The world's largest fire fighting aircraft touched
down in Boise today giving onlookers a very visual
demonstration. The Evergreen 747 Supertanker will be
ready to hit hot zones this summer, but it won't come
Evergreen International Aviation's nationwide tour of
their 747 includes just five states, and including Boise
as one of the stops was no coincidence. Evergreen's
primary customer is the U.S. Forest Service, which
operates out of the Northwest Interagency Fire Center.
"Fabulous..." were the echoes from
the crowd gathered south of the Boise Airport for a
demonstration. The plane dropped thousands of gallons of
water over sage brush in a water drop that took almost a
minute to fully empty. But the size of the plane alone
was enough to wow anyone looking to the skies over Boise
It's not often a 747 flies into the city. Short of a
presidential visit, jumbo jets don't land here. That's
partly why Ron and Ruth Mahurin drove almost two hundred
miles from Slate Creek to see this supertanker do it's
"We wanted to come and see how this plane
worked and to actually see it in person," said
Ruth Mahurin after watching the display and viewing
inside the aircraft. But the 747 impressed more than
just the public.
"What you have with one aircraft over the
fire is the equivalent of seven of the old
tankers," said Pat Norbury of the advantages
the 747 brings to fire fighting. Norbury works with the
Forest Service in Aviation Operations.
Current tankers used to fight fire hold only three
thousand gallons. The 747 can hold more than 20 thousand
thousand gallons of water or retardant. It can also make
multiple drops in different locations on one load and it
can carry both water and retardant in different
But some feared the giant plane was too big to
maneuver over fires and fly low and slow over
"None of that has proven to be true and this
demonstration this morning conclusively showed that it's
capable of the altitudes and the speeds that we could
utilize it," said Norbury.
So could we be seeing the behemoth in Boise more
"I think what it's going to come down to is
what is it going to cost and what is the value to
us," said Norbury.
What it would cost to contract out the plane is still
a tightly guarded secret, but Evergreen says getting to
a fire at 600 miles an hour with seven times the
capacity is worth it. The company devoted three years to
developing the plane for fire suppression and other
aerial application uses. They see it as being a tool for
oil spill cleanup, chemical application, and even
weather modification, broadening the market and, they
say, possibly lowering the overall costs.
"We're very confident [in the plane's
success] we've invested 40 million dollars of our own
company's money," said Jim Dineen, Vice
President for Evergreen Operations.
"You know we live in a part of the country
where we have lots of forest fires and something like
this could be fantastic," said Mahurin. And
that prospect got people in Boise excited even if only
for a day.
Dineen says the supertanker will be fully certified
and ready to fly over fires August first and although
the company has been in close contact with the Forest
Service here to negotiate a contract price, no numbers
are being released. Officials from Evergreen tell CBS 2
News they're keeping the numbers under wrap because
they're still in the negotiating process.
However, you can bet that no matter the specific
numbers, this addition would be the most expensive tool
in the Interagency Fire Center's fire fighting tool box
if a contract is reached.