Company Says Cert Will Come In July At Earliest
Evergreen International Aviation, which has put considerable
cost and development time into a 747-200 water bomber the company
says represents a "quantum leap" for fighting wildfires, reports
the mammoth tanker is ready to fly... but won't be certified in
time for this year's expected fierce wildfire season.
"We thought it would be ready last July," said Evergreen's Bob
McAndrew recently to the Tucson (AZ) Citizen. McAndrew, who heads
the 747-200 supertanker project for Evergreen, told the paper that
certification from the FAA and US Forest Service is taking longer
Although the $40 million tanker isn't approved yet for
firefighting duty, it will still get plenty of air time this
summer. Evergreen is preparing the its 747 tanker -- which can hold
up to 24,000 gallons of liquid fire retardant, to be dropped in one
pass or several -- to visit 11 states during a monthlong
McAndrews says Evergreen will fly the tanker from
coast-to-coast, performing water drops for firefighters at federal,
state, and local levels... and he hopes the massive water bomber
will make an impression on them.
"It is a quantum leap in firefighting," McAndrew said.
The plane's primary advantage over other aerial tankers -- it's
size -- is also one of the factors that may be holding its
certification back. Critics of the program have questioned whether
the large bird will be able to fly low enough, safely, to
effectively drop its payload. And some have wondered whether
firefighters on the ground could be injured -- or worse -- by the
sheer volume of the tanker's massive water-carrying capability,
when it is dropped all at once on a fire.
As it stands, it appears fire-fighting duties for this season
will be in the hands of the venerable C-130s, P-3 Orions, and
converted warbirds that have made up the aerial water bomber fleet
for years. By way of comparison, each of those planes -- which have
already seen duty this year in fires in Texas, Oklahoma, and
Florida, among other states -- can carry about a tenth of the
747's capacity, or 2,400 gallons.
Speaking of the current
fires in Florida, McAndrew says the 747 tanker could be a huge
asset for those battling the blazes.
"We could wipe [those fires] out in a day," he said.