(UPDATED at 6:48 a.m. PDT August 23, 2019)
Air Tanker 944, the 747 Supertanker, arrived in Bolivia overnight to assist firefighters who are battling numerous wildfires across the country. It landed at 1:37 a.m. local time Friday at Viru Viru International Airport outside the capital city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
It departed from Sacramento McClellan Airport and flew non-stop at 39,000 feet at 510 to 610 mph.
Air tankers do not put out vegetation fires. However under ideal conditions, especially slow to moderate wind speeds, they can retard the spread of a fire for a period of time allowing firefighters on the ground to move in and actually suppress the fire. If there are no ground forces in the area, the effect of an air tanker dropping water or fire retardant is temporary. The fire can often eventually burn through or around the area where the liquid was applied. During strong winds, the retardant is blown off target and burning embers can travel a mile downwind and start spot fires.
(Originally published at 10:24 PDT August 22, 2019)
President Evo Morales announced on Wednesday that Bolivia has ordered the 747 Supertanker to assist firefighters battling a massive outbreak of wildfires in the Amazon basin.
The huge air tanker, identified as Tanker 944, that can carry up to 19,200 gallons (72,680 liters) of water or fire retardant is scheduled to depart from Sacramento McClellan Airport at 10:45 a.m. PDT Thursday and arrive in Viru Viru International Airport in Bolivia at about 6:42 p.m. local time.
The aircraft is being leased from Global Supertanker. According to laRazón, the company required an up front guarantee of $800,000 US dollars.
The first drop it made on an actual fire was in Spain in July 2009 while on a world tour to introduce the aircraft to wildland firefighters. Later on that trip it dropped retardant on the Railbelt Complex in Alaska. At that time the aircraft was operated by Evergreen. Since then it has been purchased by Global Supertanker and upgraded from a 747-100 to a 747-400, but the retardant delivery system is essentially the same.
The article was edited to show that the 747 is scheduled to go to Bolivia, not Brazil.