747 SuperTanker en route to assist with wildfires in Chile

The 747 SuperTanker has been dispatched to South America to assist firefighters who are dealing with numerous fires occurring during a drought in the country. The aircraft is expected to depart from Colorado Springs sometime after 1330 MT on January 24 and should arrive in Santiago around 14 hours later after a stop in Houston to pick up a liquid fire suppression agent that will be mixed with water in the 19,200-gallon tank.

If you want to follow the track of the aircraft, it will show up as “GST944”. GST used to be used by Ghana Airlines, but the company is now out of business.

The initial stage of this deployment, the first few days, is being funded by a private foundation. We will write more about this in a later article.

I will be embedded with the crew, traveling with them in order to report for Fire Aviation on their assignment. As with any wildland fire assignment, we don’t know how long we’ll be in Chile.

747 Chile supertanker
The interior of the 747 during the gear loading process.  Bill Moody, VP of Incident Response for Global Supertanker, can be seen climbing the stairs to the upper deck. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The fire siege in Chile has been going on for several weeks destroying more than 60 homes and portions of vineyards, an important industry there. As far as we know, Chile has not received much assistance from outside the country.

A recent emergency declaration by the President has authorized the use of military assets to help combat the fires.

Unusually high temperatures for the last 30 days have contributed to extreme fire behavior. On January 15 three firefighters were entrapped and killed and the pilot of a single engine air tanker was killed December 28 when the aircraft crashed about 15 kilometers from the town of Santa Juana after working on a wildfire in the Bío Bío region.

Pilot killed in air tanker crash in Chile

The aircraft was a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT), an Air Tractor 802A.

Latercera is reporting that an air tanker crashed in Chile Wednesday, December 28 killing the pilot identified as Ricardo García-Verde Osuna, 47.

Photo by ARAUCOTV

The Google translation is very rough, but it appears that the aircraft went down about 15 kilometers from the town of Santa Juana after working on a wildfire in the Bío Bío region.

According to El Día the pilot had not reported any problems with the aircraft.

The air tanker was operated by FAASA, a company that has been in business for over 50 years.

We send out our sincere condolences to Mr. Garcia-Verde’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Helicopter vs. fire engine

An unusual accident occurred Sunday in San Miguel, Chile. A medical helicopter had landed at an accident scene where a drunk driver had struck a police car in an urban area. While the ship’s rotors were still turning, a fire engine received authorization to drive through the accident scene and unfortunately, drove into the main rotor. As the engine continued down the street, the helicopter hit something causing the tail boom to be bent sideways at about 90 degrees. With the rotors still turning the ship began spinning and eventually crashed into a police car, which stopped the spinning but caused an explosion.

The seriously injured pilot and three officers who had been in the police car previous to the arrival of the helicopter were transferred to the hospital.

In the first video the fire engine/helicopter accident occurs at about 2:08. The helicopter has the brightest light in the video, at the lower-center of the image.

Below is the description of the video, translated by Google from Spanish:

With the helicopter and landed on Grand Avenue the exact time the Fire truck goes and hits the blades of the main rotor of the helicopter is appreciated. The outcome is already known through other videos. Best wishes for recovery to the wounded especially the helicopter pilot . We hope this video will help clarify what happened.

This second video, only 15 seconds long, has a better view of the spinning helicopter impacting the police car.

The description of the video, again, translated by Google from Spanish:

The video is not recorded by me, is taken from instagram account of : sergio_robles

Accident happened at 4:42 am on November 30, 2014 at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Gran Avenida José Miguel Carrera. Helicopter Aeropolicial prefecture attends the help of another procedure where police were wounded , the helicopter landing engages the telescopic ladder of a fire engine causing it to split in two and the explosion.