Colorado Springs-based supertanker needs federal clearance before it can help combat wildfires

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) As wildfires rage throughout Colorado and the western United States, some have asked why the massive tanker housed at the Colorado Springs Airport has not been brought in to help.

The owners of the world's largest firefighting aircraft, a Boeing 747-400 outfitted with tanks that can hold nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, are awaiting clearance from federal regulators to use the jumbo jet to combat wildfires, but approval is "imminent," said Jim Wheeler, CEO of Colorado Springs Global SuperTanker LLC.

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"We don't know where we might be sent once we get approved because we don't know where the fires might be then, but there are two pretty big fires in Colorado right now," Wheeler said, referring to the Cold Spring fire near Boulder and the Hayden Pass fire near Coaldale.

The aircraft is undergoing routine maintenance and could return to the Springs by the end of the week, he said.