A private foundation is funding the initial deployment of the SuperTanker

747 supertanker
(Last Updated On: March 22, 2017)

Above: Ben and Lucy Ana Walton de Availés display a Chilean flag at the door of the 747 Supertanker the day before the air tanker departed for Chile. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The assignment of the 747 SuperTanker to help fight the numerous wildfires in Chile is very different in at least one respect — a private foundation is supplying the starter funds for the huge air tanker to travel to Santiago and for approximately three days of actual use on fires.

An heir to the Walmart fortune, Ben Walton and his wife Lucy Ana Walton de Availés, of Denver, have worked out arrangements with the Chilean government and the operator of the 747, Global SuperTanker, to assist the firefighters on the ground in Chile. The funds are being provided by Ben and Lucy Ana’s foundation, Foundación Viento Sur, which has a connection to the Walton Family Foundation. They hope the government will retain the services of the air tanker for as long as it is needed after they see the effectiveness of the aircraft.

747 supertanker
Lucy Ana Walton de Availés, Ben Walton, and Jim Wheeler (L to R) in front of the tanks in the SuperTanker. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Lucy Ana is originally from Chile and has strong feelings about finding a way to help the residents in her homeland to defend against the fires that have destroyed scores of homes and damaged vineyards, a very important industry in the country.

Ben and Lucy Ana visited Global SuperTanker’s Colorado Springs facilities on January 23 and received a briefing on the use and capabilities of the aircraft. Ben has some pilot training and both of them, but especially Lucy Ana, were very enthusiastic about its capabilities and its potential to assist the residents of Chile.

Working out the details with the foundation, the Chilean government, and Global Supertanker was a complex procedure that took a few days. Finally late Tuesday morning, January 24, the flight crew received the GO order and departed for South America at about 1:40 p.m. MT.

Another cause receiving assistance from the foundation includes Postpartum Support International (PSI), an organization to help women suffering perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The grant will strengthen postpartum treatment in the state of Colorado, although PSI has global connections. In 2016 the foundation helped arrange for $1.5 million worth of medical supplies to be sent to hospitals and rural clinics in Chile. And they also rebuilt a school after it was destroyed by the earthquake and resulting Tsunami in Chile a few years ago.

Lucy Ana Walton
Lucy Ana Walton de Availés enjoys the classic jet aviator’s pose.

23 thoughts on “A private foundation is funding the initial deployment of the SuperTanker”

    1. excelente,a salvar la naturaleza,en Chile estamos agradecidos,desde las personas mas sencillas a las personas de buena voluntad recordaran siempre este tremendo aporte.

  1. Superando los problemas burocráticos al fin está en Chile el SuperTanker, solo desearles el mayor de los éxitos en su misión.
    Muchísimas gracias.

  2. A significant part of aviation history is starting to unfold in Chile. The use of air tankers to combat fires in Chile has been around for decades. What is significant is that two private humanitarian foundations stepped up to the plate in order to help out. When the U.S. Forest Service continued to ponder their air tanker (lack of) program in early 2000 many commenters on this site suggested private sponsor ship. This approach would provide air tankers that would protect private and state lands when a Federal wildfire escaped containment. i.e. Gatlinburg. It is hard to place a value or understand what it means (unless it has happened to you) when a person’s home and community are destroyed by a wildfire.

  3. Lucy Ana…Muchas gracias y una vez más sólo los chilenos ayudamos a los chilenos… y esto muestra una vez más la vergüenza que son nuestros gobiernos…Te mando un beso enorme desde el sur de Chile….Con cariño Jean Philippe

  4. Muchas gracias…. Gringos nos ayudaron para salvar a nuestros 33… Ahora están presentes nuevamente con su tecnología…. Simplemente gracias

  5. Seria bueno que reubicaran de inmediato esos avioncitos que obstaculizan el paso del Supertanker en el aeropuerto. El tiempo que demoran en movilizar el avion dentro del aeropuerto para reabastecerlo de agua significan mas hectareas consumidas por el fuego. Reaccionen!

  6. I live in Chile and the lack of governmental organization and resources are a national disgrace. No infrastructure such as permanent paid firefighters and fire hydrants exist, especially in the rural areas. Firefighters are volunteers and the mentality is that if they had fire hydrants, the people would steal the water, so better to do nothing. It is a gracious gesture for the Walton’s to pitch in regardless of the stupidity and lack of attention by the government who is still arguing over who will pay for the water for the supertanker. Meanwhile the people suffer.

  7. Thank you thank you so much Lucy and Ben! In the middle of the nightmare in addition to the blindness of our authorities you both definetly did way more than bringging the Supertanker and hope, you definetly oppened the door they were keeping locked to receive help. Now thanks you two there is at least hope and an open door to receive help. My real admiration and greatfulness, because you didn’t gave up! Thanks!

  8. Los angeles si existen…y nuestro corazón agradecido..
    Gracias sra…Lucy Ana…por siempre a través del tiempo..

  9. Thank you all, Lucy, Ben and Global . A few people in the world spends money to make this world a better place. Sorry for the Chilean government, they really don´t represent us. You´re in our hearts. best regards

  10. Me sumo a esta cadena de agradecimientos por la gestión tan rapida de usted su esposo Ben y de Jim para tener la ayuda que tanto se necesita en Chile. El súper tanker no solo ha aliviado con el fuego pero le ha dado a Chile la fuerza de seguir adelante y a los bomberos de Chile el orgullo de poder romper récord al recargar el avión en menos de 13 minutos. En todo conjunto es una bendición que ustedes han dado a Chile. Gracias

    1. Sra Lucy y Ben:Uds se han ganado el corazón del pueblo Chileno, con su ayuda se han salvado bosques y pueblos enteros.
      Global: Los pilotos del Supertanker son increíbles. Dios los bendiga a todos por siempre.
      Carlos

  11. el que a dicho en este mundo no esiste dios.. pues no a visto la gracia de el.. el utiliza a quien el quiera.. ademas ya vivimos entre nosotros con sus angeles.. o sino expliqueme de donde salio este angel que sin duarlo ayudo a chile.. sin resibir nada a cambio y sin pedirle al gobierno plata .. dios bendiga a la señora lucy y familia .su corazon no tiene porte y no mide distancia para ayudar al rpojimo.. estoy orgulloso de usted .. muchas gracias ..

  12. Una vez mas, muchas gracias gringos queridos, gracias a esos maravillosos pilotos que arriegan sus vidas por ayudarnos, gracias mil veces gracias.

  13. Soy chilena y vivo en México. Con gran tristeza he seguido el desarrollo de los incendios en mi país. Gracias y mil veces gracias Lucy y Ben por su generosidad. Así como la de todos los bomberos, brigadistas, pilotos y voluntarios que están trabajando por aplacar esta tragedia.

  14. Lucy, you were an angel from God.
    Vivo en USA, sé lo que es vivir fuera de nuestro Chile amado y me imagino lo que sentiste al saber que el sur de Chile estaba en llamas incontrolables. Sólo te puedo decir que has sido un ángel enviado por Dios. Tu determinación, buen corazón y amor a la patria te movió para poder abrir las puertas a oídos sordos y traspasar las barreras de la burocracia. Gracias! Muchísimas gracias. El país entero te agradece porque sin el avión que facilitaste y el equipo de gente capacitada y dispuesta, no habríamos podido vencer el fuego de la forma en que lo estamos venciendo y quién sabe qué hubiésemos hecho para superar esta horrible catástrofe. Que Dios te bendiga siempre!

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