This January the village of Llico, a community southwest of the Chilean capital of Santiago, was in danger of being engulfed in the flames of the largest wildfire in Chile’s history. However, thanks to the work of the Colorado Springs-based Global SuperTanker, the whole situation changed. Setting a world record for liquid dropped by an aerial tanker in a single day—134,400 gallons—the world’s largest and fastest firefighting plane helped save the village and the lives of the five firefighters.
Operations like this one are standard protocol for the Global SuperTanker, the world’s largest, fastest and longest-range firefighting plane. With the capability to unleash 19,200 gallons of water, fire retardant, gel or foam on a 3 kilometer-long swath of land, the Global SuperTanker can fly almost anywhere in the world in under 20 hours.
Global SuperTanker is based at the Colorado Springs Airport, an ideal home and partner for the company in terms of both its resources and its central location—which allows for a flight anywhere in the U.S. in 4.5 hours or less. The company also benefits from the Commercial Aeronautical Zone, which recognizes significant tax incentives for aeronautical businesses and is one of many measures that make Colorado Springs one of the nation’s top cities for business.
Key SuperTanker Facts
The B747-400 SuperTanker plane has a dash speed of up to 600 miles per hour, but equally important is its ability to slow down to 145 miles per hour over a fire. With its signature drop system, SuperTanker can also fly as low as 200 feet to drop fire suppressant—which is key in getting maximum impact on dense fires.
Beyond its sheer firefighting power (or perhaps because of it), Global SuperTanker dazzles in its firefighting efficiency. One load of firefighting material from Global SuperTanker equates to six loads from traditional firebomber planes–the kind often deployed to fight Colorado’s recent summer wildfires.
Why is Global SuperTanker Important?
According to the U.S. Forest Service, fire seasons are approximately 20 percent longer today than they were 30 years ago. The world’s burnable surface is increasing, and longer fire seasons mean more costly damage to forests, property and people.
Colorado has seen firsthand the destruction that wildfires, such as 2012’s Waldo Canyon and High Park Fires, can cause. But the problem is hardly limited to Colorado, or to five years ago—65,575 fires destroyed 5,446,520 acres across the nation in 2016.
After receiving clearance to fly from the FAA on September 12, 2016, Global SuperTanker wasted no time in getting to work. On Thanksgiving Day, the plane set out on a mission to Haifa, Israel, helping fight a devastating blaze in Israel’s third-largest city. The fire had evacuated tens of thousands from their homes.
Just two months later—and one month after receiving another key FAA license to fight fires on federal land—the SuperTanker was back in the fight, helping to save lives and villages in its mission to Chile.