DENVER (AP) — As Western states prepare for this year’s wildfire season, the world’s largest firefighting plane has been grounded.
But the plane could be converted to help fight against another crisis — the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said Friday the state's Department of Natural Resources was alerted to the shutdown of the Global SuperTanker.
The decision to cease the SuperTanker's operations was first reported by Fire Aviation. The industry website reported an email sent this week to officials in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the U.S. government that the investor group that owns the plane was shutting it down.
Alterna Capital Partners LLC has funded the SuperTanker's operations since 2016 and decided to ground it on April 19. Roger Miller, managing director at the investment firm, says they have received several offers to buy it as a freight carrier aircraft because of the need for delivering personal protective equipment and vaccines.
The firm says it's open to selling it to potential investors who want to continue the SuperTanker for wildfire response.
Caley Pruitt with the Colorado Division Fire Prevention & Control (DFPC) said the 747 has never flown on a wildfire in Colorado.
The division has contracted and owns aircraft and crews ready to fight any Colorado wildfire, Pruitt said.
"Additionally, the signing of Senate Bill 21-049 increases the number of days existing DFPC SEATs (single-engine air tankers) and helicopters are under contract, provides funds for a state-contracted Large Air Tanker (LAT), a state-contracted Type 1 helicopter and provides additional funding and resources so that DFPC can better support Fire Departments and Counties during the early stages of a wildfire incident," she added. "All in all, DFPC and our federal and local partners are ready to serve and safeguard the people, and protect the property, resources, environment and quality of life in Colorado."