Watch the 747 SuperTanker Fight California Wildfires

Oct 10, 2017

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The deadly wildfires raging in California are still blazing, with more than 20,000 people evacuated, at least 1,500 structures destroyed and 100 people in the hospital with fire-related injuries — and 10 dead.

There’s a long way to go to put out the fires, but now the firefighters have serious air support. The biggest you can get, in fact.

Capable of dumping 19,600 gallons — nearly double its closest aerial firefighting colleague — of water or fire retardant, the world’s only Boeing 747 SuperTanker is in Sacramento and is running missions over the California fires.

On Monday alone, the one-of-its-kind aircraft performed six missions to dump fire retardant over threatened areas. One of these was recorded by the local ABC station:

Originally built as a passenger jet for Japan Airlines (registration JA8086), the 26-year old 747-400 was converted into a supertanker and re-registered as N492EV in 2012. In January 2016, the aircraft was re-registered yet again with the tail number it bears today, N744ST — a fitting registration for the 747-400 (744) SuperTanker (ST).

Not only does the supertanker have incredibly large tanks — 4 to 6 times larger than the other aircraft contracted by California to fight these fires — it also is able to refill and take off for its next mission in a hurry. It’s reportedly able to refill in just 30 minutes, and we can see on FlightRadar24 that the aircraft was on the ground an average of just 60 minutes between its six flights:

N744ST FlightRadar24 misionsNicknamed The Spirit of John Muir, after the great naturalist, the SuperTanker is now deployed to fight fires affecting Muir’s beloved redwoods, right around the corner from Muir Woods National Monument.

Here’s a video of a test run by the incredible aircraft:

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