COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 5, 2016 /CNW/ -- The world's largest, fastest, and longest-range aerial firefighting asset celebrated its official homecoming in Colorado Springs this morning.
Global SuperTanker Services, LLC's Spirit of John Muir dazzled nearly 300 guests with a low fly by, at just 400 feet, and a demonstration drop of nearly 10,000 gallons of water. The converted 747-400, a Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), will be soon be available to the hardworking men and women of the U.S. Forest Service and emergency responders across the country as they continue to fight the ever-growing threat of wildfires.
Following the drop, John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado; Doug Lamborn, U.S. Representative for Colorado's 5th Congressional District; and John Suthers, Mayor of Colorado Springs, addressed a crowd of aviation, firefighting, and U.S. Forest Service leaders. Global SuperTanker executives, including CEO Jim Wheeler, also spoke, as did Harry Toll of Alterna Capital LLC, Global SuperTanker's shareholder.
Marking the occasion, Governor John Hickenlooper stated, "The Spirit of John Muir is an important new asset supporting the men and women engaged in the herculean task of firefighting. We are pleased it is based here in Colorado. It represents a significant opportunity and will be an unparalleled asset in combatting fire around the world."
2015 was one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in American history, with more than 10 million acres of land burned and billions of dollars of damage inflicted on homes and property. The U.S. Forest Service has warned that this record may not stand for long: fire seasons are starting earlier and burning longer every year. Already in 2016, millions of lives and livelihoods have been threatened by serious fires in Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kansas: elsewhere in North America, wildfire rages in Alberta.
The Spirit of John Muir is the world's youngest VLAT, and has almost twice the capacity of the next biggest aerial tanker. The John Muir is capable of delivering single or multiple drops of nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, either of which can be released at variable rates, producing a tailored response to the firefighting need.
Congressman Lamborn said, "Thank you to President Jim Wheeler and the entire team for your willingness to step forward and provide this fantastic aircraft that will help protect lives and property all over the world."
"The Spirit of John Muir differs from other firefighting planes not just because it is capable of variable rate drops," said Jim Wheeler, President and CEO of Global SuperTanker, "as the world's largest aerial firefighting asset, the John Muir can fly 600 miles per hour for long ranges at efficient altitudes, reaching and combatting any fire in the Western U.S. in less than three hours."
"The converted 747 can stand ready on the ramp at its home-base, Colorado Springs, fully loaded and able to respond on very short notice," continued Wheeler.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers commented at the launch, "We are honored to serve as the home for this firefighting resource, and are appreciative that the John Muir has chosen Colorado Springs Airport as its home. Having witnessed several devastating wildfire events in and around our city, I know I speak for the residents, our fire department, and people across the region when I say, we are very glad to have this resource headquartered here. Further, the arrival of this global supertanker is yet another nod to our growing airport operations."
The Spirit of John Muir's firefighting scope isn't limited to the U.S.: from Colorado Springs, the plane can fly anywhere in the world in under 20 hours. "Longer and more destructive fire seasons are a global problem, and Global SuperTanker can deliver a global, rapid solution," CEO of Global Super Tankers Jim Wheeler noted.
Wheeler, an experienced leader in the logistics and transportation fields, heads a respected and experienced team: Global SuperTanker's management brings together a combined 259 years of aviation and related wildfire fighting experience.
"The proven technology behind the Spirit of John Muir could not have been implemented without the immensely talented team at Global SuperTanker, as well as the support of the state of Colorado and city of Colorado Springs," said Harry Toll, Managing Partner of Alterna Capital Partners LLC, whose portfolio company, Cyterna Air, LLC, owns Global SuperTanker.
"Fighting wildfires has many similarities to a military operation. The frontline ground teams and smokejumpers, incident management, support teams and equipment, and range of air assets, including different types and sizes of helicopter and fixed wing aircraft, all work together to fight as a team, protecting people, forests, and property. We are proud to be able to add a more powerful tool to support them when needed," continued Toll.
Attachment: Video footage of the Spirit of John Muir performing a fly by and water drop.
For more information about the launch of the Spirit of John Muir in Colorado Springs on May 5th and/or about Global SuperTanker Services, LLC, please contact Moira Whalen. [email protected] (203.299.7696)
SOURCE Global SuperTanker Services, LLC