MARIPOSA — With fire officials struggling for enough resources to adequately fight the Detwiler Fire now threatening Mariposa, one may wonder why there aren’t more VLATs (Very Large Air Tankers) available to knock this thing down.
On July 17, CBSNews posted the following story about a massive firefighting aircraft — a converted Boeing 747 jet, nicknamed the SuperTanker — and why it isn’t in the air over some of the large wildfires in the U.S.
According to CBS, Cal Fire is ready and willing to use the plane, but until the U.S. Forest Service gives its approval, it sits.
Here is the story:
World’s largest firefighting aircraft grounded by U.S. gov’t
More than 50 large wildfires are scorching land this morning across the western U.S. But a new firefighting tool is sitting idle in an airport hangar in California because the U.S. Forest Service refuses to let it fly.
The converted Boeing 747 jet, nicknamed the SuperTanker, can drop almost twice as much fire retardant as the largest airtanker currently in service.
“We’re the very largest in the world — there’s nobody out there that comes close,” said Jim Wheeler. His company, Global SuperTanker, turned a 747-400 series passenger jet — one of the biggest in the sky — into the world’s largest fire extinguisher.
“We can drop a line of retardant about three kilometers long, about a mile-and-a-half,” Wheeler told CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann, as the plane performed a test run in Colorado last fall.
But in this country, it’s virtually worthless unless the U.S. Forest Service gives it permission to fight fires — something the agency has yet to do, even though the plane was certified by the FAA last September, and has since fought fires in Chile and Israel.
“The frustration factor is exceptionally high,” Wheeler said. “It’s very hard to watch property burn and lives lost, and we can’t get in and help.”
To read the story from Global SuperTankers, click here.