One of the most discussed topics in the world this week, forest fires in the Amazon region will be combated starting Friday with a “giant firefighter”, the Boeing 747 “Supertanker”, the largest commercial aircraft ever adapted for this function. Operated by Global Supertanker Services, the aircraft has been providing invaluable mission services in the United States and other regions of the world thanks to its rapid deployment.
Because of this capacity, the aircraft was hired in recent days by the government of Evo Morales, which has suffered from the huge fires. With the number “944” on its tail, the Supertanker moved to Bolivia and landed in Santa Cruz de La Sierra at dawn after a $ 800,000 advance payment.
Capable of carrying over 72,000 liters of water or fire retardant (identified by the red color), the Boeing 747-400 is yet another old commercial jet that has been converted to fire fighting in recent years. Aircraft such as DC-10 and 747 in older versions have also been used for this purpose, but Global Supertankers’ Jumbo has no equivalent in the world today.
However this will not be the first jet mission in South America. In 2017, the huge aircraft was used by Chile in similar fires, and has taken on other international missions in Mexico and Israel in recent years.
According to the company, the Supertanker has twice the capacity of other similar aircraft thanks to a duplicate discharge system that can be recharged in just over 30 minutes on the ground. The 747 can launch the product in various ways and at a speed of about 240 km / h. A launch can cover a track almost 50 meters wide and close to 5 km long.
The advantage of using a long-range commercial aircraft is not only because of its larger internal volume, but also because it allows regions far from the company’s base to be reached. Global Supertanker argues that it can reach anywhere in the United States within 4.5 hours and travel across the globe within 20 hours. And with the added benefit of getting into action promptly, thanks to the crew structure with 14 first-class seats and two sleeping bunk beds.
The fires in the Amazon region were reported to have started about two weeks ago and in Bolivia alone they reached an area of at least 650,000 hectares (5,000 km², equivalent to more than eight times the New York area). The Bolivian government’s intention is for Supertanker to operate in the Charagua and Puerto Busch regions where the fires are out of control.