Converted 747 Now Largest Firefighter

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A Boeing B747-400 that has been converted to an aerial firefighting tanker is ready to enter service, Global SuperTanker Services has announced. The airplane, christened Spirit of John Muir, will be based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. From there, it can be deployed at speeds up to 600 mph to reach wildfires almost anywhere in the continental U.S. within 4.5 hours, or anywhere worldwide within 20 hours. It can deliver nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant per flight, almost twice the capacity of the next-biggest tanker. The airplane is operated by Global SuperTanker, which is owned by Cyterna Air.

The airplane's firefighting gear is the same system that was used by Evergreen International, which operated a smaller 747-100 in its fleet from about 2009 to 2013, when the company declared bankruptcy. Two separate, but identical, constant-flow pressurized systems allow for continuous discharge or up to eight separate drops. The system can deploy retardant, gel, foam, water, or the combination of any two of those agents. Ground servicing for the next sortie can be completed in 35 minutes or less. The cabin is configured with 14 first-class seats and two bunks for support staff and flight crew. The John Muir will perform a flyby in front of invited guests, press and government officials on Thursday, in Colorado Springs. This video was posted by the company today.

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