CFA Update: Why isn't the SuperTanker being used to fight the fire?

Published: Jul. 11, 2016 at 11:39 PM MDT
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UPDATE (7/12):

We have new information about when the Global SuperTanker, housed at the Colorado Springs Airport, could be helping out with wildfires.

We told you Monday, the plane is not certified yet with the FAA. The FAA got back to us Tuesday and told us the plane should be certified by sometime next week.

"They've got to go through everything that was done on that airplane to certify it," said Jim Wheeler, the president and CEO of Global SuperTanker.

Wheeler tells us the plane could be helping fight wildfires in two to four weeks.

But, like we told you, it can’t help with fires like the Hayden Pass Fire, which is on U.S. Forest Service land.

"It can't have a contract until it's certified,” said Wheeler. “So there is no contract with the Forest Service today."

Wheeler says they hope to help out anywhere they can in the U.S. and overseas.

Like we told you, the SuperTanker is in Arizona right now getting repaired for hail damage.

The Forest Service tells 11 News they have four airtankers stationed in Colorado right now. Another airtanker is being repaired after the wingtip hit a hangar in Pueblo over the weekend. The Forest Service says it’s expected to be out of service for a couple of weeks.


PREVIOUS (7/11):

A lot of you have been calling us wondering why the Global SuperTanker is not helping out with the Hayden Pass Fire, which is west of Canon City. And what about the C-130s that are stationed at Peterson Air Force Base that can drop fire slurry? We've seen them do it in the past.

We are digging to find the answers in this 11 Call For Action investigation.

The Global SuperTanker is supposed to be housed at the Colorado Springs Airport. But right now it's in Arizona being repaired for hail damage from recent storms.

We found out the plane doesn't have its certification yet from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). That means right now, it can't be used to fight fires.

"To have a resource like this where we'll be able to utilize it -- I don't doubt that we will save lives at some point using this," said Gov. John Hickenlooper.

That's what the governor had to say about the Global SuperTanker about two months ago when the plane made its new home at the Colorado Springs Airport.

Right now, the plane -- capable of dumping 20,000 gallons of retardant -- is sitting idle.

"It's killing me," said Jim Wheeler, the president and CEO of Global SuperTanker. "We're still awaiting the certification from the FAA. ... I've been expecting the answer any day now."

But, 11 News found out that even if the plane was certified, it couldn't be used for the Hayden Pass Fire -- or any fire on Forest Service land.

"The SuperTanker is currently not on a contract with the U.S. Forest Service to provide air tanker services," said Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service.

Jones says the next time that can be up for discussion is next year.

Wheeler tells us the plane can be used on state land once it's certified.

A lot of you are also wondering why the C-130s at Peterson Air Force Base that have firefighting equipment (also known as MAFFS) haven't been asked to help out.

"We've got 20 commercial airtankers on exclusive use contract with the Forest Service this year – we're spending an average of around $26,000 per day, per aircraft to make those aircraft available to us," said Jones. "So as good stewards to the taxpayers' dollars, we need to make sure that we're using those aircraft first."

We reached out to the FAA to see when the certification for the SuperTanker could be completed. They said they would get back to us Tuesday. We'll let you know what we find out.

11 News asked when the C-130s could be called out. The Forest Service tells us it depends on the fire activity across the country this week.

Peterson tells us if they are called upon, they can have the C-130s ready to go in just hours.