When you think of the world’s biggest fire truck, you may conjure images of a large red vehicle with lots of flashing lights and ladders. But when I think of the world’s largest fire truck, the only ladder I think about of is the one with the 12 steps that lead to the upper deck of the Boeing 747-446 Global Supertanker.
Just for a little fun here is a short comparison: The Rosenbauer Panther is one of the largest airport fire trucks in existence here are some of its stats in comparison to the Supertanker:
|Top Speed (MPH)||85||600|
|Extinguishing Agent (Litres)||19,000||70,000|
|Delivery System (Litres/Minute)||10,000||22,000|
The Global Supertanker started life as a standard passenger Boeing 747-446 with Japan Airlines (JA8086). It was converted by Evergreen to a supertanker to replace their ageing 747-100 tanker, when the company went into liquidation in December 2013. In August 2015, a new entity called Global Supertanker Services emerged and bought all of the physical assets of the previous Evergreen operation.
Global Supertanker Services removed the tanks and dispersant system from the -100 and fitted it to the -400. After certification in September 2016, the Boeing 747-446 (tail number 944 – N744ST) was first deployed in Chile and then Israel later that year, before making its first appearance on home soil in the United States to fight California wildfires in 2017.
The aircraft is based in Colorado Springs, CO as this location allows the airplane to respond quickly to the areas in the United States traditionally blighted by wildfires. However, it was also chosen as the airport has great support facilities for a specialist aircraft of this size. This base allows it be anywhere in the United States within 3 hours and globally within about 20 hours.
When in firefighting mode, the aircraft configures for a landing (without gear) and descends to an altitude of about 400-800 feet over the target area. The aircraft has a smart dispersal system and can produce concentrated retardant under high pressure to target specific areas or lower pressure, similar to heavy rain, to cover an area 3 miles long and 150 ft wide.
This is by far the largest “fire truck” a chief can bring to a fire!