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”

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.

Video: reloading the 747 SuperTanker

This shows part of the process of reloading the 747 Supertanker with compressed air and 19,200 gallons of water. Much of the work was done by local bomberos (firefighters) who fine-tuned the process making it quicker every day.

On January 27 we wrote more about reloading the aircraft.

Two aircraft are working with the 747 SuperTanker

Above: the 747 Supertanker prepares to take off at Santiago, Chile.

Like other air tankers, the 747 SuperTanker does not work alone. It takes a village. On the ground it depends on personnel and infrastructure to service it, provide fuel, and refill its retardant tanks.

There are two other aircraft working with the 747 while it is in Chile. One is a lead plane, in this case a borrowed military CASA, a twin engine turboprop that can carry a couple of dozen passengers. A lead plane scouts ahead of the air tanker and evaluates the wind, visibility, fire behavior, and topography and determines the path the much larger air tanker will take to make a drop. After that decision is made it will fly that path with the air tanker following.

CASA lead plane
The aircraft being used as a lead plane in Chile. CONAF photo.

In North America there is usually only one person, a pilot, in a lead plane, but the one being used in Chile comes with two military pilots new to the lead plane role. Global Supertanker brought with them a highly experienced smokejumper and lead plane pilot, Jamie Tackman, who is sitting behind the pilots directing them where to go — such as height above ground, speed, direction, which drainage or slope to fly over, and how to enter and exit the drop run. The CASA is painted in Air Superiority Gray and it’s the first time the SuperTanker pilots have followed a lead plane that is intentionally difficult to see.

The other aircraft is a pimped out passenger jet, a Gulfstream G-4 usually used for hauling VIPs. It was brought on a day or two ago to improve intelligence gathering about the status of the dozens of active wildfires that are scattered across 400 miles, north to south, in Chile. Flying at 10,000 feet it can relatively quickly scout far ahead and help determine where the greatest need exists for air support and also evaluate the smoke conditions that often make it impossible to use an air tanker. This can reduce the number of times the 747 has to abort a mission due to visibility. The aircraft can also assist with communications.

wildfires in Chile map
NASA satellite photo showing smoke created by the wildfires in Chile January 27, 2017. The red dots represent heat.

747 SuperTanker protects a village and later 5 firefighters

This article originally appeared on Wildfire Today.

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Above: A fire is approaching Llico, a small village near the Pacific Ocean about 130 air miles southwest of Santiago, Chile.

The 747 Supertanker had a productive day Friday in Chile. They completed four missions and were taxiing to take off on another when the lead plane pilot called saying smoke had degraded visibility making another drop impossible.

Elena Carretero, who has been associated with the flight crew, said one of the drops in the morning helped protect the lives of five firefighters who were in imminent threat of being overrun by a fire.

747 Supertanker Chile
At middle-left is Laguna de Torca. Beyond it is the village of Llico, and just beyond the village is the fire. This is looking southwest toward the Pacific Ocean.

All of these photos were taken from the 747 by the drop system operator, Don Paulsen. The images of the fire were shot just before 6 p.m. local time on Friday near Llico, a small village near the Pacific coast about 130 air miles (209 km) southwest of Santiago, Chile (map). Elena told us the village was in danger, like the five firefighters, of being overrun by the fire until the SuperTanker used all 19,200 gallons of water to make one long drop between the fire and the village, saving it.

747 Supertanker Chile Llico
The village of Llico being threatened by the fire.
747 Supertanker Chile
Structures in Llico can be seen at the bottom of the photo.

Continue reading “747 SuperTanker protects a village and later 5 firefighters”

Jim Wheeler of Global SuperTanker, interview

Mr. Wheeler is the President and CEO of Global SuperTanker. The interview was conducted at the Santiago, Chile Airport January 25, 2017 just after the 747 air tanker was flown down to Chile to assist the firefighters on the ground who were dealing with many, many wildfires.