Erickson Inc

The 747 Supertanker is ceasing operations

The company is in discussions with prospective buyers for the huge air tanker

Updated at 3:08 p.m. MDT April 23, 2021

747 sunset March 22, 2016
747 Supertanker at MCC during sunset March 22, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The investor group that owns the 747 Supertanker, Tanker 944, is shutting down the huge air tanker. In an email sent April 21 to officials in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the federal government, Dan Reese the President of Global Supertanker gave them the news:

This week the investors that own the Global SuperTanker just informed me that they have made the difficult decision to cease operations of the company, effective this week…This is extremely disappointing as the aircraft has been configured and tuned with a new digital drop system and other upgrades to make it more safe and efficient.

Mr. Reese said in the email they are in discussions with prospective buyers, but it was unknown at that time if the aircraft would continue to be configured as an air tanker capable of carrying more than 17,500 gallons or if it would be used as a freighter.

Most of the company’s employees have been furloughed until the fate of the SuperTanker is known.

747 Supertanker takeoff from MCC
747 Supertanker takeoff from MCC, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

In an April 2020 letter posted on the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s website the Chair of the National Interagency Aviation Committee, Joel Kerley of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, wrote to Global Supertanker Services  saying the Committee would not issue a seventh interim approval of the aircraft’s retardant delivery system:

The Interagency Air Tanker Subcommittee does not support any further interim approvals without correcting some issues originally identified in the 2009 test of the system that included failure to meet coverage level 3 & 6, retention of retardant in the system after drop, aeration of the retardant causing trail off, and inconsistent flight profiles affecting retardant coverage.

Due to the current national situation regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), NIAC will issue an eighth interim approval to GSTS. However, NIAC will not support, nor issue a ninth interim until GSTS successfully passes all requirements of the 2013 IABS Criteria. This must be completed prior to December 31, 2020.

747 Palmer Fire supertanker
Air Tanker 944, a 747-400, drops near structures on the Palmer Fire south of Yucaipa, California at 4:25 p.m. PDT September 2, 2017. Photo by Leroy Leggitt, used with permission.

Last winter Tanker 944 spent several weeks in Moses Lake, Washington getting routine maintenance and a conversion of the retardant delivery system from an analog controller to a digital version, a change that was requested by the National Interagency Aviation Committee.

Most large air tankers carry up to 3,000 gallons of retardant. The 747 is capable of carrying far more retardant than any other. When first introduced it was listed at 20,000 gallons. Then the federal government certified it at 19,200 gallons. More recently it was required to carry no more than 17,500 gallons. The second-largest capacity air tanker is the Russian-made Ilyushin IL-76 at 11,574 gallons. The DC-10 until a couple of years ago was allowed to hold 11,600 but federal officials now restrict it to 9,400.

The U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. agency that contracts for all of the large and very large air tankers used by the federal government, has been slow to warm up to the concept of tankers that can carry more than 5,000 gallons. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CAL FIRE, accepted the concept of the 747 and DC-10 more quickly.

We asked the Forest Service for a comment on the demise of the 747. “The USDA Forest Service is aware of this vendors decision,”  said Stanton Florea, Fire Communications Specialist for the agency.”The Global Super Tanker is on a Call-When-Needed (CWN) contract for aerial wildland fire suppression.”

In the interest of full disclosure, Global Supertanker Services has an ad in the sidebar of Fire Aviation.

Opinion of a Lead Plane Pilot

I asked a Lead Plane Pilot who has worked with Tanker 944 for his impressions of the aircraft. He is currently active and not authorized to comment publicly:

It’s a specialized tool, and as such it has a niche that it fills and in that niche there’s nothing else any better. That is, it puts out a huge amount of retardant in one pass, and that sometimes can be a great thing. It can travel halfway around the world and deliver product. Having said that it is also a specialized tool in that it isn’t very good at doing the little stuff.

I asked him about the retardant that sometimes trails off after a drop:

That trail off, that’s something they can beat them over the head with, but at the end of the day hardly anybody I know gives a s**t about it. Ok, well, it’s not a perfect tank.

Below is video of Tanker 944 dropping on the Holy Jim Fire on the Cleveland National Forest in Southern California in 2018.

First drop on a fire

The initial version of the Supertanker installed by Evergreen in a 747-100 made its first ever drop on a fire 12 years ago at the Railbelt complex in Alaska in 2009. When Evergreen went bankrupt Global Supertanker bought the hardware and the rights to the retardant system and installed it in a newer more powerful 747-400.

Assisted firefighters in Israel, Mexico, Chile, and Bolivia

In 2016 the 747 assisted firefighters in Israel, and in 2017 it spent several weeks working on fires in Chile. In one day, February 1, 2017 working out of Santiago, it conducted a total of 11 drops on 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.

The air tanker also had an assignment in Mexico in 2011, and in 2019 spent about seven weeks on a firefighting contract in Bolivia.

Updated at 3:08 p.m. MDT April 23, 2021 to include a quote from the US Forest Service and a link to the NWCG letter to Global SuperTanker Services.

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98 thoughts on “The 747 Supertanker is ceasing operations”

  1. How sad, especially here in CA at the beginning of our fire season and drought. Evergreen & Bob McAndrew began the drill in 2006 during the Sespe to Lockwood Valley (home place) Day Fire , and now it’s on hold again. If we, who suffer the most from CalFire’s intransigence to ‘man-up’, ‘scramble the jets’ & ‘carpet-bomb’ (water-bomb) the instant the 911 call is in . . . could be in charge . . . oh my . . . !

    I’d donate . . . .!

    1. The plane has been hated by the USFS and CalFire since it came out – why???
      It does the work of 5 smaller aircraft and is much safer to use.
      If there was a minimum of 20 of these birds, there would not be the terrible massive fires as we have been having in the last 5 years.

      1. I operated a D-8 in Trinity County on the Grous Prarie fire and I think it was Evergreen had a DC-7 and I can tell you it was the biggest plane at the time in 1987 , that 747 would of made a lot of good difference .

    2. Many government regulations and contracts are actually about political and financial affiliations. Even when lives are at stake. Hopefully a Senator, Governor, or President will step in to straighten this out.

      1. Karl, you think they should be granted an EIGHTH interim approval? Or maybe because it’s so special they should be granted a waiver from the required process?

    3. I’d donate too.

      Sad that they can spend billions on the homeless in SF and LA yet let the hard working folks of California feel less secure right after a record setting fire season. The incompetence is unbelievable.

      Many thanks to the crew that helped during the past years. Your help was greatly appreciated.

    4. It’s interesting to read your comment because my thought immediately was wondering if maybe someone should try to do a crowd funding campaign to purchase the tanker? I realize it could be expensive but with California fires being so catastrophic, the loss of this amazing tool just seems unacceptable.

      1. Many disagree with us . . . but perhaps more do and will affect it positively with better early warning tech (drones, skywatchers, web). Besides , your name seems really familiar to me, long ago, ‘Far & Away’ . . .(?)

    5. Dear Mr Albright,

      I am working with air tanker companies and politicians to create a proposal to have CA state buy 15-20 air tankers to bright 21st century equipment to 21st century fires. Do you have any expertise or experience in this area??

      1. Dear Mr. Minor,

        > I am working with air tanker companies and politicians to create a proposal to have CA state buy 15-20 air tankers to bright 21st century equipment to 21st century fires.

        [suppresses giggling] So which airtanker companies and which politicians are you working with?

        Where might Cal Fire buy these airtankers (or did you mean aircraft)? Or did you maybe mean the State of California would buy them? Do you think Cal Fire owns the S-2T fleet? What’s your background with this, Mr. Minor?

        Sorry for laughing, but do you have any idea how many times in the last 25 years I have heard something exactly like this?

      2. IBS & Associates, Bob McAndrew, did the 947 for Evergreen and is the best reference for such info. Perhaps someday, the ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ will cease and we can begin to find solutions as past DC Admins and others have suggested. Thanks.

  2. 747 Supertanker:
    I think that it is very foolhardy for the USFS to place restrictions on the Supertanker , that forces grounding of this Aircraft . It seem that even though this aircraft has useful applications. The USFS decides summarily to make rules ,forcing the use of the Supertanker to be uneconomical !
    Just another example of the USFS dragging their feet, regarding controlling Forest fires!
    Maybe there should be a Congressional investigation of the USFS policies ?

    1. Ya think . . ? Good show, Chuck. I’m beginning my own ‘Litany Of Letters’ to Hon. Carbajal (Los Padres NF) on such issues with hopes of getting his responses published locally . . . & jumped into ‘The Swamp’ up to my (local) ‘nickers’. My polite inquiries are also cc’d to Hon. McCarthy & Hon. McClintock (faves) who’ve expressed concerns.

      MAGA . . . MCGA . . . Semper Fortis . . . !

    2. The USFS and the contractors owning the smaller planes never wanted this Bird to become used to the extent that it could be used to prevent the large scale conflagrations we have had in the last 5 years!!!
      First of all local Battalion Chiefs are slow to call for these resources, the logistics to put birds on the fire scene is extremely slow and funding for these Ultra Large Frame A/C is non-existent.

  3. As a taxpayer, firefighter and retired US Forest Service Chief Officer with Air Attack qualifications, I am glad that NIAC has made the decision to NOT give the T-747 another interim” approval to operate. Standards are set on coverage levels required that all air tanker companies must meet. This drop criteria is not random and insures that the retardant gets delivered at a most effective level and as it was designed in order to work effectively.

    Tank systems on air tankers are important and obviously with so many interim approvals, the company was not able to meet the criteria for effective retardant application. The decision was not political as some have suggested. I for one am glad that the Interagency Air Tanker Board is finally looking out for our taxpayer dollars.

    1. Inside the industry, amongst operators, isn’t it widely recognized that this particular pressurized tank is inneffective and thus the failure to get carded?
      We need all the EFFECTIVE aerial tools we can get and to allocate resources away from theoretical good ideas that empirically didn’t work (for anything but PR stunts) like the 747.

      1. What do you mean the 747 didn’t work? It performed great at fighting fires with it’s large retardant capacity. The shortfalls should be corrected to make it more efficient, but to just end it’s operation, is a big loss to fighting forest fires.
        The Government should consider funding a program to improve it’s capabilities, instead of letting it be sold to the highest bidder.

        1. The government should consider funding a program to improve its capabilities? It’s a mighty short trail between that and government-owned and operated airtankers, Mark. The USFS has no business operating its own tankers, and I’d hazard a guess that Neptune and Erickson (for starters) might object to the FS funding a 747 improvement program.

      2. Not only was it not effective. The 747 routinely brought back 3000 gallons of retardant that couldn’t be dispersed. If it was a gravity feed drop system like every other system on contract tankers it would have the potential to be a good tanker.

        1. Love it –” . . . not effective.”

          Learning curves AFFECT results leading to product development and improvements . . . not bureaucratic policy wonks (winking across ‘the aisle’). Or is it only Aero-Design Engineers who . . . “get it” . . . ?

          Got it . . . ?

        2. Other than load capacity, how is the 747 pressurized tank different from a MAAFS tank? Do the ANG tankers return to load with a large volume (probably not 3000 gallons) still undropped?

    2. Let’s not do anything, let the whole operation die, and let the forests burn up! President Biden, please take action, rebuild this program so more people won’t have to go through this. I don’t think it would cost as much as other government projects. It’s the right thing to do!

    3. Thanks, Buddy. As a taxpayer who lost everything along with nearly 80 other families in a very containable fire that was allowed to burn out of control. NOT TRUE. I worked for an Air Tanker outfit once. I also am a private pilot with my own plane for over 30 years. A very expensive base was built at the Billings, MT airport. It has seen 747’s, DC-10’s, even a B-52. No Tankers when needed. WHY, Because of folks such as yourself, worried about insignificant, trivial side effects, THAT MEAN NOTHING. Not to mention the other possible long-term side effects, Things like weed control, Roundup Herbicide, Maybe the Lymphoma I am currently enduring. How incredibly short-sighted your ilk are. Once again, Thanks for all that you do.

    4. Good comments Tony, The uninformed or misguided public is always fascinated by the newest whiz bang techno but we who have been ground pounders and aviation managers know the accountability and operational effectiveness and safety starts with us, not an arm computer monitor chaired quarterback that thinks they know fire. What they don’t know is that without us owning the aircraft and leasing to the agencies as well as contractors, those aviation resources would not be accessible to those same agencies. I also would prefer those billions of dollars spent on a human mechanical contraption be spent on a few more hot shot crews and IA resources and wildfire infrastructure.

    5. Sounds like a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. The tanker may not be perfect, but is it good enough to help put out fires?

      1. I was a Dozer operator on many fires , but who cares if the pressure system doesn’t empty out in this time as time goes they will fix it .

    6. The only problem with that is that it stifles innovation. This is a very small niche market, large firefighting aircraft, and it must be hard to find investors to fund research and experimentation. Now it will be harder. No, the aircraft was not perfect, maybe not even very good. Maybe if the Air Tanker Board had approached the owners and said, let’s work together to fix this, it has potential, something truly transformative might have emerged. Instead they just did the bureaucrat chant, No, No, No, No. So instead of overcoming obstacles and making things work, we have a clear message to anybody interested in innovating in this space, DON’T BOTHER!

      Sad, but oh so government like.

  4. Very sad news…Im a chilean citizen and saw how useful was the supertanker in controlling the forest fires….at that time also operated the il yushin and other air tankers and all of them did a great job…
    Just to see the supertanker approaching was a message of hope to the people living in those areas…

  5. The effectiveness of a drop is determined from the ground and over time, not from the cockpit of a Beechcraft that has moved on to other drops or other fires. Eleven years to correct deficiencies seems like time enough.

  6. Typical sour grapes from a competitor that wants to get rich flying 3 trips to do what this could handle in a single drop.

    1. No. The 747, & DC-10 air Tankers have a bunch of power from their turbo fan engines to bring in large loads quickly at lower altitudes and slower speeds when fighting fires, than that of jumbo jets flown by the airlines. Watch the airdrop videos, and you can see their effectiveness, and large areas which they can cover with retardant on a single pass.

      1. Drop speed from a DC-10 VLAT is 140 to 160 knots at 150 to 200 feet with gear retracted and flaps at a landing setting. Any pressurized system has to overcome a multitude of problems. When the DC-10 got a newer drop system they stopped using the forward fairing tank which lost some capacity but was a maintenance problem constantly. Gravity fed drop systems are far less problematic than any pressurized system and uses an STC of proven and reliable tanks originally used on the sky crane. Ericsson had to put a fairing in front of their drop-spout to control premature dispersal and have to drop with their gear down. A real mess that keep on top of daily. The DC-10 platform is pretty reliable.

    2. Martin, that is a constant battle. If you go to fast you end up painting one side of the foliage. Ideally you want it to rain down and cover evenly. Speed is definitely an enemy of that, you can compensate with altitude to a point but drift and dispersion become a problem if your too high.

      The jets aren’t too fast yet but they are close, idk what the drop speed of GST was but I’ve got to imagine it was faster than most the other LATS.

  7. IMHO (out of the box thinking here) the U.S. Forest Service should maintain at least a small fleet of large firefighting tankers. Maybe they are staged at different regions of the country to minimize response time to a given incident. When a concerning fire breaks out, they are dispatched to the scene accordingly. Think of the billions of dollars annually lost in damage from brush fires….surely for a fraction of that we could maintain a fleet that could bring some real protection from the air.

  8. A victim of its own success. The USFS is one of the less effective and costliest agencies in the US Government with plenty of back scratching going on. Of course they don’t want a successful delivery system because there is alot of money in fighting fires and if they found an effective aerial delivery system it would cause loss of jobs and a slash to the budget.

    1. Slash to the budget? Dude, what are you thinking? The closest they will EVER get as a Federal Program is a reduction in their increase. Of course to Congress, that is “slashing” the budget. So, yeah, never mind.

  9. Instead of being allowed to write standards in such a way as to exclude a very effective fire suppression tool, perhaps the decision makers in and over the USDA Forest Service should be held accountable with very serious independent performance evaluation. I cannot say this strongly enough. At every level, the agency’s decision makers have played fast and loose with their assigned authorities, in order to obtain whatever their managers desired instead of achieving the purposes of the agency and the better overarching goals of their operations. This is nothing new. It is a systemic flaw that has diminished the agency’s service to our country for many decades. Nor is it necessarily restricted to the practices of the Forest Service. It is to be found in every bureaucracy; State, local, and Federal. It occurs at every level. No doubt others can say it better than me, but after watching our agency for many decades, I simply have to speak up.

  10. Just because it holds alot of mud doesn’t equate to an effective airtanker. Especially in tight mountainous terrain where the majority of California and U.S. wildfires take place. That being said they’d be great in the AUS.

    I’m glad NIAC didn’t pursue it either, many of those tanks problems likely would require an almost complete redesign.

    They set those standards for a reason. Decades of trial and error plus loss of life is the reason they are strict on what they want.

    It was a cool airplane it just was not meant to be.

    1. I believe it’s reasonable to disagree with your presumption (“especially in mountainous terrain)”). Might ask the residents (who survived) in Paradise CA. Also, those local city, county & USFS fire departments (always on Standby) if they don’t “pray for rain” . . . at the right time . . . during the “fire season”. Beyond their capacity, the jet tankers can arrive at near 500 knots, depending on (scramble time), wind direction/speed. My first job in 1966 after flying from a couple of carriers was in Seattle on the B2707 (SST) and first B747. Those were common-sense days . . . now a bit hard to remember(?).

      1. 500kts from. Sacramento to Paradise saved maybe 2 minutes from the other LATS that were available. The time you save there was made up by the sub 15 min reloading time of the LATS v.s. 944’s “45” mins. If you have experience in them then you should very well know there limitations in tight terrain.

        You seemingly have little real experience with air tankers if you think the 747, or even a fleet of them, would have spared anyone over the last couple years…well except one.

  11. I think the firefighters on the line, the ones that the tankers are supporting, should have a significant say whether a particular aircraft is benefiting their efforts. Technocrats, in headquarters, tend to suffer from bureaucratic momentum and fail to consult with the firefighters where their boots are walking the ember lines.

    1. They have…hence why we’re done w it.
      Tank it right, fix it or you’re done. What’s wrong w that. It’s only money.

    2. It was probably the line fire fighters who advised the powers-that-be about the 747’s reported ineffectiveness. Who else would be able to determine that the retardant drop did not cover the area that they needed it to cover?

      Having a bunch of retardant falling where it will not do any good is a waste and does not augment fire fighting efforts.

      1. “Probably” it was the line firefighters? Ha. This was a combination of pinhead bureaucrats and money-grubbing competitors who didn’t like the competition for firefighting air support. People will die because if corrupt bureaucracy.

  12. Bigger is not always better.
    No where in the article is it mentioned the operating $$Cost$$ of a 747-400
    The average airborne operating cost of a Boeing 747-400 is between $24,000 and $27,000 per hour, around $39.08 to $43.97 per mile, using approximately $15,374 in fuel per hour.Apr 5, 2015
    And, that’s not including On the Ground maintenance.
    I live in Sonoma County where fires have burned since 2017.

    1. You (should) know the drill. Here’s the reason for some comments pro-“Jumbo Jet” (Tony Cole-1966– we worked the original 747) . . .

      “The blaze known as the Camp Fire killed at least 85 people. One estimate put the Camp Fire as the most expensive disaster in the world in 2018, racking up more than $16 billion in losses.”

  13. It has baffled me for all of my 40 years in the Fire Service in California that the US Federal Government has the largest fleet of aircraft / helicopters & pilots in the world. Yet they hire & contract for retired aircraft that they no longer consider safe or effective to operate, sell them to contractors who retro fit them to fly missions & to drop retardant and pay them to be a part of their contracted air fleet. Why can’t the USFS have its own fleet of Airtankers / Helicopters to fight fires utilizing current or retired military pilots and have the most up to date planes and helicopters flying for them? Yes it cost money to do this , but how much does it cost per year for fighting these large fires? CAL FIRE has its own fleet and is one of the largest aerial firefighting fleets in the world and is State owned & operated. The USFS and the federal government has done little to nothing to change this, so fires will continue to rage across the West and Firefighters will continue to be at risk of losing their lives each and every year!!🇺🇸🙏🚒👩‍🚒

    1. “Probably” it was the line firefighters? Ha. This was a combination of pinhead bureaucrats and money-grubbing competitors who didn’t like the competition for firefighting air support. People will die because of corrupt bureaucracy.

    2. Common misconception there, Cali-FF. California does not own those S-2T aircraft, and CalFire doesn’t either.

    3. Here in WA. The Cedar/Delancy fire has 40,000 acres involved. The math?
      830 personnel. Multiple helicopters. Say a ten day period at an average hourly rate at $25. The wildland fire fighters are paid much less, but the Supervision and Support staff as well as heavy equipment operators are surely skewing labor rates – and $25 average is conservative. Ten hour days (also conservative) = $2,000,000.
      That is just one fire.
      Who possibly cares that the unit returns with retardant, the trail off does not complete a perfect start and stop.
      When the fire is running toward you, your home and everything you have ever worked for- 200 feet tall fire sheets – raging at 40 miles an hour- these issues become crystal clear.
      How many people must die, how many structures must burn and how many heroes must be over run before common sense prevails?
      Oh, we have fires in N. Central WA every year – the Carlton Complex fire jumped the Columbia River! Twice!
      Oregon and Washington should jointly buy this unit and spend another $2,000,000 a year on fuel and maintenance. Get some hot shots at Boeing to solve the problems. Budget another $2,000,000 for this. Weigh all that against economic losses of Billions.
      The USFS should make the case. Where is leadership? It is simply criminal to let this unit go. The interagency alphabet soup should be openly rebuked for their actions.
      17,500 gallons…………

  14. Just another piss poor decision by the FS ! They have lost their way and I NO LONGER consider them as a fire fighting Agency. Their FF’s are Absolutely Great ! Under paid, un-appreciated and not even called Firefighters but Forest Technicians but their management! Their policies today are driven to have MEGA fires. No wonder they are having an extreme time hiring in sufficient numbers and it’s only going to grow worse.
    What a SHAME the agency has become.

  15. (July 27, 2017) . . . Chief Dennis Brown of CAL FIRE, when describing under what conditions his agency might use the 747: “You don’t use a sledgehammer to do your finish work.”

    Hmmm . . . Really . . . ?

    ” . . . sledgehammer . . . “?

    On August 2, 1939, one month before the outbreak of World War II, Albert Einstein, the famous German-born physicist, signed a two-page letter to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt that would help bring the US into the nuclear arms race and change the course of history.

    Robert Oppenheimer — The atomic bomb. … He believed Germany was attempting to create an atomic bomb to use against the Allies in World War II, and he signed a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt encouraging him to support U.S. research into producing one as well. (Seymour Creek neighbor, Bob Christy (RIP), Cal Tech, worked Manhattan Project)

    Days after the bombings, Japan informally surrendered to the Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.

    After the war ended, Oppenheimer became chairman of the influential General Advisory Committee of the newly created United States Atomic Energy Commission. He used that position to lobby for international control of nuclear power to avert nuclear proliferation and a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.

    77 years later . . . no more mushroom clouds . . . yet . . . but many world-wide nuke power plants as ‘fallout’.

  16. All the “experts” whining in the comments never once thought about where they have to land this thing. For the one drop it did on the creek fire it was a 400 mile round trip coming from mcclellan including the miles circling around over tollhouse waiting for a lead plane so it could drop just to end up going south to the eldorado fire the same day because it would be more effective there because it could land at san bernardino. The couple S2 trackers and coulsons C130 reloading at fresno laid down more mud in a few hours on September 5th than 944 did in it’s 3 or 4 drops it that day.

    1. Ah . . . ancient WESTPAC mems . . . Good ole’ “Stoofs”. Bet they all learned a lot working with Global.

      As “Taco Loco” (Marcos Valdez 747 driver) remembers about the Camp Fire: “It’s the most gratifying type of flying I’ve done. … We’re helping those firemen on the ground and we’re helping to save lives and property. ”


  17. Dick Albright.
    You’re an airtanker pilot? Captain? Military creds mean about zero here.
    To quote Chief Brown from 2017 is ridiculous, since Calfire has contracted it for the past several yrs.
    The 74 is a pain in the ass in multiple ways period.

    1. It’s high time the USFS got their heads out of the mud and looked towards purchasing more “Purpose-Built” aircraft for the job. Time to get away from the heavily modified less current and vintage aircraft currently in use. Look north for the perfect solution in the CL-415 or even the older CL-215. Both are purpose built aircraft that can out perform the dated 747 in so many ways. Just a thought.

    2. Thanks, “Mr. K” for your insight and personal invitation. A DD-214 isn’t required, but helpful.

      No . . .not tanker driver, but “Ancient Mariner” [Yorktown & Bennington CVS ASAC Guppy/Skyraider Rt Seat (ditched; caught my sub), VR Navigator–Miramar; Sand Pt–C-54/C-118 . . . Aero Design Eng.- (first job RAD Navy) 747 Boeing 2X (Son MS Aero still), Lockheed, Hughes, SpaceLabs, Sierracin Research (PPG), Weber A/C, Burns Aero, BE Aero, ++].

      Chf Brown and CalFire didn’t survive the 2006 Day Fire (my valley) as Evergreen’s 747 was stuck in #1 STC to ‘tank-up’ (daily telecon w/ Bob McAndrew Mgr). And the problem-solving continues . . . in spite of your . . . and a minority of ‘contributors’ here . . . denigrations . . .as it shall surely prevail to save more lives.

      BTW . . . What’s in your flight log book & res?

  18. Well it certainly helped us in Napa county, Ca 2020, 1999. We had gigantic fires, needed everything they threw at the many fires surrounding us.

  19. This is what happens when you win the public and media battle but don’t listen to your customer.

    I find the agency’s patience with GST incredibly gracious. GST had every opportunity to fix fantastic flaws in the delivery system but they instead focused on trying to win the “hearts and minds” of the general public.

    I really don’t think most people in the industry think the pilots or the platform was the problem. It always came back to the tank system. It didn’t work for Evergreen. It didn’t work for GST. I’ve seen it RTB with 3,000-8,000 left in the tank. I’ve heard them request drops UP HILL. I’ve seen the last third of their load hang in the air forever, never to reach the ground. All because of their flawed tank design.

    Rather than saying, “Look at all the millions waisted because they don’t have the 747 on contract!” Maybe we should be saying, “Look at all the money that could have been spent on efficient and effective tankers rather than ‘media drops’ by a flawed 747 system.”

    1. Phil FTW for the most thoughtful comment yet!

      If you’ve got 3K-8K left in your tank when you return to base, you’re not in this for the long haul, no matter what the public thinks. As far as winning over the public and the media, just have a look at the dozens of stories now floating around out there in the news media after the AP picked up on Bill’s story and ran it. They all mention the aircraft is shutting down operations and is for sale, and NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM mentions a reason for this. Perhaps they all figure that an eighth interim approval would be appropriate?

      You think a SEAT crash on a fire is a problem, imagine the mile-long yard sale that would result from a 747 crash. There are valid reasons for the requirements that airtanker operators are expected to meet.

  20. When I see self appointed experts throwing out “facts” about the 747, like 3,000 to 8,000 gallons left in the tank, it makes me wonder, 1) could that be accurate? It sounds too incredible, but if so, show us the receipts. And, 2) how many of these nay-sayers are actually competitors, operating airtankers that only carry 15% or less of what the 747 carries? Are they worried about their smaller airtankers being put out of business?

  21. wingandaprayer [unintentionally relevant/ironic pseud]

    “Are they worried about their smaller airtankers being put out of business?”

    Obviously not.

  22. WOW . . . 70 comments by now. Hard to tell but . . . is there a vote!

    Does the media or anyone who ‘decides’ read this? Us cranky old men would like to know. We also wonder how the humidity level is affected, which seems important in some reports read on fire advancement [as 20K Ga. water (or?) might gently increase to 50% upwind].

    To ignore the value of the 2006 entry of Evergreen’s #1 747 (pressure dump) and this, its successor . . . and all the Ten-Tankers (gravity-flow) into this development process seems a bit irrational in the overall balance of strategic planning and tactics. In handling this ‘new-age’ of fires we seem to experience, of late, more politics than common sense beyond lightning and power grids. It is in every phase of our lives, beyond this and even earthquakes –to insure or not to insure in CA (?).

    If this 747 is eliminated, what is gained? Perhaps that new HPE Cray Supercomputer has an answer . . . anyone?

    1. Not being from there, I think if I heard something come out of California that made sense, it wouldn’t actually make sense. Thinking about it, I guess that goes for the whole country. Seems like it’s been some time without hearing anything that makes sense!

      1. I was going to comment, KSparx, that I want some of whatever it is you’re smokin’ there, but I actually don’t want some of it, which does make sense.

        1. Tsk, tsk, Kelly . . . ‘personal comments’ not relating to wildfires? Jan 15, 2019 IMPRIMIS has an article of interest, on the body’s reaction to other kinds of ‘smoke’.

  23. Too bad that it’s come to this, but the tank obviously isn’t performing if reports are true. GST must not think it is economically feasible to rework the system (basically start over). And so it goes away. Nobody is saying the plane or the pilots were not good. They simply don’t have a tank that allows it to perform.

    For those who talk like it’s the end of the world, keep in mind there are other aircraft that can fill that need. 10 Tanker has proven the hard way it works, with just as much naysaying. But they have a tank that works because they started with a good design. And they’ve proven they can work in terrain that is far, far more extreme than anyone else thought they could. They can carry nearly 10000 gal, which from reports is about all the GST was putting down sometimes. Neptune worked through issues on their tanks too, as has Erickson, and they have planes READY TO GO, that MEET THE REQUIREMENTS. It’s just part of the game. TV drops will always be part of things, but in the end you’ve got to be able to put the retardant where they say, at the coverage levels they want. If your tank doesn’t work, fix it or move on.

    1. Ten-Tanker is good (10K ga. Gravity flow).
      747 is newer, better (20K ga. Hi-Pressure flow)
      Continue “The Drill”. . . Maintain the Product Development (Science) flow of tech . . .
      . . . Above and Beyond . . .

  24. Hopefully on some fine, smokey, summer day, one of these policy makers that complained about a “little drip at the end there” finds himself watching the fires come up the canyon, and the homes on the next street over lighting up one after another. Standing amidst the swirling smoke and sparks, with his mighty 5/8″ garden hose running at maximum capacity, I would love to hear what, or how much, he’d do or pay to have a freakin’ 747 full of red kool-aid appear over the hill. To hear him say it out loud: priceless!
    Probably won’t be “him”, but I imagine hundreds of folks in the near future will be praying for it, too.

    1. Roger That . . . !

      Lo and behold . . . as we speak . . . if the ‘declared drought’ (CA-Gavin Newsom) hasn’t prompted community-based early warning drones to alert those stand-by 747 “scramble crews” to ‘MAX- Saturation Bomb’ . . . humidity-rise water first . . . what further awaits those of us “mountain-men” (and -women”) living in these (difficult-access) hillsides . . . eh? (2 hurt)

  25. I do live in the Pacific NW. The last two years we have choked nearly to death do the fires and smoke.

    Well now you know where your High School “F and D+” classmates ended up. In Government! Like so many governmental offices, the Fire Service decision makers are making stupid life & death decisions. When will “we the people” finally step up and run these knuckleheads out of positions of power.

    It takes a long time to engineer and launch a platform like the 747 Tanker. Let’s see what happens when the next fire catastrophe occurs.

    1. While I agree that it appears as if the rigidity of the rules are impacting the ability to save lives and property it is important to note that those who run and administer the guidelines are career civil servants who aren’t affected by who is appointed or elected, which is a good thing. However, having said that, seeing what the head of the service said during testimony before the House subcommittee (a former head of Forestry for Washington State) the question of what kind of stupid does it take to get that job is probably apropos.

  26. I did not inhale! lol It just seems like they’re going to be wishin’ for that 747 when the fire season gets going. It’s been a really dry spring here in AZ., and I don’t think CA. is in any better
    shape. Might be a rough one!

  27. Well guys, this is America. The most logical answer is the big 747 can drop 19,000 gallons of water on a fire. We can probably get them donated by the airline industry and retrofit a dozen, which would cost much less than a team of 100 new smaller planes. But let’s red-tape the 747. Let them rust in the desert like the Navy in San Diego.

  28. Very little talk here about the cost of one drop. Along with that, I would be pretty upset if I paid all that money and the plane came back with 20% of it’s payload. No one has talked about how cost effective it is. Is it worth it to spend $700.00 to put out a fire on a $500.00 house?

  29. Thank you everyone for the great comments. It should be clear to everyone that the USFS has a monetary interest in fighting fires and is using politics. On the flip side of the coin, there may be an advantage to the USFS methodology of not extinguishing each fire rapid with the big bird so we keep the smaller equipment and manpower around for the day when a big bird is not available. Just trying to stay positive.

  30. @ Bob Builder:
    “an advantage to the USFS methodology of not extinguishing each fire rapid with the big bird”

    Dear Mr. Builder, delusionary people have for decades promulgated ideas like this.
    There’s no such methodology. Never has been. Please stoppit with the conspiracies, wouldja?

    1. Of course not, Kelly. Especially since:

      United States borrows large air tanker from Australia–Bill Gabbert 21 July 2021–FIREAVIATION

    2. Finally . . . a last name to go with all the gentle ‘compliments’ to Mr. Builder . Have you yet read this latest, as the 737 refuels and surfs in Hawaii before its 45-day stint in sunny California? >> United States borrows large air tanker from Australia–Bill Gabbert 21 July 2021–FIREAVIATION

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