SuperTanker works on a fire near Navidad, Chile

Just a quick video of the 747 SuperTanker pulling up to the reload pit at Santiago, Chile airport after completing its seventh sortie on February 1, 2017, making a total of 11 drops on the 7 sorties. Six of the sorties were near Navidad and Matanzas 115 miles (185 km) southwest of the Santiago airport where many structures were threatened. The seventh was near Concepcion, 404 miles (650 km) south of Santiago. In total, 138,400 gallons (508,759 l.) were delivered to assist the firefighters on the ground who actually put out the fires.

Video compilation of 747 drops

This video contains shots of many water drops by the 747 Supertanker since it arrived January 25 in Chile. Some of the drops are seen multiple times recorded by different people from various angles. I guess you could call it air tanker porn.

There is one thing all of the shots have in common — the joy and exuberance that you hear every time the huge aircraft appears. Some of it comes from knowing it will assist the firefighters on the ground who may have been struggling to put out the fire that was threatening the property of the bystanders. And the rest perhaps is the novelty of it — seeing this massive machine they have been hearing about on the news and having the chance to see it in person. It is likely that none of them have ever seen in person a large or certainly not a very large air tanker. The country has some single engine air tankers but nothing like this critter.

As this is written at 1713 Chile time on January 31, the 747 just took off on its 4th mission today, carrying another 19,200-gallon load to a fire south of Santiago. (UPDATE at 2310 Chile time: the aircraft flew five missions today.)

Photos from the Santiago Airport

Above: Photo by Don Paulsen, January 29 from from the 747.

I’m catching up on some photos taken in Chile on January 29, 2017. They were taken at the Santiago Airport except for the two airborne shots which were in southern Chile.

Chilean Air Force CASA
The Chilean Air Force CASA that is serving as a lead plane for the 747.
Firefighters arrive from Venezuela
Firefighters arrive from Venezuela.
Chilean Air Force CASA
As seen from the cockpit of the 747 Supertanker, this is the Chilean Air Force CASA that is serving as a lead plane for the 747. Photo by Don Paulsen.
Jim Wheeler, President CEO Global SuperTanker
Jim Wheeler (in the blue shirt), President and CEO of Global SuperTanker, is interviewed by the press at the Santiago Airport.

Photos of the IL-76 at Santiago

The Russian-made IL-76 air tanker was parked near the 747 SuperTanker at Santiago, Chili today January 30. The 747 was off duty to take care of some maintenance, while the IL-76 went on two missions, dropping water on fires south of Santiago.

IL-76 air tanker
The interior of the IL-76, showing the two tanks. Photo by Tom Parsons, pilot of the 747 Supertanker.
IL-76 air tanker
The counterweights on the levers help the large flapper valves to open, releasing the 11,574 gallons of water from the Russian IL-76. Photo by Tom Parsons, pilot of the 747 Supertanker.
IL-76 russian air tanker
The Russian IL-76 Taxiing past the 747 SuperTanker. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Continue reading “Photos of the IL-76 at Santiago”

IL-76 goes to work in Chile

Above: The IL-76 on the ramp at Santiago, Chile January 30, 2017. Photo by Tom Parsons.

While the 747 air tanker is taking a day off in Chile for maintenance the Russian IL-76 went to work about 9 hours after arriving at Santiago early Monday morning. FlightRadar24 showed the aircraft (RA76841) flew to and concentrated on a point northeast of Concepción near Portezuelo, an area that has had fires in recent days. As this is written at 4:08 p.m. Chile time it appears to be returning to Santiago at 15,000 feet and 343 mph.

IL-76 air tanker
Radar track of the IL-76 in Chile, January 30, 2016.

Today Tom Parsons and Marcos Valdez, pilots of the 747 air tanker, swapped tours of their aircraft with the crew of the IL-76 before the Russian air tanker took off on a fire mission.

Il-76 air tanker
Pilots Tom Parsons and Marcos Valdez (L to R) in the cockpit of the IL-76.

Russian IL-76 arrives in Chile

Above: The IL-76 and 747 SuperTanker (L to R) at Santiago, Chile airport, January 30, 2017. Concierto.cl photo.

At 5 a.m. Monday morning an IL-76 very large air tanker arrived in Santiago, Chile after 9,300-mile flight that included three refueling stops. It was welcomed in the darkness by officials from the Chilean government.

According to the Russian news service Sputnik International the aircraft can carry up to 42 metric tons of water which converts to about 11,574 gallons. In comparison, most of the air tankers in North America carry 1,400 to 4,000 gallons. The DC-10 holds 11,600 and the 747 has a 19,200-gallon capacity.

Accordign to T13.cl (in an automatic translation from spanish by Google):

Alexander Markov, the colonel and group leader who will operate the ship in Chile, said that the year the aircraft was used in operations in Israel, Portugal, Greece and Indonesia and that the pilots of the aircraft have extensive experience in fighting fires.

There were no reports Monday morning that it brought two helicopters or came with a second IL-76 as was speculated.

The air tanker was expected to remain in Santiago for most of the morning before moving on to its temporary base at La Araucanía International Airport, also known as Temuco Airport, in southern Chile.

More air tankers en route to Chile

The extended drought and a siege of wildland fires has brought to light the fact that Chile does not have any large air tankers or an infrastructure for supporting the aircraft. However the bomberos (firefighters) have done an outstanding job creating a very elaborate temporary water system for refilling the 747 SuperTanker at Santiago. Now that the the aircraft has been in the country since January 25 and proven to be a valuable tool in the firefighters toolbox additional air tankers are reportedly enroute to assist those on the ground. Most of the following information is preliminary and subject to change.

Russian Ilyushin IL-76

IL-76TD air tanker
IL-76TD air tanker. Photo by Shahram Sharifi

There is no doubt at least one Russian IL-76 is en route but we have not confirmed the number. It appears there will be two of the planes with a slip-in 11,574-gallon tank (43,812 liters) with each aircraft bringing two helicopters in their cavernous cargo holds. Instead of working out of Santiago along with the 747 it may be based at La Araucanía International Airport, also known as Temuco Airport, in southern Chile.

On July 1, 2016 an IL-76 working on a fire in Russia was reported missing. Two days later the wreckage was found. Ten people died in the crash.

Brazilian MAFFS

maffs c-130
The first version of a MAFFS with retardant exiting out of the rear cargo ramp. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Koenig.

An aviation publication in Chile, TallyHo, is reporting that the Brazilian Air Force is sending a C-130 with a slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS). From the description, it must be a MAFFS Version 1.0 since it has multiple retardant tanks, no built-in air compressor, and the retardant exits through two tubes sticking out of the rear cargo ramp. Brazil is also bringing a second C-130 carrying a compressor and portable water tanks.

(UPDATE 1446 January 30, 2017: the Brazilian C-130’s arrived Sunday and are expected to move to Concepción today.)

Coulson’s Tanker 132

air tanker 132 at Avalon
Air tanker 132 at Avalon during the 2015-2016 Australian fire season.

Coulson’s Tanker 132, an L-382G commercial variant of the C-130 platform, has worked in New South Wales Australia during their last two summer bushfire seasons. Their current contract began September 6, 2016 and was extended for a month and since then has been extended week by week. Amid reports in Chile that T-132 was going to be working in the country, we checked with Britt Coulson who told us that their company has been contacted about sending one of their C-130 class air tankers to Chile but they are still under contract. He said “it’s really heating up in Australia” and it seems unlikely they will release them. The company’s Tanker 131, a C-130Q, is also under contract in Australia, in Victoria.

Air-Cranes

There has also been talk about bringing in Air-Crane helicopters, but nothing is confirmed yet.

Hoses descend out of the belly of the SuperTanker

When the 747 SuperTanker reloads, the technician connects electronics to the aircraft which control the retardant and compressed air being loaded through hoses that descend out of the ship’s belly. Check out the video above to get the details.