By john on Mar 22, 2007
I recently visited the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos and bumped into a pilot who used to fly for United but now has a new, and much more interesting, job flying 747s to extinguish forest fires.
I couldn't believe it. As a kid I spent two summers fighting fires for the Alberta Forest Service and was frequently awed when a DC3 would come hurling out of nowhere just a few dozen feet above the tops of the trees around me.
But that was a DC3. This guy was talking about 747s.
A 747 has some big advantages over a DC3. It has much longer range, and can travel to longer distances in shorter times, resulting in improved response times. And of course a 747 holds more fire retardant. Seven times as much in fact.
The pilot (Buddy) told me that holding tank is 24000 gallons, which can be filled in 30 minutes using a special pumper truck. But get this, they can dispense those 24000 gallons in just ten seconds. And they can do so flying 200 feet above the tree tops.
Just don't ask how many acres of forest go up in flames if one of these puppies fails to negotiate a turn.