Photo of the 747 Supertanker dropping on the Palmer Fire

(Originally published at 7:22 a.m. MDT September 5, 2017 on FireAviation.com)

A few days ago Cy Phenice sent us an excellent photo of Air Tanker 944, the 747 SuperTanker, dropping on the Palmer Fire south of Yucaipa, California which we published September 3. Now we have another great photo of the huge airplane dropping on the fire.

It was taken by Leroy Leggit with a Nikon D810. He shot it at 1/800, F 5.6, using a 70-200mm lens at 150mm.

He said he took the photo from the top of a hill looking down at the aircraft.

747 Palmer Fire
Air Tanker 944, a 747-400, drops near structures on the Palmer Fire south of Yucaipa, California at 4:25 p.m. PDT September 2, 2017. Photo by Leroy Leggitt, used with permission.

He told us:

I didn’t know anything about the 747 supertanker until it appeared to my right (at eye level) headed straight toward the fire… what an amazing and unexpected sight… I looked online and saw that it had only been in service for a few days.

The Palmer Fire was reported at 1:33 p.m. MDT September 2, 2017. It is nearly officially contained according to CAL FIRE after burning 3,874 acres.

This was the second fire the aircraft was used on after receiving certification and a contract from CAL FIRE. The 747 was dispatched from McClellan Air Field near Sacramento. According to FlightAware it cruised south at over 600 mph at times before dropping on the fire about an hour later, then reloaded at McClellan and completed a second sortie, dropping almost 19,000 gallons again, splitting the load into two drops.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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2 thoughts on “Photo of the 747 Supertanker dropping on the Palmer Fire”

  1. Pictures of the 747 look great. Tuesday September 5th 2017. We have a major 10,000 acre fire in the Columbia Rover gorge. Why is the 747 not being used here in Oregon and. Washington? How much land and structures have to burn before the Oregon Dept of Forestry or other forestry dept decides to use this fine tool? Is this wait and see. Watch our forests burn. The finest government bureaucracy has to offer these fine citizens being evacuated? We don’t have a contract with global super tanker. We did not prepare to use this VLAT for this season. What is the excuse? Thanks for listening to my rant. Call your congress person or local representative.

    Jim Wheeler has been on the Lars Larson talk show a couple times. Cal Fire is now using this tool. Good for them in stopping fires in California.

    1. Fire officials and the FAA addressed this issue yesterday. There seems to be 3 primary reasons . First is due to operational costs, it is impractical to be bouncing the aircraft around all over the country. It is more effective to use it on one fire until its mission is complete, then dispatch it to another. The second issue is the nature of the fires and the terrain. This aircraft is said to be impractical for the terrain that the Eagle Creek Fire is in due to the speed of this aircraft and maneuverability issues. It simply cannot make the low passes to be effective in the gorge terrain. Thirdly, the visibility issue in the gorge fires. The widespread smoke in the entire area makes this both unsafe and problematic to set up for targetting of zones. The FAA has listed the entire airspace around PDX as “marginal VFR” and even “IFR” at times. This and all firefighting aircraft must have “VFR” conditions to perform.

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