Reloading a Boeing 747 'Supertanker' firefighting plane
November 16, 2018 5:42 AM   Subscribe

In coverage of the recent fires in California you may have seen a Boeing 747 being used to drop fire retardant. Here's a behind the scenes look at how a 747 and DC-10 are refuelled and reloaded during firefighting operations, along with some insight into how the retardent equipment functions. The turnaround is very fast.
posted by carter (22 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Here's the patent for the 747 system.
posted by carter at 6:24 AM on November 16, 2018

That's fascinating. Thanks for posting.

I wonder just how much more efficient it is to use these larger planes vs. a fleet of smaller ones that maybe can be turned around faster. Or is the advantage that these planes can drop retardant in one giant area so the firefighters can then get in and clear it?

Interesting too that these are a relatively new development in firefighting. This company was only started in 2002.

I imaging flying a 747 150 feet over a fire and dropping a load of retardant is a skill that most pilots don't learn in 747 101. That's gotta take some stones.
posted by bondcliff at 6:55 AM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

A 15-minute turnaround on the DC-10 is pretty damned impressive.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:09 AM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think the advantage to smaller planes is more that they'd be able to operate from airfields closer to the fire. If the planes are all flying the same distance to the fire then the bigger plane is more efficient. He said the 19000-gallon 747 could make about 4 trips and the 9000-gallon DC-10 could make 5-6, and that works out to 76000 gallons per day vs 45000-54000 gallons per day.
posted by ckape at 8:47 AM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was watching some of the footage where there was a large wind driven fire right next to a subdivision. It seemed like the firefighters really needed to saturate that area with a lot of retardant ASAP.
posted by carter at 9:43 AM on November 16, 2018

I think the advantage to smaller planes is more that they'd be able to operate from airfields closer to the fire.

This. CalFIRE has certain airfields and spaces where they can access and load up the big planes, but they're often a long way from the fire. We don't have a lot of airfields large enough to handle a 747 in NorCal. The airport in my town can't even handle a 10 passenger private jet.

Also I think helitacks are used more often than even the smaller planes because they're more maneuverable.

Here's more info about the 747 SuperTanker, which we just got last year.

Wikipedia article on aerial firefighting.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:10 AM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Priceonomics article on the effectiveness & tactics for aerial firefighting. The media optics component is interesting, but also the use-cases for large vs small planes/helicopters.
posted by phigmov at 10:16 AM on November 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Shouldn't those mixing guys have masks?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:50 AM on November 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Great video, thank you.

These large tankers have replaced the old school Martin Mars flying boats that my father test flew.

Much appreciation to the AF peeps at McClellan for keeping these tankers in the air.
posted by pdoege at 4:15 PM on November 16, 2018

For quick reloading, I don't think you can beat the Canadair 415, the "Super Scooper."
posted by Marky at 7:38 PM on November 16, 2018

How the rich will survive the climate catastrophe

It gets worse: Survival of the Richest: The wealthy are plotting to leave us behind
posted by homunculus at 7:42 PM on November 16, 2018

SF DSA has been handed out masks all day “We’ve got the city of San Francisco sending people our way for breathing masks. This is why mutual aid has a solid place in our organizing. When austerity destroys the capitalist state’s ability to provide for people, they’re gonna look somewhere. We have to be there for them”
posted by The Whelk at 8:07 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones:
There are between 600-1000 people missing in the Camp Fire. It's been 8 days. Let that sink in.

If 1000 people were missing and presumed dead on the East Coast there'd be wall-to-wall coverage.

We can hope that some people may just not have connected with authorities and their families. But it's been eight days. Eight.
I agree with her; it's shocking how little attention this is getting by the media and folks on the East Coast. If a meteor hit New York and killed 500 people we'd see nothing else for a week. Serves us right for living in California, I guess.
posted by Justinian at 8:32 PM on November 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

From the face-eating leopard files:
“My kids lost everything. I voted for him – and now? He can kiss my red ass,” Ellsworth said. “What he said was ridiculous. It hurts my heart. A lot of us voted for him and he [talks] down to us?”
posted by Justinian at 2:26 AM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've got coworkers who are posting to FB about how great it was that he visited and what a great president he is and I am like...why did I move to this red-state hellhole?
posted by elsietheeel at 2:25 PM on November 18, 2018

New thread about Paradise and the Camp Fire: Please excuse the smoke...
posted by homunculus at 7:18 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

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