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LAXintl
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747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Fri Apr 23, 2021 7:26 pm

Colorado based owners of the 747-400 Supertanker, Tanker 944, announced they will be ceasing operations immediately.

The group behind the operation had been seeking prospective buyers and had been forced to furlough employees until the fate of the tanker was known.

https://fireaviation.com/2021/04/23/the ... perations/

=

One of the issues with the aircraft was that the US Forest Service was always cool to the large platform preferring smaller frames, limiting its domestic use to direct state contracts such as with California.
 
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FLALEFTY
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Fri Apr 23, 2021 9:05 pm

LAXintl wrote:
Colorado based owners of the 747-400 Supertanker, Tanker 944, announced they will be ceasing operations immediately.

The group behind the operation had been seeking prospective buyers and had been forced to furlough employees until the fate of the tanker was known.

https://fireaviation.com/2021/04/23/the ... perations/

=

One of the issues with the aircraft was that the US Forest Service was always cool to the large platform preferring smaller frames, limiting its domestic use to direct state contracts such as with California.


As this excellent video on the Blancoliro YouTube channel presents, the B744 Supertanker is a marvel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-pC7XYHV7s

I hope this aircraft and its crew find new investors willing to maintain Tanker 944's firefighting mission. With the B744's intercontinental range, I imagine Australia, which has been struggling with massive wildfires, would welcome its services during its fire season.
 
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FiscAutTecGarte
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Fri Apr 23, 2021 9:41 pm

Bummer... I saw it parked out at Marana a few years back.... I was driving down I-10 north of Tucson and said to my wife, "I think I see the 944 SuperTanker parked out at that small airfield.... No way.... We're getting off of the highway to have a look". We did see it. I wish it could have been deployed here last summer to help with the Bighorn Fire (Mount Lemmon) that ragged for 3+ weeks.
 
chrisair
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 7:02 am

FiscAutTecGarte wrote:
I wish it could have been deployed here last summer to help with the Bighorn Fire (Mount Lemmon) that ragged for 3+ weeks.


The DC-10s did a pretty good job dropping copious amounts of retardant which supposedly helped keep the burn intensity in the mild to moderate range.
 
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TheDutchman92
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 1:20 pm

FLALEFTY wrote:
LAXintl wrote:
Colorado based owners of the 747-400 Supertanker, Tanker 944, announced they will be ceasing operations immediately.

The group behind the operation had been seeking prospective buyers and had been forced to furlough employees until the fate of the tanker was known.

https://fireaviation.com/2021/04/23/the ... perations/

=

One of the issues with the aircraft was that the US Forest Service was always cool to the large platform preferring smaller frames, limiting its domestic use to direct state contracts such as with California.


As this excellent video on the Blancoliro YouTube channel presents, the B744 Supertanker is a marvel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-pC7XYHV7s

I hope this aircraft and its crew find new investors willing to maintain Tanker 944's firefighting mission. With the B744's intercontinental range, I imagine Australia, which has been struggling with massive wildfires, would welcome its services during its fire season.

Australia could definitely use this and it would have the legs to get to Indonesia from a southern operating base too.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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Boeing757100
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 4:10 pm

I think that the 747 is one of the fastest modern airliners and the 744 supertanker was the largest supertanker in service? There are a few unsold 747-8is collecting dust, so maybe a -8 variant? Though maybe the development costs are too high... :(
 
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janders
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 4:18 pm

I am sure the business case for such a large single-frame operation that is only operated few weeks at a time is not very good.

Looking at FR24, looks like its not done any fire fighting since October, over 6-months ago!
 
na
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 4:21 pm

Boeing757100 wrote:
I think that the 747 is one of the fastest modern airliners and the 744 supertanker was the largest supertanker in service? There are a few unsold 747-8is collecting dust, so maybe a -8 variant? Though maybe the development costs are too high... :(


The 747 is the fastest airliner. And yes, the Supertanker was and is the largest firefighting plane.

And no, there are no unsold 748s collecting dust, the last one was recently sold.
 
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Boeing757100
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 4:59 pm

na wrote:
Boeing757100 wrote:
I think that the 747 is one of the fastest modern airliners and the 744 supertanker was the largest supertanker in service? There are a few unsold 747-8is collecting dust, so maybe a -8 variant? Though maybe the development costs are too high... :(


The 747 is the fastest airliner. And yes, the Supertanker was and is the largest firefighting plane.

And no, there are no unsold 748s collecting dust, the last one was recently sold.



What about N458BJ (the Bank of Utah one?) Also the Saudia Cargo freighters are no longer flying though I don't know if they were sold.
 
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Spacepope
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 6:28 pm

Boeing757100 wrote:
na wrote:
Boeing757100 wrote:
I think that the 747 is one of the fastest modern airliners and the 744 supertanker was the largest supertanker in service? There are a few unsold 747-8is collecting dust, so maybe a -8 variant? Though maybe the development costs are too high... :(


The 747 is the fastest airliner. And yes, the Supertanker was and is the largest firefighting plane.

And no, there are no unsold 748s collecting dust, the last one was recently sold.



What about N458BJ (the Bank of Utah one?) Also the Saudia Cargo freighters are no longer flying though I don't know if they were sold.


Low time BBJ isn't going to be a candidate vs a 744 passenger frame (like any LH recently retired one). The Saudia freighters would have been picked up by now if the price is right by just about any cargo company. The fact that they aren't in service says something about the asking price.

In any case, ain't no firefighing op gonna spring for the cost of operating GenX engined aircraft down in the dirt when there are both plenty of other options and demonstrated inability to make larger than DC-10 sized aircraft get work.
 
777Mech
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 7:11 pm

Maybe Coulson can add the type? They have to at least be kicking the tires.
 
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FLALEFTY
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 7:44 pm

janders wrote:
I am sure the business case for such a large single-frame operation that is only operated few weeks at a time is not very good.

Looking at FR24, looks like its not done any fire fighting since October, over 6-months ago!


This Jalopnik article from 2016 gives some insight into how Global SuperTanker Services (GSTS) came to be.

https://jalopnik.com/evergreens-defunct ... 1723914413

In a nutshell, GSTS is basically a spin-off of the defunct, Evergreen International Airlines who went bankrupt in late-2013. Evergreen operated the original B741 SuperTanker services up until then. Some of the former Evergreen aircraft, including SuperTanker B741 and B744BCF N492EV (later to become N744ST for GSTS) were parked at MZJ after Evergreen's bankruptcy. With parking rent and caretaker maintenance fees unpaid, plus the original B741 SuperTanker requiring a $1M "C-Check", that aircraft was eventually sold to the on-site scrapper, but the tanks and drop equipment were salvaged. After GSTS was formed (largely staffed with ex-employees from the defunct-Evergreen) they managed to buy N492EV from the lessor, AerSale and also obtained the salvaged tanks and drop gear. GSTS then integrated the tanks and drop gear into their B744 SuperTanker and put it into service.

Here's a Wiki article to read that goes into more detail:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/747_Supertanker
 
zuckie13
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sat Apr 24, 2021 11:03 pm

Is this aircraft able to make multiple drops - or do they have to do the whole load in a single pass?

If it's the latter, I could see some of the challenge - don't often need to put that size load in a single line.
 
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FLALEFTY
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 1:29 am

zuckie13 wrote:
Is this aircraft able to make multiple drops - or do they have to do the whole load in a single pass?

If it's the latter, I could see some of the challenge - don't often need to put that size load in a single line.


Here's a quote from the Wikipedia article about the SuperTanker that answers your question.

"The Global Supertanker is equipped with a pressurized liquid drop system, which can disperse fire retardant under high pressure or drop retardant at the speed of falling rain.[11] Using the pressurized system, the aircraft can deliver retardant to the scene of a fire while flying at a height of 400 to 800 feet (120–240 m), at approximately 160 mph (260 km/h; 140 kn), configured as if it were on approach for landing. The Supertanker's tank system can be configured for segmented drops, allowing the contents of the tank to be released at multiple intervals while in flight.[11] According to the company, the aircraft is capable of laying down a swath of fire retardant 3 mi (4.8 km) long and as wide as 150 ft (46 m).[12]"
 
ThePointblank
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 1:35 am

zuckie13 wrote:
Is this aircraft able to make multiple drops - or do they have to do the whole load in a single pass?

If it's the latter, I could see some of the challenge - don't often need to put that size load in a single line.

The bigger issue is the size and handling requirements for an aircraft this size.

Many fire agencies do not like such large aircraft; the amount of restrictions related to the aircraft's size is immense. From available airports with a sufficient runway, ramp space, and air space requirements, it often means that such aircraft are based much further away from the actual fire zones, which results in some fairly lengthy transit times compared to smaller aircraft that can be based much closer.

Basically, it comes down to what good is a 747 tanker, when it takes hours to get to where it is from one way, takes 3 times as long to load, and takes up the ramp space equivalent to 4 smaller aircraft, when I can base said smaller aircraft 15 minutes away, can reload and cycle the smaller aircraft back in the air much quicker, and is much more easily handled in the air, allowing for drops in more challenging terrain.

From what I've read and heard, the big knock against this 747 tanker is the retardant drop mechanism; it is a pressurized system, not a gravity drop system, which means that the aircraft can't disperse retardant effectively under certain conditions, and it can't make use of it's entire retardant load, bringing back thousands of gallons of retardant that can't be dropped.

Furthermore, the aircraft was operating under a boat load of temporary approvals; they simply could not meet the requirements set out by the various fire services for effective tanker operations, and the entire system needs a complete redesign to do so. And the company had over a decade to work out their drop system to get it to work to the fire service's satisfaction and out of the various temporary approvals.

The speed is also a fairly big knock against the 747 tanker; it's drop speed is at the very extreme margins of what is considered acceptable for effective retardant application. Fly too fast, you end up painting one side of the foliage. Ideally you want it to rain down and cover evenly, and speed is definitely an enemy of that. While you can compensate with altitude to a point, drift and dispersion become a problem if your too high.
 
F9Animal
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 1:46 am

I think it is insane they are folding. These fire seasons are getting worse each year! There is just no excuse not to want this type of aircraft for fighting forest fires!
 
UA444
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 2:06 am

Still got DC-10s
 
Canuck600
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 2:34 am

ThePointblank wrote:
zuckie13 wrote:
Is this aircraft able to make multiple drops - or do they have to do the whole load in a single pass?

If it's the latter, I could see some of the challenge - don't often need to put that size load in a single line.

The bigger issue is the size and handling requirements for an aircraft this size.

Many fire agencies do not like such large aircraft; the amount of restrictions related to the aircraft's size is immense. From available airports with a sufficient runway, ramp space, and air space requirements, it often means that such aircraft are based much further away from the actual fire zones, which results in some fairly lengthy transit times compared to smaller aircraft that can be based much closer.

Basically, it comes down to what good is a 747 tanker, when it takes hours to get to where it is from one way, takes 3 times as long to load, and takes up the ramp space equivalent to 4 smaller aircraft, when I can base said smaller aircraft 15 minutes away, can reload and cycle the smaller aircraft back in the air much quicker, and is much more easily handled in the air, allowing for drops in more challenging terrain.

From what I've read and heard, the big knock against this 747 tanker is the retardant drop mechanism; it is a pressurized system, not a gravity drop system, which means that the aircraft can't disperse retardant effectively under certain conditions, and it can't make use of it's entire retardant load, bringing back thousands of gallons of retardant that can't be dropped.

Furthermore, the aircraft was operating under a boat load of temporary approvals; they simply could not meet the requirements set out by the various fire services for effective tanker operations, and the entire system needs a complete redesign to do so. And the company had over a decade to work out their drop system to get it to work to the fire service's satisfaction and out of the various temporary approvals.

The speed is also a fairly big knock against the 747 tanker; it's drop speed is at the very extreme margins of what is considered acceptable for effective retardant application. Fly too fast, you end up painting one side of the foliage. Ideally you want it to rain down and cover evenly, and speed is definitely an enemy of that. While you can compensate with altitude to a point, drift and dispersion become a problem if your too high.


Finally somebody that knows the in's & outs of wildfire operations!
 
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Aaron747
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 10:34 am

F9Animal wrote:
I think it is insane they are folding. These fire seasons are getting worse each year! There is just no excuse not to want this type of aircraft for fighting forest fires!


You mean other than the post above yours outlining scientific reasons the 747 is not the best choice for a tanker?
 
Virtual737
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 11:10 am

ThePointblank wrote:
The bigger issue is the size and handling requirements for an aircraft this size.

Many fire agencies do not like such large aircraft; the amount of restrictions related to the aircraft's size is immense. From available airports with a sufficient runway, ramp space, and air space requirements, it often means that such aircraft are based much further away from the actual fire zones, which results in some fairly lengthy transit times compared to smaller aircraft that can be based much closer.

Basically, it comes down to what good is a 747 tanker, when it takes hours to get to where it is from one way, takes 3 times as long to load, and takes up the ramp space equivalent to 4 smaller aircraft, when I can base said smaller aircraft 15 minutes away, can reload and cycle the smaller aircraft back in the air much quicker, and is much more easily handled in the air, allowing for drops in more challenging terrain.

From what I've read and heard, the big knock against this 747 tanker is the retardant drop mechanism; it is a pressurized system, not a gravity drop system, which means that the aircraft can't disperse retardant effectively under certain conditions, and it can't make use of it's entire retardant load, bringing back thousands of gallons of retardant that can't be dropped.

Furthermore, the aircraft was operating under a boat load of temporary approvals; they simply could not meet the requirements set out by the various fire services for effective tanker operations, and the entire system needs a complete redesign to do so. And the company had over a decade to work out their drop system to get it to work to the fire service's satisfaction and out of the various temporary approvals.

The speed is also a fairly big knock against the 747 tanker; it's drop speed is at the very extreme margins of what is considered acceptable for effective retardant application. Fly too fast, you end up painting one side of the foliage. Ideally you want it to rain down and cover evenly, and speed is definitely an enemy of that. While you can compensate with altitude to a point, drift and dispersion become a problem if your too high.


Yeah, but apart from that its pretty good JK ;)
 
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Aesma
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 3:05 pm

If there is only one in the world, there is probably a reason...
 
travaz
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 4:11 pm

The C-130's also use a pressurized system to drop retardant.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modular_A ... ing_System
The USFS has been having the debate over large tankers since the late 70's. When I was a lowly ground grunt 72 into the 80's there was a mix of B-17's, Liberators, DC-6/7 and other aircraft. The use of seats (Single Engine Air tankers) was effective for a lot of the fires that were smaller such as lightning strikes. It was more cost effective to have a seat attack a small lightning strike fire that was 1/4 acre. When only large tankers were available you could not get a tanker due to the cost and amount of retardant. This hindered the attack as often the fire only had 3 or 4 fire fighters on the fire in the early stages. The final outcome of the research was a combination of large and small tankers was best. It is obvious that he 744 has some problems in the way the retardant is dispersed. The DC-10 has been successful and continues on in the VLT space. It is a costly business to be in. Back in my day there was no guarantee to the tanker operators so no fly no money. I for one hope they are able to fix 744 as it is a great tool for certain situations.
 
jeffrey0032j
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 5:11 pm

I could see an interested buyer springing up suddenly when the next big fires come, not now, not during normal fire seasons, but when the next big one comes with everyone scrambling desperately to find resources.
 
travaz
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 5:25 pm

jeffrey0032j wrote:
I could see an interested buyer springing up suddenly when the next big fires come, not now, not during normal fire seasons, but when the next big one comes with everyone scrambling desperately to find resources.


The question is how long can someone sit on it not makin any revenue? The old aviation joke stands true in this case. How to make a small fortune.............
 
aschachter
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:53 pm

Based on the quote below from the article, maybe the requirements for extra work on the aircraft to get more than an another interim approval was too much cost to keep the project going ..

"The Interagency Air Tanker Subcommittee does not support any further interim approvals without correcting some issues originally identified in the 2009 test of the system that included failure to meet coverage level 3 & 6, retention of retardant in the system after drop, aeration of the retardant causing trail off, and inconsistent flight profiles affecting retardant coverage.

Due to the current national situation regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), NIAC will issue an eighth interim approval to GSTS. However, NIAC will not support, nor issue a ninth interim until GSTS successfully passes all requirements of the 2013 IABS Criteria. This must be completed prior to December 31, 2020."
 
FATFlyer
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 11:28 pm

travaz wrote:
The C-130's also use a pressurized system to drop retardant.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modular_A ... ing_System


A Fresno, California based company has developed a system for use from any available rear-loading cargo aircraft without modification including C-130s. For example, Peru is using the system from C-27Js.

Camlym's Guardian is a simple corrugated container holding 264 gallons (1000 liters) of any liquid (water, retardant) an agency wants to drop on the wildfire. The containers are simply released from the rear door over the fire allowing the entire or partial load of containers to be dropped on a target with good accuracy. The containers open in air releasing the liquid over the target area.

But so far, the company is having a hard time with US sales. Other countries are ordering the system.

One of their promotional videos showing the system in use.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh91Tyc7jeQ
 
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Spacepope
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Sun Apr 25, 2021 11:54 pm

FATFlyer wrote:
travaz wrote:
The C-130's also use a pressurized system to drop retardant.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modular_A ... ing_System


A Fresno, California based company has developed a system for use from any available rear-loading cargo aircraft without modification including C-130s. For example, Peru is using the system from C-27Js.

Camlym's Guardian is a simple corrugated container holding 264 gallons (1000 liters) of any liquid (water, retardant) an agency wants to drop on the wildfire. The containers are simply released from the rear door over the fire allowing the entire or partial load of containers to be dropped on a target with good accuracy. The containers open in air releasing the liquid over the target area.

But so far, the company is having a hard time with US sales. Other countries are ordering the system.

One of their promotional videos showing the system in use.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh91Tyc7jeQ


Loading only 1000 liters on a Herc or Spartan seems like a gigantic waste of aircraft capability. Heck a SEAT carries 600-800 gallons. If you’re gonna fly a C-130 you might as well fly a 737, with 4000 gallons (or 16 times the capacity of this system). It’s no wonder they haven’t found buyers in the US
 
FATFlyer
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 12:51 am

Spacepope wrote:
FATFlyer wrote:
travaz wrote:
The C-130's also use a pressurized system to drop retardant.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modular_A ... ing_System


A Fresno, California based company has developed a system for use from any available rear-loading cargo aircraft without modification including C-130s. For example, Peru is using the system from C-27Js.

Camlym's Guardian is a simple corrugated container holding 264 gallons (1000 liters) of any liquid (water, retardant) an agency wants to drop on the wildfire. The containers are simply released from the rear door over the fire allowing the entire or partial load of containers to be dropped on a target with good accuracy. The containers open in air releasing the liquid over the target area.

But so far, the company is having a hard time with US sales. Other countries are ordering the system.

One of their promotional videos showing the system in use.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh91Tyc7jeQ


Loading only 1000 liters on a Herc or Spartan seems like a gigantic waste of aircraft capability. Heck a SEAT carries 600-800 gallons. If you’re gonna fly a C-130 you might as well fly a 737, with 4000 gallons (or 16 times the capacity of this system). It’s no wonder they haven’t found buyers in the US


LOL. :banghead: Each SINGLE container is 1000 liters. MULTIPLE containers (6 to 16 depending upon aircraft) are loaded up to the aircraft capacity, not just one container.

As I said then the aircraft drops the entire load of containers or just a partial drop on a single target.

The benefit is existing rear-loading cargo aircraft need no modification, increasing the available aircraft to fight a fire. The containers are simply dropped out the open rear door of any available cargo aircraft.

Here is a door view of a 3 container drop as a demo.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwh2wlaO7ok
 
USAirKid
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 5:19 am

FATFlyer wrote:
travaz wrote:
The C-130's also use a pressurized system to drop retardant.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modular_A ... ing_System


A Fresno, California based company has developed a system for use from any available rear-loading cargo aircraft without modification including C-130s. For example, Peru is using the system from C-27Js.

Camlym's Guardian is a simple corrugated container holding 264 gallons (1000 liters) of any liquid (water, retardant) an agency wants to drop on the wildfire. The containers are simply released from the rear door over the fire allowing the entire or partial load of containers to be dropped on a target with good accuracy. The containers open in air releasing the liquid over the target area.

But so far, the company is having a hard time with US sales. Other countries are ordering the system.

One of their promotional videos showing the system in use.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh91Tyc7jeQ


Interesting. Part of me wonders about the wisdom of dropping a plastic bag into a fire.

I also wonder about their marketing department spending almost half of the video laying out an obvious problem. The relevant part of the video starts 47 seconds into a one minute 55 second video. :roll:

TBH, the problem is it doesn't WIFM well enough. "Hi we use existing aircraft that don't need any special modifications." Is barely mentioned.
 
Noshow
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 7:26 am

Interesting system. Dry on the plane and still a cloud of fluid before reaching the ground. And it can be used on every military transport.
However the packaging and filling of the boxes look like being the bottleneck to me.
 
TheSonntag
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:45 am

janders wrote:
I am sure the business case for such a large single-frame operation that is only operated few weeks at a time is not very good.

Looking at FR24, looks like its not done any fire fighting since October, over 6-months ago!


I wonder why a 747 fire fighting vehicle needs a business case. Obviously, this is something the state should be paying for. But I understand that the operator does need to make it financially viable.

Was it ever considered to make the B-52 a fire fighting vehicle, btw? Obviously not anymore due to age, but wouldn't that have been a rather useful platform?
 
WayexTDI
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 4:09 pm

TheSonntag wrote:
janders wrote:
I am sure the business case for such a large single-frame operation that is only operated few weeks at a time is not very good.

Looking at FR24, looks like its not done any fire fighting since October, over 6-months ago!


I wonder why a 747 fire fighting vehicle needs a business case. Obviously, this is something the state should be paying for. But I understand that the operator does need to make it financially viable.

Was it ever considered to make the B-52 a fire fighting vehicle, btw? Obviously not anymore due to age, but wouldn't that have been a rather useful platform?

Why would the 747 tanker needs a business case? Because it is/was operated by a for-profit company; if you can't make a profit, there is no business case, companies are not philanthropic.
 
Canuck600
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 4:53 pm

Crazy that there are issues going to 2009 that the operator hasn't corrected.
 
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FiscAutTecGarte
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Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 5:09 pm

USAirKid wrote:

Interesting. Part of me wonders about the wisdom of dropping a plastic bag into a fire.


i wonder if it could be made of starch (potato / corn) as they will only need to hold the water a few hours at most.. or would that be even more flammable? It also looks like you are dropping a piece of osb and some corrugated cardboard onto said fire as well.... I guess they've done the science....
 
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FLALEFTY
Posts: 1125
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2006 11:33 am

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 5:10 pm

Canuck600 wrote:
Crazy that there are issues going to 2009 that the operator hasn't corrected.


To be fair, the issues going back to 2009 were with the original B741 SuperTanker, which was owned by the now-defunct Evergreen International. This plane was scrapped back several years ago. Global SuperTanker Services (the successor company) purchased the salvaged tanks and drop gear from the original B741 SuperTanker and installed the gear into their recently-acquired B744BCF in 2016. They needed to get the plane in service quickly to start recovering their investment. It is unclear how far they got on this project, but Global was at least planning to install an improved tank/drop system that addressed some of the SuperTanker's operational shortcomings when they ceased operations.
 
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FiscAutTecGarte
Posts: 513
Joined: Tue Dec 24, 2019 6:40 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 5:11 pm

chrisair wrote:
FiscAutTecGarte wrote:
I wish it could have been deployed here last summer to help with the Bighorn Fire (Mount Lemmon) that ragged for 3+ weeks.


The DC-10s did a pretty good job dropping copious amounts of retardant which supposedly helped keep the burn intensity in the mild to moderate range.


There's no question those folks did a fantastic job managing that fire... Odds were really stacked against them with the drought conditions and very high winds... Every night I could see it burning from my home in Green Valley, some 45 miles away...
 
tp1040
Posts: 373
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:30 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 6:15 pm

LAXintl wrote:


One of the issues with the aircraft was that the US Forest Service was always cool to the large platform preferring smaller frames, limiting its domestic use to direct state contracts such as with California.


This is exactly why. No guaranteed revenue stream makes it hard to maintain such a high cost business.

Not sure why the USFS has not gotten on board. It has been that way since Evergreen. Politics as usual. This might be tactic to force the USFS hand, but I doubt it will work.
 
chrisair
Posts: 2233
Joined: Fri Sep 01, 2000 11:32 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:42 pm

FiscAutTecGarte wrote:
USAirKid wrote:

Interesting. Part of me wonders about the wisdom of dropping a plastic bag into a fire.


i wonder if it could be made of starch (potato / corn) as they will only need to hold the water a few hours at most.. or would that be even more flammable? It also looks like you are dropping a piece of osb and some corrugated cardboard onto said fire as well.... I guess they've done the science....


The amount of toxic gasses emitted from burning several dozen tote liners pales in comparison to the amount of toxins released from the fire burning in the actual forest itself. Same goes for the OSB and cardboard. It would represent an insignificant amount of flammable material added to the fire zone. Cool looking concept, but I'd imagine it's not cheap!
 
ThePointblank
Posts: 3854
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:39 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:52 pm

tp1040 wrote:
LAXintl wrote:


One of the issues with the aircraft was that the US Forest Service was always cool to the large platform preferring smaller frames, limiting its domestic use to direct state contracts such as with California.


This is exactly why. No guaranteed revenue stream makes it hard to maintain such a high cost business.

Not sure why the USFS has not gotten on board. It has been that way since Evergreen. Politics as usual. This might be tactic to force the USFS hand, but I doubt it will work.

Because the aircraft was ineffective and could not meet requirements that other aircraft could easily do?

The company behind the 747 tanker had over a decade since the USFS identified the issues with the 747 tanker to actually address the issues related to the retardant drop mechanism... which haven't.

The aircraft while impressive, has a ton of cons which makes them less than ideal for North American wildfire fighting. They take up a lot of airspace, which means you have more space that you need to clear of other water bombers, when instead you could have more smaller planes doing drops.

They also make a less precise attack; this is due to the size and manoeuvrability compared to a chopper or smaller plane. And due to their size and lack of manoeuvrability, they are practically useless in mountainous terrain. These super-big tankers are really best used over flat ground that reduces the need to maneuver.
 
tp1040
Posts: 373
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:30 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Tue Apr 27, 2021 3:29 am

ThePointblank wrote:
tp1040 wrote:
LAXintl wrote:


One of the issues with the aircraft was that the US Forest Service was always cool to the large platform preferring smaller frames, limiting its domestic use to direct state contracts such as with California.


This is exactly why. No guaranteed revenue stream makes it hard to maintain such a high cost business.

Not sure why the USFS has not gotten on board. It has been that way since Evergreen. Politics as usual. This might be tactic to force the USFS hand, but I doubt it will work.

Because the aircraft was ineffective and could not meet requirements that other aircraft could easily do?

The company behind the 747 tanker had over a decade since the USFS identified the issues with the 747 tanker to actually address the issues related to the retardant drop mechanism... which haven't.

The aircraft while impressive, has a ton of cons which makes them less than ideal for North American wildfire fighting. They take up a lot of airspace, which means you have more space that you need to clear of other water bombers, when instead you could have more smaller planes doing drops.

They also make a less precise attack; this is due to the size and manoeuvrability compared to a chopper or smaller plane. And due to their size and lack of manoeuvrability, they are practically useless in mountainous terrain. These super-big tankers are really best used over flat ground that reduces the need to maneuver.



Calfire used the 747 Supertanker 119 times last year. California has a lot of difficult terrain, but the 747 was just one tool that was used. You can't evenly compare a 747 to a chopper or smaller plane in precision. Each has role and certain level of efficiency. 18,000 gallons of fire retardant covers a lot of area. When property and lives are at stake, the firefighters should have the best tools available.

note: they had recently upgraded the drop system to a new digital control drop system
 
Bradin
Posts: 400
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2016 5:12 am

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Tue Apr 27, 2021 5:45 am

Oh boy. This isn't good. We're going to really need these aircraft this year in California when we have our fire season.
 
ThePointblank
Posts: 3854
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:39 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Tue Apr 27, 2021 7:05 am

tp1040 wrote:
ThePointblank wrote:
tp1040 wrote:

This is exactly why. No guaranteed revenue stream makes it hard to maintain such a high cost business.

Not sure why the USFS has not gotten on board. It has been that way since Evergreen. Politics as usual. This might be tactic to force the USFS hand, but I doubt it will work.

Because the aircraft was ineffective and could not meet requirements that other aircraft could easily do?

The company behind the 747 tanker had over a decade since the USFS identified the issues with the 747 tanker to actually address the issues related to the retardant drop mechanism... which haven't.

The aircraft while impressive, has a ton of cons which makes them less than ideal for North American wildfire fighting. They take up a lot of airspace, which means you have more space that you need to clear of other water bombers, when instead you could have more smaller planes doing drops.

They also make a less precise attack; this is due to the size and manoeuvrability compared to a chopper or smaller plane. And due to their size and lack of manoeuvrability, they are practically useless in mountainous terrain. These super-big tankers are really best used over flat ground that reduces the need to maneuver.



Calfire used the 747 Supertanker 119 times last year. California has a lot of difficult terrain, but the 747 was just one tool that was used. You can't evenly compare a 747 to a chopper or smaller plane in precision. Each has role and certain level of efficiency. 18,000 gallons of fire retardant covers a lot of area. When property and lives are at stake, the firefighters should have the best tools available.

note: they had recently upgraded the drop system to a new digital control drop system


Being used 119 times last year isn't a ringing endorsement of the 747 tanker.

The premise of the fixed wing assets in wildfire fighting is to lay down retardant fire control lines, and these must be done precisely. Having a bunch of retardant falling where it will not do any good is a waste and does not augment fire fighting efforts.

Yes, firefighters should have the best tools available, and this isn't one of them. It's like using a oversized sledgehammer to drive a nail into the board. Possible, but not effective. We need all the EFFECTIVE aerial tools we can get and to allocate resources away from ideas that at first glance seem like good ideas, but empirically didn’t work (for anything other than PR stunts) like the 747.

The aircraft has been operating with multiple interim approvals, because it has never been able to fully get final approval for their tank system as set out by the NIAC. Standards are set on coverage levels required that all air tanker companies must meet. This drop criteria is not random and insures that the retardant gets delivered at a most effective level and as it was designed in order to work effectively.

They set those standards for a reason. Decades of trial and error plus loss of life is the reason they are strict on what they want. From what I understand, the deficiencies noted with the 747 tanker's tanking system are so significant, it would entail that they start over and redesign the system to address. Being unable to make use of anywhere from a quarter to half the payload is a very big issue, since retardant isn't cheap, and neither is the 747 tanker.

Tank systems on air tankers are important and obviously with so many interim approvals, the company was not able to meet the criteria for effective retardant application. So it got cut. They had over 10 years to address the system to the NIAC's satisfaction and address the deficiencies, and it's time enough. The various fire agencies have demonstrated enough patience with the 747 tanker while the companies (this isn't the first time the company behind the 747 tanker has gone belly up) behind it doesn't address the flaws with their system despite knowing about the issues for over a decade.

If you still need a large air tanker, the multiple DC-10 Air Tankers are still kicking around, and from all accounts, they are far more effective than the 747 tanker was, with a better drop system that actually meets requirements. The DC-10 Air Tankers have demonstrated the ability to work in very tight terrain at lower altitudes with performance on par with the smaller assets, and they are actually capable of dropping more retardant than the 747 tanker was ever able to.
 
Canuck600
Posts: 344
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:24 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Tue Apr 27, 2021 8:37 pm

FLALEFTY wrote:
Canuck600 wrote:
Crazy that there are issues going to 2009 that the operator hasn't corrected.


To be fair, the issues going back to 2009 were with the original B741 SuperTanker, which was owned by the now-defunct Evergreen International. This plane was scrapped back several years ago. Global SuperTanker Services (the successor company) purchased the salvaged tanks and drop gear from the original B741 SuperTanker and installed the gear into their recently-acquired B744BCF in 2016. They needed to get the plane in service quickly to start recovering their investment. It is unclear how far they got on this project, but Global was at least planning to install an improved tank/drop system that addressed some of the SuperTanker's operational shortcomings when they ceased operations.


It's the drop pattern that Forestry was complaining about, they should have addressed it sooner. If the people that are going to hire you have issues you need to rectify the issues
 
ThePointblank
Posts: 3854
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:39 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Tue Apr 27, 2021 10:36 pm

Canuck600 wrote:
FLALEFTY wrote:
Canuck600 wrote:
Crazy that there are issues going to 2009 that the operator hasn't corrected.


To be fair, the issues going back to 2009 were with the original B741 SuperTanker, which was owned by the now-defunct Evergreen International. This plane was scrapped back several years ago. Global SuperTanker Services (the successor company) purchased the salvaged tanks and drop gear from the original B741 SuperTanker and installed the gear into their recently-acquired B744BCF in 2016. They needed to get the plane in service quickly to start recovering their investment. It is unclear how far they got on this project, but Global was at least planning to install an improved tank/drop system that addressed some of the SuperTanker's operational shortcomings when they ceased operations.


It's the drop pattern that Forestry was complaining about, they should have addressed it sooner. If the people that are going to hire you have issues you need to rectify the issues

Correct. And they've had 11 years from when they knew it had issues to properly address it.

In hindsight, considering the technical issues with the drop gear, they should have scrapped it beforehand, and started fresh with a different design. The DC-10 Air Tanker uses a different gravity drop system and has demonstrated effectiveness and performance, with the ability to effectively drop the same amount of usable retardant compared to the 747 tanker. And that's why there are 4 active DC-10 Air Tankers compared to just one 747 tanker...
 
USAirKid
Posts: 894
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 5:42 am

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Wed Apr 28, 2021 12:57 am

ThePointblank wrote:
Canuck600 wrote:
FLALEFTY wrote:

To be fair, the issues going back to 2009 were with the original B741 SuperTanker, which was owned by the now-defunct Evergreen International. This plane was scrapped back several years ago. Global SuperTanker Services (the successor company) purchased the salvaged tanks and drop gear from the original B741 SuperTanker and installed the gear into their recently-acquired B744BCF in 2016. They needed to get the plane in service quickly to start recovering their investment. It is unclear how far they got on this project, but Global was at least planning to install an improved tank/drop system that addressed some of the SuperTanker's operational shortcomings when they ceased operations.


It's the drop pattern that Forestry was complaining about, they should have addressed it sooner. If the people that are going to hire you have issues you need to rectify the issues

Correct. And they've had 11 years from when they knew it had issues to properly address it.

In hindsight, considering the technical issues with the drop gear, they should have scrapped it beforehand, and started fresh with a different design. The DC-10 Air Tanker uses a different gravity drop system and has demonstrated effectiveness and performance, with the ability to effectively drop the same amount of usable retardant compared to the 747 tanker. And that's why there are 4 active DC-10 Air Tankers compared to just one 747 tanker...


I wonder if they could convert a DC-10 freighter to both use this system and be able to drop Camlym's Guardian system? They'd have to structurally modify the DC-10 further to have a ramp to drop them... But that'd make the plane able to drop quite a bit of water.
 
Canuck600
Posts: 344
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:24 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Wed Apr 28, 2021 8:13 pm

Why would they need two systems when they have one that works? The more complex you make something the more likely it is to fail.
 
USAirKid
Posts: 894
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 5:42 am

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Thu Apr 29, 2021 12:03 am

Canuck600 wrote:
Why would they need two systems when they have one that works? The more complex you make something the more likely it is to fail.


I’d have to study it further, however I’m betting the limiting factor on how much water can be dropped is the length of the flight from the airport to the fire. If you can carry more water at a time you can drop more water a day.
 
Canuck600
Posts: 344
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:24 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Thu Apr 29, 2021 3:56 am

A longer flight would need more fuel so it's an overall weight limitation.
 
USAirKid
Posts: 894
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 5:42 am

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Thu Apr 29, 2021 5:57 am

Canuck600 wrote:
A longer flight would need more fuel so it's an overall weight limitation.



True. However a majority of the flight is to reach the fires. Adding an extra drop or two shouldn’t take that much additional fuel.

Weight is a valid concern, but someone should have to calculate the numbers to find out.
 
ThePointblank
Posts: 3854
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:39 pm

Re: 747 Supertanker ceasing operations

Thu Apr 29, 2021 8:20 am

USAirKid wrote:
Canuck600 wrote:
A longer flight would need more fuel so it's an overall weight limitation.



True. However a majority of the flight is to reach the fires. Adding an extra drop or two shouldn’t take that much additional fuel.

Weight is a valid concern, but someone should have to calculate the numbers to find out.

The DC-10 Air Tanker flies well below MTOW, and that accounts for it's good flight performance.

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