Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Largest firefighting plane may be sold for COVID-19 response

As Western states prepare for this year’s wildfire season, the world’s largest firefighting plane has been grounded and could be converted to help fight against another crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. After investing tens of millions into upgrading the Global SuperTanker and its technology, the revenue coming mostly from contracts with the U.S. government and California did not produce enough profit for the company to continue the funding the tanker, said Roger Miller, managing director at Alterna Capital Partners LLC, the investment company that owns the plane. Alterna’s decision to ground the SuperTanker was made on April 19, according to the firm, which had funded the plane’s operations and upgrades since 2016. Since the announcement, the Connecticut-based firm has received several offers to buy the SuperTanker and turn it into a freight carrier aircraft, Miller said. “The COVID crisis has led to a huge boom in the aircraft freighter market flying around PPE, flying around vaccines, just all the stuff that you can’t afford to put on a ship and wait 45 days to get,” Miller said...In 2020, the federal government and state agencies dropped over 56 million gallons (211,983,060 liters) of retardant, which costs on average $3.10 per gallon, according to the National Interagency Fire Center...Other Very Large Airtankers can carry up to 8,000 gallons (30,283 liters) of fire retardant, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The Global SuperTanker can dump up to 19,200 gallons (72,678 liters) of water or flame retardant in six seconds and fly as low as 200 feet (61 meters) above the ground to do its work. It can be refilled in just 13 minutes...MORE

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