05 Sep ROGER’S VIEW FROM THE HILLS: Supertanker
“KNOWLEDGE, IS KNOWING THAT A TOMATO IS A FRUIT.
WISDOM, IS NOT PUTTING IT IN A FRUIT SALAD.
PHILOSOPHY, IS WONDERING IF THAT MEANS
KETCHUP IS A SMOOTHIE.”
If you have been reading my stories long you will remember the rants I have been going off on about the governments empty promises about “doing everything possible” to fight the large fires in the West. By pontificating in one speech after another various department heads and politicians have said that “they will hold nothing back and spare no expense” to stop the burning of the country.
At the same time as this the largest and newest air firefighting technology set on a tarmac in Arizona where the 747 fire tankers set while Evergreen Airlines that owned and developed them were forced into bankruptcy. Also grounding and diverting to non emergency status and experienced helicopter air tanker service in Idaho by putting too short a deadline to deliver contracts proposals and by UPS delivering them just a little late.
I have ranted several times as the government continued to lie and written letters to congressmen and anyone who should give two cents to save our forests and wild lands. And all this showed no sign of moving anyone off the political platform.
We there is a sign of life and hope. I do not believe that any of my ranting had anything to do with it. I am not the only old firefighter put to pasture that gets no attention to our opinions. But there are those who do see that there is a need and has the means to pick up the pieces.
Jim Wheeler, President of Global Super Tanker Services announced this spring that the FAA has awarded a supplemental type certification to the re-born 747 supertankers. This is a huge obstacle to overcome. When the original 747’s were built with the new technology the prevailing attitude was that jets could not be useful as fire tankers, this even after the DC-9’s were flying in California.
The systems have been worked over and transferred into 747-400 aircraft and testing has been taking place at Colorado Springs and Marana Arizona. They have passed all the non-emergency drills with plain water and are ready for dropping fire retardant.
The 747-400 can drop 19,600 gallons of retardant at a time. This is about 7 times the capacity of existing fire tankers. What is needed now are contracts from Cal-Fire and the US Government to start bringing the big guns to the fire fronts. The jets can be reloaded in 45 minutes and can fly from bases over a thousand miles away. The original plan was to base three 747 Supertankers across the lower tier of states and three across the upper tier of states. Word is being waited on as to where they will be stationed.
SO HOW SHOULD I FEEL RIGHT NOW? That is a good question. I could be happy that my constant harping on the need for this technology to be put into service is coming to become a reality. But I will believe that when I see the first deployments. I am not about to believe that I had anything to do with things changing, simple intelligence, need, and a company seeing an opportunity is what will make this become a reality.
When I really see a concerted effort to save our wild lands and help our firefighters I will be happy. But there are so many changes that need to take place that the damage has been done, then maybe, we will see changes done.
In the mean time I will cross my fingers, say a prayer, and smile the first time I see a load dropped by the Global Supertanker.