747 Supertanker conversion update

C check completed, painting begins

747 paint design

Above: artist’s concept for the paint design on Tanker 947 (N744ST). Image courtesy of Global Supertanker.

Work continues on the conversion of a 747-400BCF into a 20,000-gallon air tanker. Global Supertanker purchased all the physical assets and intellectual property related to Evergreen’s original SuperTanker except the 747-100 airframe itself, and is now refurbishing the retardant delivery system for what will be the third generation of the 747 Supertanker.

According to Bob Soelberg, the Program Manager for Global Supertanker, the C check is complete on the jumbo jet, including compliance with numerous Airworthiness Directives and Service Bulletins. All major modifications to the airframe are now finished. After the engines were ground checked at maximum power and the aircraft weighed, it was taken for a test flight in the Victorville, California area before departing to be painted in Marana, Arizona.

Fluid tanks 747 supertanker
The eight fluid tanks have been inspected, tested, painted, and mounted on cargo pallets. Global Supertanker photo.

The eight fluid tanks, which will hold water or retardant, have been inspected, tested, painted, and mounted on cargo pallets. The air pressure tanks have also been painted and are ready to go. The complete system will be shipped to Marana and installed late in February.

747 Supertanker gear swing
After a landing gear swing test the 747 Supertanker was weighed. Photo by Global Supertanker.

The video below shows a landing gear swing test on a 747. (It is not the Supertanker 747.) In the video they tested just one or two at a time because the hydraulic unit on the ground did not have enough power to do them all at the same time.

4 thoughts on “747 Supertanker conversion update”

  1. Being raised in aviation (crop dusting family) I always look at what is the “true” cost to deliver per gallon. Fire managers (ultimately the I.C.) will be challenged by finance on what justification allowed the use of an “expensive” aviation asset? The bean counters usually don’t understand or care that the fire was kept to the first burning period or a community was saved. 10 Air Carrier was the pioneer of the VLAT air program with CDF keeping very close cost per gallon (State fires) on each incident. For the Global Supertanker after a fire season (being used on fires!) of data collection the cost per gallon will determine if this air tanker fits into the financial picture with other fire retardant delivering airplanes. Cost per gallon delivered on the fire line.

  2. Does anyone know how Global Supertanker plans to compress the air for their system? Would they ship ground based compressors to airports near the operating area or have onboard compressors? I would imagine the air requirements would be huge with such a large system.

  3. Cost-per-gallon-delivered was the furthest thing from my mind when Air-10 buzzed within 100 yards of my house during the nasty 2015 Valley Fire and saved my whole neighborhood in one fell swoop.

    Believe me, there are plenty of other ways bean counters can busy themselves. When Air-10 came to the rescue, I never felt so good about paying my taxes.

    -James Bone
    Northern California.

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