Evergreen international, an Oregon-based company, announced that its Boeing 747 supertanker is now ready to fight wildlife fires after receiving its certification from the Interagency Air Tanker Board.
The supertanker can carry 24,000 US Gallons of water and firefighting agent, 8 times more than the largest tanker currently available, the Lockheed P-3 Orion. At 600 MPH, it can reach the fires twice as fast as the P-3. Another major advantage of the supertanker is its ability to fight fire from high altitudes using a unique retardant pressurization system instead of a gravity-drop system. This makes operations safer, since there is no need to fly as low as 200 feet AGL, like current tankers do, to effectively reach the fire. It is also unique with its ability to fight fires at night.
The development of the aircraft modification initiated after two crashes of ageing firefighting aircraft in 2002. Evergreen says that the development cost of the modified 747-200 reached over $50 million and took over 20,000 hours of engineering time. The Federal government has now approved the use of the new tanker for firefighting wildfires in the upcomming summer.