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The Evergreen Supertanker is a Boeing 747-200 commercial airliner that was modified into an aerial firefighting aircraft by Evergreen International Aviation. With a capacity of 24,000 US gallons, the Supertanker is the largest aerial firefighting aircraft in the world, almost doubling the capacity of the next largest firefighting tanker aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 known as Tanker 910. The Supertanker entered service for the first time in 2009, fighting a fire in Cuenca, Spain. The tanker made its first American operation on August 31, 2009 at the Oak Glen Fire. Development started after the 2002 fire season, which saw the fatal crashes of two airtankers in the USA. The accidents, involving a Lockheed C-130A Hercules and a Consolidated PB4Y-2, prompted the U.S. Department of Interior to issue an official Request for Information on next-generation airtankers. Evergreen proposed to convert up to four of its Boeing 747-200 Freighters into massive 'Supertankers'. The first converted Boeing 747 (N470EV) made its maiden flight on February 19, 2004. The current Supertanker is N479EV, a 747-100. By June 2006, Evergreen had spent $40 million on the project and was hopeful of both FAA certification, and an evaluation contract from the US Forest Service. An issue that impacted usage by the Forest Service was the USFS requirement for using fire retardant rather than water. When Evergreen attempted to convert the system from water dispensing to retardant, they encountered objections from the FAA. The FAA's issue related to the much greater density of fire retardant and the corresponding increased stress on the airframe thus delaying the FAA certification. The FAA determined that the Supertanker's service life would be much less and raised concerns about dangers of stress during firefighting operations and heavy weight maneuvering. The Supertanker can operate from any aerodrome with an 8,000ft long runway and suitable facilities. Evergreen has identified several airports across the US and claim that 80% of US airports meet or exceed the criteria. Currently the first tanker in North America is under a CWN (call when needed) contract with Cal Fire and is stationed at McClellan Field outside of Sacramento, California. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]
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