Watch Aerial Firefighting Aircraft Extinguish Flames from the Sky

Watch Aerial Firefighting Aircraft Extinguish Flames from the Sky

Aerial firefighting aircraft play an essential role in combating wildfires, and the crews that pilot them save countless lives every year across the globe.

With numerous fires raging across California, we thought we would share some stunning videos of the aircraft being used by the premier aerial firefighting force in the world: the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

McDonnell Douglas DC-10

DC-10s were active in the fight against the River Fire in California. When this blaze joined the Ranch Fire to become the Mendocino Complex Fire, it became the largest wildfire in California history. At over 283,800 acres, it has burned an area far larger than New York City—larger even than Los Angeles. CAL FIRE says it doesn’t expect the fire to be fully extinguished until September.

The modified DC-10 can drop 12,000 gallons of fire retardant. It’s the CAL FIRE workhorse, but they also have something much larger in their arsenal.

The Global Supertanker


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The Global Supertanker, a modified 747 airliner, is the largest aerial firefighting aircraft in the world. Its massive fuselage, which used to hold 600 passengers at a time, is now home to pressurized tanks that hold 19,000 gallons of retardant.

In one pass, it can lay a fire line of 1.5 miles. The Global Supertanker isn’t just the largest aerial firefighting aircraft in CAL FIRE’s fleet, it’s also the fastest. At 600 miles per hour, it can fly much faster than a traditional 747 airliner.

Meet the rest of the CAL FIRE Fleet

CAL FIRE currently has 23 air tankers, 11 helicopters and 14 air attack aircraft or tactical aircraft in service. The bulk of the fleet is made up of:

– Air attack aircraft (OV-10A “Bronco”) which are small planes that are used to coordinate with firefighters on the ground and to direct air tankers to the critical areas of the fire.

– Initial attack aircraft (Grumman S-2T) which are used to deliver a fast initial attack. They can drop 1,200 gallons of retardant and have a crew of one – the pilot.

Aerial firefighting aircraft come in all shapes and sizes

Wildfires crop up the world over, and private companies as well as municipal, state and federal governments use different aircraft to help them beat back the flames.

Fixed-wing aircraft, like those mentioned above, are filled with water or retardant at tanker bases and flown to the site of the fire. Amphibious aircraft, also called “scoopers,” are filled by skimming water from the surface of lakes and reservoirs.

Helicopters are also used around the world to control blazes, dropping water from specialized buckets and delivering supplies to firefighters on the ground.

About Aerospace Manufacturing

Aerospace Manufacturing is a AS9100 and ISO:9001 accredited manufacturer that is proud to manufacture high strength, close tolerance fasteners for Air Spray, one of the world’s oldest and most experienced private operators of aircraft for aerial wildfire suppression, as well as leading OEMs and aerospace organizations like Bombardier, DLA, Lockheed Martin and NAVICP.  

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