World's Largest Firefighting Airplane Battles CA Wildfires

Nov. 11, 2018
The Colorado Springs-based Global SuperTanker is in the skies over northern California to help extinguish the devastating Camp fire.

The world’s largest firefighting airplane is in the skies over northern California, lending its mighty capabilities to help extinguish the devastating Camp fire.

The Colorado Springs-based Global SuperTanker dropped four loads of fire retardant Friday and more on Saturday, said Dan Reese, the company’s CEO.

Whereas a normal tanker has the capacity to hold roughly 1,100 gallons of fire retardant, the Global SuperTanker, a converted Boeing 747-400, can safely fly with 18,000 gallons.

The Camp fire, scorching 100,000 acres northeast of San Francisco, has become the most destructive in California’s modern history, killing at least 23 people and demolishing nearly the entire town of Paradise.

“We plan on being there until we’re released by Cal Fire,” Reese said.

The SuperTanker was already in state near Sacramento when the fires broke out, Reese said, since California fires often go later in the season.

Having such a large tanker at its disposal allows Cal Fire to use its smaller tankers in different locations. Without the SuperTanker, Reese said, the state would need to employ 15-16 tankers in the same spot.

“We definitely provide a bigger punch for line coverage,” Reese said. “But we’re not the end all be all. We’re here to assist.”

The California mission marks a stark change from this summer, when the SuperTanker sat unused on the runway at Colorado Springs Airport while wildfires ripped through large chunks of the state. The company lacked a contract to fight fire on federal land.


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