The same kind of airplane that has transported U.S. presidents, rock bands and countless passengers all over the world will soon have another claim to fame.
A modified 747-400 freighter is about join the firefighting ranks. With the capacity to carry nearly 20,000 gallons of water, fire retardant, gel or foam, it’s the first 747-400 to be used for that purpose.
A converted 747-400 freighter stands ready to fight fires around the world. Marian Lockhart photo.
This particular airplane rolled out of our Everett factory in November 1991 as a passenger jet, and later became a Boeing-converted freighter. It was in Seattle this week after a few days of water-drop testing near Moses Lake.
Pending certification by the FAA next month, it will be the only 747 tackling blazes around the world. Because of its size and its speed, the 747 can reach almost anywhere in North America within 4 and a half hours. And it can fly anywhere in the world in 20 hours with just a single fuel stop.
Bob Soelberg of Global SuperTankers shows off the 10 independent tanks housed in the 747-400. Marian Lockhart photo.
“It’s basically a big spray can,” said Bob Soelberg, senior vice president and general manager of Global SuperTankers of Colorado Springs, Colo., which operates the airplane. “Its wings are bigger and its engine more powerful than anything else out there fighting fires today.”
The airplane is equipped with 10 tanks, each with identical systems that can operate independent of one another. The airplane can deliver single or multiple drops of water or fire retardant that can be released at variable rates, producing a tailored response for various fires.
You can see the airplane in action in this video.