Global Supertanker returns from Chile, gives hope back to its citizens

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The world’s largest firefighting jet is back in Colorado Springs after its second deployment.

The Global Supertanker returned from  Chile Monday, February, 13, where it battled the worst forest fires the country has ever experienced.

After almost three weeks and a 10-hour flight back to Colorado Springs, the crew is tired yet happy to be home and also proud to now be world record holders but even more proud to have given Chileans something they thought was gone forever — hope.

Tom Parsons, one of the four captains on the Global Supertanker said, “When we arrived and went up and did our first sorties they were the worst fires that I’ve ever seen and I mean it was like a battlefield and there were I would say hundreds of fires.”

This crew has been fighting fires for years but they say being up close and personal with 800,000 acres of burning land is like nothing they’ve seen before.

“We saw a couple of them that were thousands and thousands of acres where the fronts of these fires looked like a rolling monster. They were massive,” said Captain Marcos Valdez.

While in Chile, the Global Supertanker also set a world record – more than 134,000 gallons in 7 drops – the most liquid dropped in a single day by a land-based aerial tanker.

It’s now fought fires in two different countries. The obvious question: when will the world’s greatest firefighting asset be deployed somewhere in the U.S.?

Last FOX21 spoke with President and CEO Jim Wheeler, the massive 747 was going through the Forest Service certification process. He’s happy to report they got interim approval and can now go anywhere in the world.

Wheeler said, “We’re ready willing and able and the door is open, all they need to do is call.”

Saving lives and land in Chile since January 25, the crew says what keeps them going is the people.

“We went to Chile, we knew nobody, when we left I think we knew everybody,” said Wheeler.

Each member of the Global Supertanker crew was presented with an Extraordinary Services Medal – the highest honor from the Red Cross in Chile.

Parsons said, “I mean [I] had one guy tell me, ‘It’s so good to have you here and you don’t understand you’re not only helping with the fires but you’ve changed the attitude of the entire nation’ and that was pretty cool.”

Wheeler also tells FOX21 they’re keeping an eye on the fires happening right now in Australia. He says they are ready to go if and when they’re asked.

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