The American ‘Evergreen 747 Super Tanker’ fire-fighting plane began its mission over the Carmel fire Sunday morning in the area of Ein Hod. The IDF Spokesman said the aircraft was carrying 21,000 gallons of water and fire retardant.
The plane’s crew was joined by two IAF pilots and the commander of the Nevatim Air Force Base, Brig.-Gen Eden Attias.
The Evergreen Supertanker is a Boeing 747-200 that was modified into an aerial firefighting aircraft by the Evergreen International Aviation Corporation. With a capacity of 24,000 US gallons (almost 95,000 liters), it is twice as large as the next-largest fire-fighting airplane. It was rented by Israel at the instructions of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Until ten years ago, Israel’s aircraft of choice for fighting fires was the C-47 Sikorsky helicopter, which can carry over 10,000 liters of water and fire retardant. In the year 2000, however, the IAF’s commander ordered the helicopters to cease participating in firefighting missions after cracks were discovered in the helicopters’ transmissions following firefighting missions.
Experts said at the time that another reason for the decision was a lack of funding for using the helicopters in this way.
In the years since 2000, Israel has made do with the Air Tractor AT-402 firefighting planes, manufactured in 1980. The Air Tractors are small agricultural planes that can carry up to 1,900 liters of fire retardant and water.
Close to a dozen countries have sent aircraft to assist in fighting the present blaze.
The first to arrive were Canadair CL-415 amphibian planes sent by Greece and Turkey. These can carry up to 6,150 liters of water and can refill their tanks at sea, saving the need for refilling at an airstrip.
Britain sent a Lynx firefighting helicopter that was stationed in Cyprus and can carry up to 500 liters of water.
Other aircraft that have either arrived or are on their way from different countries are the huge Russian IL-76MT Ilyushin transports, which can carry 42 tons of liquid, the BE200 amphibious plane and the MI-26 transport helicopter.