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The largest firefighting aircraft can be sold for the COVID-19 response

DENVER (AP) – As Western nations prepare for this year’s forest fire season, the world’s largest firefighting aircraft has been grounded and converted to help fight another crisis, the COVID-19 epidemic.

Tens of millions of dollars were spent on upgrading Global SuperTanker և’s technology, the proceeds of which were largely derived from contracts with the US government in California, but it did not generate enough profit to continue financing the pipeline, said Roger Miller, CEO of Alterna. “Capital Partners” LLC is an investment company that owns the plane.

Alterna’s decision to launch the SuperTanker was made on April 19, according to the company that funded the aircraft աշխատանքը upgrade from 2016. Since the announcement, the Connecticut-based firm has received several offers to buy SuperTanker and convert it. cargo planes, Miller said.

“The COVID crisis has led to a huge boom in the aircraft carrier market, flying around PPE, flying around vaccines, just all the things you can’t afford to put on board և wait 45 days,” Miller said.

The company is open to potential investors who want to continue using SuperTanker to respond to forest fires, but if shipping companies come up with a more attractive offer, the company will sell it to them, Miller said.

To get the SuperTanker ready for the 2021 forest fire season, the aircraft will have to go through federal certification in June, said Dan Reese, president of Global SuperTanker Services.

As the company considered its capabilities, two lawmakers in Washington state sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress in the West on Tuesday urging them to find a solution to the SuperTanker operation, which they described as “the biggest և best weapon in the fight.” catastrophic fires. “

They wrote: “Our time this week is limited.” “We need a willing buyer, a group of investors or government loan guarantees to strengthen and help protect our livelihoods, our economy and our environment from this destructive enemy.”

During the 2020 season, there were 58,950 wildfires that burned 15,816 square miles (40,963.29 km2), according to the Idaho National Interagency Fire Center.

The Global SuperTanker is one of several large air carriers used to fight forest fires from above by throwing fire retardants and water. Once the retarder dries, it rejects oxygen to the vegetation to prevent the spread of fire.

But some firefighters, such as Andy Stahl, chief executive of the Forest Service, are skeptical about the use of tanks, fire retardants, firefighters, air fire hazards, and general environmental hazards for tanks.

Stahl said the fire was “not used at all or only incredibly rarely used” in the Middle East or on the East Coast. According to him, the fire is a phenomenon in the western states, as there are more federal lands, the US Forest Service has money to spend on retarders, which, as Stall says, “is more expensive than leaving Perrier off the planes.”

In 2020, federal government և state agencies dumped more than 56 million gallons (211,983,060 liters) of retarder, costing an average of $ 3.10 per gallon, according to the National Fire Department.

“Delayed contracts are very beneficial for a small group of very influential fire companies, the bureaucracy that uses them. “Backwardness is a great way to show a concerned society that is really trying to protect its homes,” Stall said.

But Michael Degrosky, head of the Montana Department of Natural Resources’s Department of Defense, says there is room for effective “delayed use.”

“Like all tools, you have to use the right tool in the right situation,” Degroski said. “My personal experience is that backwardness is most effective in the initial attack. It can be used very effectively when you try to direct the fire և remove it from homes և property. ”

Other major carriers can carry up to 8,000 gallons (30,283 liters) of incendiary material, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Global SuperTanker, a converted Boeing 747 aircraft, can drop 19,200 gallons (72,678 liters) of water or fire in six seconds, flying 200 feet (61 meters) from the ground to do its job. It can be charged in just 13 minutes. There are other Boeing 747 aircraft used in firefighting, but with lower capacity.

Indoors, the SuperTanker was mainly used in California և Oregon in 2018. Washington և Montana fire officials said the SuperTanker had not been used in their states, so eliminating it would not affect their fire response this season.

“There is always the possibility that in California or Oregon, where it usually operates, being inaccessible can put other pressures on the system. “There may be planes we are relying on, but we do not see a direct impact,” Degroski said of the Montana fire.

Officials from Montana and Washington said they would provide additional planes, helicopters for their state fire service, regional and national contracts for other aircraft of the upcoming season.

The SuperTanker was also deployed in Israel in 2016 and in Chile in 2017. The cost can be as high as $ 250,000 per day.


Nyberg is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service that places journalists in the local media to cover impeccable issues.

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