Firefighters not planning for the return of Global SuperTanker

Both federal and state officials say there are adequate aviation resources in place to battle wildfires

A plane that led to iconic photos and grabbed onlookers’ attention during large wildfires may have fought its last blaze in the United States.

Both the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told FOX Weather that their organizations are planning to fight wildfires during the busy season without assistance from a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

The plane once operated by Global SuperTanker Services took to the skies in 2016 and helped fight numerous wildfires by dropping nearly 20,000 gallons of fire retardant at a time.

Operations were suspended in 2021, and since then, the plane with tail number N936CA has been spotted around the globe operating as a cargo jet for Orlando-based National Airlines.

The plane was recently seen delivering supplies to Ukraine before the height of hostilities.

Despite the change in ownership, a banner on the Global SuperTanker’s website reads "Returning to Service in 2022."

FOX Weather inquiries to the company have gone unanswered.

A U.S. Forest Service spokesperson said without the jumbo jet, the federal government has 18 large air tankers that are on exclusive use contracts and five additional large planes that will be available to be called on.


The amount large aviation tankers available for firefights is the same as in 2021, the year the SuperTanker exited service.

The absence of a Boeing 747-400 means the largest plane flying the skies over fires is the DC-10, with around only half the amount of retardant than the capabilities of the jumbo jet. 

Despite the loss of the capabilities, officials maintain they are ready to fight any wildfires that pop up during the 2022 fire season.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service told FOX Weather, "The USDA Forest Service, the Department of the Interior and our state and local cooperators have adequate aviation resources."