Global Super Tanker Redux

Supertanker arrives in Chile

Since the editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette posted previously about this plane mentioned environmental caution as a possible explanation, I thought I’d also post this op-ed, also found in the Gazette op-ed section over the weekend. I must say, if what is here is true (who knows?) I like the idea of the government independently testing the dispersion system.. who wants to be “crushed” even accidentally?). This op-ed is written by a fellow named Scott Weiser who blogs (?) something called AltNews.

We now know why the 747 firefighting jet is just sitting on the tarmac at the Colorado Springs Airport.

Some federal government bureaucrat has decided it is more important to glue thousands of paper cups to thousands of posts, arrange them in a grid, have the aircraft drop water on the grid and then weigh each cup to see how much water is in each of them than it is to put out fires.

This ridiculous exercise in bureaucracy is a required part of federal approval for an aircraft to dump water onto a raging forest fire.

Evidently the dispersion pattern of an air drop must be just so, must meet some exacting standard set up by the government that cannot possibly be set aside for now, so that lives and property can be saved. Talk about losing sight of the forest for the trees.

The company, GlobalSuperTanker has designed and tested the dispersion system extensively. It is designed to atomize the liquid to prevent crushing amounts of water smashing things as it comes down. It’s a system that exceeds what the government requires, but the government won’t believe its eyes or company data.

Here’s how they should be doing their approval: Load the aircraft up with 20,000 gallons of fire retardant or just plain water. Fly it over a forest fire. Dump the load on the fire. Repeat until the fire is out. Then, after the fire is out, examine the effectiveness of the air drops and if necessary make corrections to the system over the winter, when people’s lives and property are not at stake.

There’s a fundamental rule of firefighting: Get water on the flames. If you’ve got a bucket, use a bucket. If you’ve got a garden hose, use a garden hose. If you have a fire truck with a fire hose, use the fire hose. If you have an air tanker capable of dropping 20,000 gallons of water on a forest fire, use it.

There’s another fundamental premise of firefighting: Get water on the fire as soon as it is humanly possible to do so, because the smaller the fire is when you do so, the more quickly you can put it out. Five gallons of water at the right place at the right time can completely stop a forest fire from happening.

Twenty thousand gallons can put out a lot of fire instantly. The GlobalSuperTanker can lay down a 1.5-mile long strip of fire retardant or plain water in one pass. Using compressed air the tanks can be reloaded in less than 30 minutes. In Chile, they had it down to 13 minutes. One pass takes the place of five smaller 5,000-gallon drops in a fifth the time and is more effective.

It is not as if this aircraft has never put out a fire.

It is FAA-certified and has been doing so for some time, just not in the U.S. One need only view the many YouTube videos of this very aircraft saving the town of Santo Domingo, Chile, in January to see proof of this, and these videos should be all the Forest Service needs to put the GlobalSuperTanker in the air.

More delay only puts lives at risk without justification for doing so. Set aside bureaucratic obstacles and get it in the air, tomorrow.

Nobody in Chile cared how many drops of water were in a bureaucrat’s paper cup. They only cared that miles of fire line were snuffed out in moments by an aircraft that isn’t allowed to do the same thing here in the United States.

That is simply unconscionable and President Donald Trump needs to sign an executive order commanding the aircraft be placed into service immediately, suspending all further certification requirements until after fire season ends.

So give the White House a call, or send an email. Contact your members of Congress and demand that they contact the president and make him aware of this nonsensical bureaucratic obstructionism that is pointlessly endangering property and lives. Do whatever you can to get the GlobalSuperTanker into the air and free of the chains of bureaucracy that bind it to the ground for no good reason.

****An aside , I thought I had read somewhere that Calfire wanted to use this plane and while hunting for the quote ran across this cool Calfire recognition guide to its firefighting fleet. In case you wondered about Cal Fire…

The CAL FIRE Air Program has long been the premier firefighting aviation program in the world. CAL FIRE’s fleet of over 50 fixed wing and rotary wing, make it the largest department owned fleet of aerial firefighting equipment in the world. CAL FIRE’s aircraft are strategically located throughout the state at CAL FIRE ‘s 13 airbases and nine helicopter bases.

6 Comments

  1. ok, i am not an expert, but i am guessing the person who penned the editorial is not an expert either. there are reasons that federally contracted aircraft have to meet various standards. one of which is firefighter safety. imagine the tone of an editorial that dealt with numerous fatalities related to an aircraft being used that didn’t meet rigorous safety standards? imagine if a retardant load came down on a crew and seriously injured or killed folks fighting fires on the ground. how would that go over? yes we are a bureaucracy. yes there is loads of red tape. yes there are probably situations where the time frames to respond given the bureaucratic red tape could be improved. but let’s not forget how dangerous it is to fight fires and how that danger increases and becomes more complex when aircraft is used.

  2. Did the Supertanker put out Chile’s fires? Uh, no:

    Deutsche Welle reported that the director of the National Forestry Corporation, Aaron Cavieres, said rain and falling temperatures in some areas have helped stop the fires. “We are nearing the end of this mega emergency,” he said.

    • It is rare that any one resource, even mother nature, will stop large fires. Exceptions would be prairie fires in light fuels. To ignore the benefits of using all the tools available is a disservice to all involved. There should even be consideration given to the use of Water Drops for reducing intensity in critical habitat, where unnatural fuel loadings risk total loss. The use of the Supertanker with 20,000 gallons of water and greatly reduced cost might be more cost effective and reduce resource loss.

  3. For many years, now, there has been a ‘splinter group’ in the world of aerial firefighting. A group of former pilots want the Department of Defense to free up some of their moth-balled A-10 Warthogs. They can fly low and slow and can carry a fair payload. It also has a 50-caliber machine gun in its nose….. heh heh. Convert that into a fusee gun. After a little research:

    “A-10 aircraft have been proposed to be used as air tankers. It is argued that the retired aircraft could be refurbished with 2,000 gallon water/retardant tanks. Their maneuverability would make them ideally suited for maneuvering in the passes and canyons of California.

    However, employees of the California Dept. of Forestry have pointed out that the U.S. government hasn’t put any of retired A-10 aircraft up for sale. Other drawbacks are that because the aircraft armor can not be removed, a 2,000 gallon tank would make the aircraft severely over weight.”

  4. If I’m not mistaken when Evergreen was developing the original version of the Supertanker they conducted dispersion tests. Is the need for new tests because its a different company or that the dispersion system has changed. Since it’s a controlled pressurized system, the chance of an undispersed payload is highly unlikely or even impossible. There have been previous incidents where there were ground fatalities from retardent drops, one that sticks in my mind was an engine that was hit near Klamath Falls, OR in the 70’s or early 80’s, with a poorly mixed batch, I believe there were fatalities and a destroyed engine, but this was the result of tank drop, not spray dispersion.

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