Forest fire season is upon us.
From Fort MacMurray in northern Canada, to California and Arizona in the US Southwest, 2016 is already hot, and aerial firefighting tankers – from BAe 146s all the way up to DC-10s are dropping fire retardant as fast as they can reload.
But if US-based Global SuperTanker Services receives FAA certification for its conversion project on schedule, an even bigger tanker will soon join the fleet: a 747-400 capable of dropping almost 75,000 liters (19,200 gallons), either all at once or in up to eight separate loads. The company says it expects certification in time to have the tanker in service in July.
Below are several videos, but first, the story behind the SuperTanker. In 2012, Evergreen International Airlines acquired an ex-Japan Airlines 747-400 (25308), and had Boeing convert it to BCF freighter configuration – the last 747-400BCF conversion ever done. But Evergreen soon went out of business, and the freighter went into storage at Victorville in 2013. However, prior to the bankruptcy, sister company Evergreen International Aviation had developed an aerial firefighting tanker modification and installed it on a 747-200F. For reasons that probably made sense at the time, Evergreen then removed the firefighting systems and re-installed them (with lighter tanks) on an older 747- 100F. But this aircraft was never put into firefighting service, and has sat idle since the installation.
Global SuperTanker Services, which employs many Evergreen Alumni, removed the original Evergreen firefighting system from the 747-100F, combined it with the original, heavier, tanks and installed it in the recently acquired 747-400BCF.
How many layers of conversion, re-conversion, and re-re-conversion this adds up to is hard to keep track of, but the end result is definitely impressive. And if Global SuperTanker Services is right, it won’t be alone for long – the company says it sees a market for as many as five of the jumbo fire tankers.
Now for the videos: We start with the newly painted tanker coming home to the company’s base in Colorado Springs.
And a longer video on the history of the SuperTanker concept.