing everything they have at the blaze, and on Monday they called in the biggest tool in their inventory.

Supertanker, a 747-100 modified by Evergreen Aviation of Oregon, can deliver more than 20,000 gallons of fire retardant with considerable accuracy using its unique pressurized delivery system. Although Supertanker can’t snake through canyons like smaller aircraft, nothing can touch its payload or its ability to perform multiple controlled drops during a single flight. The Grumman S-2, a dedicated workhorse of California’s airtanker fleet, carries 1,200 gallons. That’s a thimbleful compared to the Supertanker.

“This aircraft can lay down a three-mile-long, football field-wide swath of retardant if needed,” Evergreen’s Rick Campfield told Wired.com. “There’s no close second.”

Evergreen spent more than $50 million developing the Supertanker and hopes to sell it around the world as the premier aerial firefighting tool.

There has long been debate on the usefulness of firefighting air tankers. The debate peaked several years ago after the high-profile crashes of firefighting aircraft prompted several agencies to ground many of the aging aircraft that were the backbone of the fleet. Although there is still some question as to the cost-effectiveness of airborne firefighters, there are some new options on the marketplace.
In addition to the Supertanker 747, an outfit called 10 Tanker Air Carrier developed an aerial firefighter based on the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. It carries 12,000 gallons and has been flying since 2006. Supertanker saw action in North America for the first time in July when it was deployed in Alaska. Before that, it made a demonstration drop in Spain.

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