Interview with lead plane pilot Jamie Tackman about the 747 air tanker

Jamie Tackman

On January 24, 2017 the 747 SuperTanker left its base in Colorado Springs, Colorado for an assignment in Chile. It returned on February 13 after dropping on many wildfires in the South American country, making as many as seven sorties in a day each with 19,200 gallons of water enhanced with an additive to help make the water more effective, since long-term retardant was not available.

After 17 years as a ground based wildland firefighter, with much as it as a smokejumper, Jamie Tackman transitioned to the air, becoming a lead plane pilot. He has worked off and on with the 747 air tankers since Evergreen converted the first one. Now retired from the U.S. Forest Service, he traveled to Chile to provide lead plane services for the huge aircraft operated by Global SuperTankers. This time he had a different role, or at least a different platform, flying ahead of the air tanker as usual but in an aircraft flown by military pilots.

Bill Gabbert interviewed Jamie, who began by describing the situation. Chile has no infrastructure for supervising, using, or refilling large or very large air tankers and they were unfamiliar with the concept of lead planes. In spite of these challenges the personnel working with the 747 and the other aircraft developed procedures to fight the fires from the air, while the local firefighters improvised a system on the ground for refilling the 747 and the IL-76 with water.

If you don’t have time to see the entire video, start at 15:30 where Jamie describes the benefits of having a lead plane work with an air tanker.

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6 thoughts on “Interview with lead plane pilot Jamie Tackman about the 747 air tanker”

  1. Enjoyed the interview immensely. I got wore out just listening to what hurdles had to be jumped to fulfill the mission. Political (airshow) retardant every fire season millions of dollars are spent on the “big box” approach to indirect suppression. The concept of attacking an evolving new fire with a VLAT (or any other tanker) hasn’t fully been accepted here in parts of the U.S. Chilean fire (50:00) 10 acres, next fire. There was a big difference of studying video of the 747 dropping on the first few days verses the last days of activity. Several videos show Tanker 944 dropping more like a SEAT than a 747. Just an air tanker.

  2. An incredible goldmine of knowledge and experience. How is his knowledge captured and shared with others in the community?

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