The Global SuperTanker may no longer be fighting wildfires, but the unique 747-400BCF (25308, ex-Evergreen International Airlines) will take to the skies again — albeit with a slightly lower-profile role.
National Airlines has purchased the aircraft and will soon deploy it in cargo service alongside its five other 747-400Fs, the Florida-headquartered carrier confirmed to Cargo Facts.
Unit 25308 is currently at the VT San Antonio Aerospace facility in San Antonio (SAT), where it arrived May 28, to have its firefighting equipment and system removed, restoring the 747 to full-freighter configuration. The 1991-vintage aircraft is equipped with four General Electric CF6-80C2 engines.
National also sent the three ex-Cathay Pacific 747-400BCFs it reactivated last year to the VT facility at SAT to prepare them for entry into service. The carrier had told Cargo Facts earlier this year that it was looking to acquire more 747-400Fs, but the number of suitable frames available is low. Most recently, Aquiline International acquired a 1991-vintage 747-400BCF and three 1991-vintage 747-400s with a view to converting them, and Western Global acquired a 1992-vintage 747-400BDSF from Asiana Airlines.
While the three ex-Cathay units (25068, 26547 and 27217) have Pratt & Whitney PW4000-94 engines, National’s two other 747-400s (25238 and 25302, both ex-Air France) also have CF6-80C2s. All five are BCFs and range from 1991 to 1994 vintage.
Unit 25308 has not flown a firefighting mission since late 2020, after which it went to Moses Lake (MWH) for a digital upgrade to its retardant drop system.
In April 2021, Alterna Capital Partners, which owned Global SuperTanker Services LLC, announced that it had decided to cease the company’s operations with immediate effect. Alterna Managing Director Roger Miller said in a statement that the investment to upgrade the drop system was “very significant,” and that the SuperTanker’s “call when needed” federal contract meant that the investment would “take longer to realize profitability than previously expected.”
The 2009-vintage Alterna fund that owns Global SuperTanker Services had a finite ten-year life and “[did] not have the resources to see the vision come to fruition,” according to Miller. At the time, Alterna said it might sell the 747 as a freighter, in part due to the increase in cargo demand and a corresponding increase in the aircraft’s value.
Unit 25038 was originally delivered to Japan Airlines in 1991. Alterna acquired it in 2011, and sent it to Boeing to be converted into a freighter in 2011-2012 for the now-defunct Evergreen International Airlines. The company then modified the 747 in 2015-2016 to carry approximately 18,000 gallons of fire retardant in ten tanks, with compressed air propelling the liquid out through four valves on the bottom of the fuselage.
The aircraft has fought wildfires in Israel, Chile, Bolivia and within the U.S., according to Global SuperTanker Services.