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SuperTanker Activated to Fight Fire in California

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01.09.2017 8:30

The Global SuperTanker has been activated to fight quickly spreading fire in Northern California. The world’s newest and largest aerial firefighting tanker went into action last night after the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) exercised its call when needed contract with the SuperTanker to fight the Ponderosa Fire, 10 miles east of Lake Oroville. The converted Boeing 747-400 flew one sortie of two individual drops of 8,500 gallons of retardant at approximately 7:00 pm local time, and is continuing today in assisting CAL FIRE crews on the ground. 


The SuperTanker was at McClellan Air Base in Sacramento after recently completing “carding” by CAL FIRE. It received federal firefighting certification last month. This is the plane’s first deployment in the United States.

“It’s an honor to work on behalf of the people and state of California as they face yet another potentially devastating wildfire,” said Jim Wheeler, President and CEO of Global SuperTanker Services, LLC. “We are confident the unsurpassed firefighting ability of the Global SuperTanker will be a tremendous asset for CAL FIRE and its team on the ground as they suppress the Ponderosa Fire. CAL FIRE has long believed in and supported the SuperTanker; we will work tirelessly with them to get the job done in Ponderosa or wherever fire threatens our fellow citizens.”

The fire was discovered yesterday afternoon and has already destroyed over 3,500 acres as of this morning, and is threatening as many as 1,300 structures. The SuperTanker was in air within three hours after its activation.

“We take our responsibility to assess this new tool during the interim approval process very seriously,” said Chief Dave Teter, CAL FIRE’s Deputy Director of Fire Protection. “Our incident commanders will continue to look for opportunities to evaluate the 747 in real world, battlefield conditions as part of this process just as we did with the DC-10 when this type of Very Large Airtanker technology was first introduced.”

While this is the first time the Global SuperTanker has been deployed in the U.S., it was previously called upon to combat fires in Israel over Thanksgiving of 2016, and was in Chile for three weeks in January and February of 2017. While in Chile, the SuperTanker set a world record for liquid dropped by a land-based very large aerial tanker in a single day at 134,400 gallons. The plane was credited with saving people and homes, and the crew received awards and recognition from the Chilean Red Cross for their work in Chile.

Permanently based in Colorado Springs, Global SuperTanker’s B747-400, The Spirit of John Muir, incorporates a patented system capable of delivering single or multiple payload drops aggregating over 19,000 gallons of water, fire retardant, or suppressant. These fluids can be released at variable rates from the plane’s pressurized tanks, producing a tailored response to the firefighting need. This unique ability allows it to make as many as six drops in a single flight, while other aircraft such as the C-130 or BAe-146 must repeatedly land and refuel to achieve the same results. The Spirit of John Muir is the world’s youngest, most modern, and fastest Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT). With a flying speed of 600 miles per hour, the Spirit of John Muir can reach any part of the globe in 20 hours or less, and virtually any part of North America in less than 4.5 hours.
Global SuperTanker Services, LLC was formed in 2015, joining a strong portfolio of companies managed by Alterna Capital Partners LLC as part of its aerospace sector. Along with the formation of Global SuperTanker Services, LLC, all SuperTanker related system hardware, spare parts, intellectual property and STC’s were purchased and upgraded to fit our newer, more modern B747-446, tail number N744ST, Tanker number 944. The core operations group represents 259 years of aviation and related U.S.F.S. experience. It includes many decades of international flight, maintenance and ground support, the majority of it on the 747.

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