747 air tanker demonstration in Canada

Evergreen's 747 "Supertanker" releases about 20,000 gallons of water at the Edmonton International Airport on Tuesday. Photo: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal

Evergreen is actively marketing their 20,000 gallon 747 air tanker. On Tuesday they put on another demonstration, this time at the Edmonton International Airport in Canada, making a drop along runway 02/20.

Evergreen is hoping to obtain an exclusive contract for the aircraft at $3 million a month. This will be a tough sell in Canada, where their strategy is small and nimble air tankers. In addition, the 747 could not be accommodated at any of the 14 air tanker bases in Alberta.

747 air tanker signs with CalFire

The 747 air tanker operated by Evergreen has signed a Call When Needed (CWN) contract with CalFire, confirming what one of our readers said in a comment on Wildfire Today on June 10.

According to a story in the Press-Enterprise:

Cal Fire will pay Evergreen International Aviation Inc. of McMinnville, Ore., $29,500 an hour, plus the cost of fuel, with a minimum of four hours per day guaranteed any day the plane is used. The contract calls for paying for a minimum of 10 days at a cost of $1.183 million, regardless of whether the plane is used.

The 747 carries about 20,000 gallons of retardant which is six to seven times more than a conventional large air tanker.

The U. S. Forest Service issued a solicitation for “Very Large Airtankers (VLAT)” on June 25, specifying that the minimum acceptable payload would be 11,000 gallons of mixed retardant. The solicitation is scheduled to be archived on July 10 and may not be available after that date. FBODaily may have some information available after July 10.

It is our understanding that CalFire has an exclusive use contract with one of the 12,000 gallon DC-10 air tankers operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, Tanker 910, and has a CWN contract with their second DC-10, Tanker 911.

747 receives IATB approval

The 747 air tanker operated by Evergreen has received approval from the Interagency Air Tanker Board. This approval is required before an air tanker can be under contract for federal land management agencies. The aircraft also has a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA for the modifications that were done to convert it into an air tanker.

The 747 can carry more than 20,000 of retardant and can fly at 600 mph. As far as we know, Evergreen does not have any contracts with any fire or land management agencies yet that would enable its use on fires.

Wildfire Today reported on March 17 that the California Legislative Analyst’s Office recommended that CalFire eliminate funding for the DC-10 “super tanker” due to budget problems in the state.  The DC-10 is operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier out of Victorville, California and can carry 12,000 gallons.

747 Supertanker update, December 22, 2008

747 “Supertanker”, Evergreen

Wildfire Today has learned Evergreen’s 747 “Supertanker” still does not have an air tanker contract with any wildland fire agency. The aircraft is sitting at Marana, Arizona after undergoing some modifications and tests. One change they recently made was to replace the internal retardant tanks, requiring additional testing. The new retardant tanks hold 20,500 gallons.

The system operates much like the military C-130 air tankers, in that it uses tanks with compressed air to pump the retardant out of the retardant tanks. The retardant flows out of nozzles, rather than doors like are used on gravity-based tank systems. Like the military C-130’s, the air tanks must be pressurized from ground-based air compressors when the aircraft lands to reload with retardant.

Evergreen now has three important approvals which are necessary in order to seek a contract so the 747 can be used on fires: FAA’s Supplemental Type Certificate, Interagency Tanker Board approval, and an FAA Operating Certificate.

The aircraft will go through more drop testing with the U.S. Forest Service in late February or March. There is still a chance that it could be signed up with either the USFS or CalFire in time to be used on fires in the summer of 2009.

We’ve seen some internet posts and letters to the editor that claim a fleet of Supertankers would solve our wildland fire problem. One, for example, supposedly written by a retired firefighter from Hesperia, CA says that if we had seven Supertankers, we could:

“…stop all runaway wildfires in one or two days each, and we could eliminate at least 80% of California’s forest fire agencies…..”

That is ridiculous, of course. This would be just another tool in the firefighter’s tool box, which in certain specific conditions could very useful. But in very rugged terrain or strong winds, its use would be of limited, if any, value. In very strong winds, no air tanker can be effective. Air tankers, to have a long-lasting effect on a fire, must have ground forces to follow up and construct fireline. Air tankers don’t put out fires–firefighters do.

HERE is a link to a pretty good 2-minute video made by KABC-TV in 2007 about the 747 Supertanker.

Extra-large Air Tanker news

NASA studies the DC-10 and 747 air tankers

(From the Victorville Daily Press)

The firefighting DC-10 Supertanker, based at Southern California Logistics Airport, is being studied by NASA in what could pave the way for the plane’s first federal contracts.

The jet’s owner, 10 Tanker Air Carrier, has been trying for some time to get a contract with the U.S. Forest Service that would allow the agency to fight fires on federal land, managing partner Rick Hatton said. The Forest Service approached NASA for help in determining the best use for the plane.

“They came to see us in Victorville with six or seven people last month,” Hatton said. “We briefed them on the plane and how effective it’s been for the state of California and how effective it could be for the federal agencies.”

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, about 30 miles northwest of Victorville, will be studying the supertanker to determine its “safe flight envelope.” The team will then recommend operational use regimes, policies and procedures for the aircraft.

The NASA team has spent the past few days in Miami, Hatton said, using an advanced DC-10 flight simulator to perform some preliminary tests.

“We hope to get the NASA team on the DC-10 in a fire environment,” Hatton said, so the company can show NASA what the plane can do.

If not, he said they’ll do mock drops with water in a remote place over the desert, hopefully within the next few weeks.

“The entire team is very excited about helping the Forest Service with this effort,” said Mark Dickerson, project manager for Dryden. “It is a bit different from our typical research projects, but we all enjoy being able to help find new tools to fight wildfires.”

NASA is also studying a Boeing 747 owned by Evergreen International Aviation.

Hatton said his company has hope that the final report will be done in the next few months.

Contract extended for DC-10 Air Tanker

Though the DC-10’s Supertanker’s contract with Cal Fire would have ended Oct. 15, 10 Tanker Air Carrier managing partner Rick Hatton said it’s been extended through the end of October. Santa Ana winds picking up and the dangerously dry conditions are rattling some nerves.

“It’s been a weird season,” Hatton said. “It was very busy early in the summer. We flew more mission in June and July than all of ‘07. But it’s been quiet for August and September. Now there’s this huge fear that all hell could break lose.”

The tanker was used to fight the Porter Ranch fire that engulfed parts of Los Angeles two weeks ago, but the plane has been grounded for the past few days. Last year, during its first year under contract with Cal Fire, the tanker flew 106 missions in fighting more than a dozen large wildfires.

Hatton said a recently completed second DC-10 is ready to come on line soon, with plans to get contracts in place for next year’s fire season.

747 Supertanker update

Wildfire Today has learned that Evergreen International Aviation is still hoping to obtain a contract with Cal Fire for their 747 air tanker, or “Super Tanker”, as they call it. The ship has been in Marana, Arizona for the last 3-4 weeks undergoing testing which involved static tests on the ground as well as drop tests over the Black Mountains.

They have made some modifications on the aircraft and expect to get a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA as early as today. Evergreen also hopes to obtain the approval of the Interagency Air Tanker Board, a group of federal aviation specialists that certifies air tankers.

Evergreen has been optimistic about this approval process, in spite of the fact that their negotiations with the U.S. Forest Service fell through in September. In a best-case scenario, the 747 could be flying for Cal Fire in a few weeks.

Extra-Large air tankers
  1. Martin Mars: 7,200 gallons (water, retardant, gel, or wildland foam); one is under contract with the U.S. Forest Service
  2. DC-10: 12,000 gallons (water or retardant); one is under contract with Cal Fire
  3. 747: 20,000 gallons (water or retardant); one may be under a contract later with Cal Fire