The Spirit of John Muir is the world’s largest aerial firefighting asset. the B-747 can fly 600 miles per hour for long ranges at efficient altitudes, reaching and combating many locations which other water-bombing planes cannot. The Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) has almost twice the capacity of the next biggest aerial tanker. It can carry 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant which can be released in single or multiple drops at variable rates. That allows the plane to deliver its payload in a tailored response to the firefighting needs.
The SuperTanker can sweep as low as 200 to 250 feet above the ground to douse the flames, and, in the case of Bolivia’s fires, it has been dropping more than 19,000 gallons of water during each flight.
The Spirit of John Muir is a conversion from a JAL passenger aircraft and which was then retrofitted as an Evergreen International (now bankrupt) freighter. Because of large fuselage and interior capacity, there are eight pressurized tanks that, combined, can hold up to 20,000 gallons of water or fire-retardant chemicals. The liquids can be pumped out through four individual openings in the hull which can either be emptied simultaneously with great force or discharged more slowly to create artificial rain.
Bolivia just got a huge helping hand, an aircraft dropping around 19,000 gallons of retardant per trip, in the fight to keep raging fires in the Amazon rainforest at bay. Viru Viru International Airport near Santa Cruz de la Sierra is Bolivia’s most important airport. From the end of last week a red and white jumbo jet is taking off up to four times a day from the 3.5-kilometer-long runway.
Colorado-based Global SuperTanker conduct firefighting missions over part of Bolivia’s portion of the rainforest, the company announced.
Bolivian President Evo Morales tweeted earlier this week that he ordered the hiring of a Boeing 747 SuperTanker to help the firefighting effort in the Chiquitania region.
“The Supertanker and our helicopters work to put out the fire,” the President wrote. “I appreciate the efforts of so many compatriots, men and women, who work on this hard task. We face this battle against fire together
Dan Reese, president of Global SuperTanker, traveled to South America as part of a 14-person team to battle the fires in Bolivia. He explained “the difference here is the sheer numbers of fires and the volume of fires on the ground.” Many of the fires are unstaffed because there simply aren’t enough firefighters to battle the blazes. are “an unbelievable number of fires” in the Amazon and his company is part of the response. The company said Saturday it had completed three sorties and was preparing for a fourth.
“We really didn’t know what to expect down here,” says Reese. While the mechanics of operating the SuperTanker don’t change from one fire to the next,
There are other assets involved but the Spirit of John Muir is the largest and hopefully the most effective.
The Tragedy that is being fought
The Amazon, which spans across eight countries and covers 40% of South America, produces 20% of earth’s oxygen. The National Institute for Space Research, Brazil’s space research center, collected data that shows an 80% increase in wildfires for the country this year compared to last. This year’s increase in blazes has ravaged Brazil and surrounding countries with smoke.
John Muir and his namesake airplane are flying hard to save this global environmental asset.
 The B747 was named for John Muir, April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914) also known as “John of the Mountains” and “Father of the National Parks”, was an influential Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States of America. He co-founded the Sierra Club.
 By comparison, firefighting C-130 aircraft can carry up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant.
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