Originally Published: April 28, 2018 5:53 a.m.
The Global Supertanker, a modified 747 jumbo jet that serves as the largest “slurry bomber” in the world, stands a better chance of being available to fight wildfires in Arizona and other states, after Arizona congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, District 9, on Thursday, April 26, offered an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that would direct the FAA to review and revamp the approval process for air tankers.
The amendment passed on a voice vote.
Last year, the 747, a Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), was not on the list of aircraft approved to fly for the U.S. Forest Service as wildfires tore through the West.
The state of California, where the wildland firefighting is controlled by a state agency, CalFire, and not the federal government, used the 747 to fight fires there last year,
The 747, if federally “certificated,” would join three modified DC-10s, operated by the 10 Tanker company, in being available for use in any state.
“Washington red tape and dysfunction shouldn’t make it harder for Arizona firefighters to protect our communities from wildfires,” said Sinema. “These planes belong in the air, defending Arizona homes and supporting our first responders, not on the tarmac awaiting Washington’s approval. I will continue working across the aisle to cut through the dysfunction and ensure our firefighters have the tools they need to keep Arizonans safe.”
The 747, owned and operated by Global Supertanker of Colorado Springs, is the largest air tanker by carrying capacity in the world. While traditional air tankers can hold up to 5,000 gallons of water or retardant, the Supertanker can drop over 19,000 gallons.
The President and CEO of Global Supertanker, Jim Wheeler, said, “Congresswoman Sinema is a tireless and effective advocate for the Supertanker. More than most, she understands the challenges we face and has been working to cut through the red tape so we can fight wildfires and protect communities in Arizona.
“Congresswoman Sinema’s amendment provides relief to the Forest Service by reducing bureaucracy and improving competitiveness that hampered efforts last fire season.”
There were 116 amendments to the FAA reauthorization bill, which was expected to pass the house Friday, April 27.
“After that, Congresswoman Sinema will work to make sure the Senate includes her provision in its version of the legislation,” said spokesman Nick Zeller. “The FAA bill has to be signed into law by September since the agency’s reauthorization runs out that month.”