Sacramento, Calif. – After recently gaining approval to fly in the U.S., the world’s largest firefighting tanker was deployed in northern California.
Colorado-based Global SuperTanker’s B747-446 was called upon by the California Department of Forestry to fight the Ponderosa Fire burning 10 miles east of Lake Oroville.
The converted Boeing aircraft, dubbed The Spirit of John Muir, dumped 8,500 gallons of retardant on August 31.
The plane is capable of dropping up to 19,000 gallons of water, fire retardant or suppressant, according to Global SuperTanker.
This was the SuperTanker’s first deployment in the U.S., having flown previous missions in Israel and Chile.
While the air tanker is approved by federal officials to fight fires in the U.S., operations are currently limited to California and a single county in Colorado due to lack of contracts.
The company is trying to contract with the U.S. Forest Service, but the company is protesting a 5,000 gallon limit required by the department.
According to Global SuperTanker, pending USFS contracts for large aerial tankers exclude tankers the size of The Spirit of John Muir.
President and CEO of GSTS Jim Wheeler said, “The men and women at the Forest Service have a tough job when fires rage on multiple fronts. We want to make their jobs safer and more productive to help preserve the areas the Forest Service is sworn to protect. We are continuing conversations with Forest Service staff and senior U.S. Department of Agriculture leadership to find a contract pathway for the SuperTanker.”