Supertanker 747 prepared to help battle oil spill - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Supertanker 747 prepared to help battle oil spill

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A 747 super tanker airplane is on stand-by at the Gulfport airport.

The specially-equipped aircraft is primarily used to battle large wildfires, but it may be called into service by BP to help spray dispersants on the oil spill.

The Evergreen Supertanker is based in Oregon.  Although the 747 looks like a large passenger jet outside, the inside tells a different story. Rows of pressurized tanks can deploy 20,000 gallons of chemicals from the air.

"This set of tanks goes to two nozzles, this set of tanks goes to two nozzles," company vice president Rick Campfield explained, as he showed visitors the inner workings of the specialty aircraft.

Campfield said the aircraft was designed to battle large wildfires.  And just as the supertanker can drop 20,000 gallons of fire suppressant on the forest, it could also deploy an equal amount of dispersant on oily gulf waters.

"Because of its pressurized system, we can also loiter and have sustained drops and segmented drops, which means, much like an aerosol can, you can start and stop at any time. So, we don't have to deploy the entire thing at once. We can deploy a patch, circle, loiter and then come back and lay another path, based on what is called for or needed from the air command," said Campfield.

BP is currently using two C-130's to spray dispersant in the gulf.  One advantage of the supertanker is the ability to lay down a much larger swath.

"This aircraft at about 150 to 200 feet can spread a 200 foot wide path about 350 miles long of chemical. So that equates to about 7300 acres," Campfield said.

The Evergreen Supertanker has not been contracted by BP just yet. But company leaders are hopeful and ready.

"Our purpose here is really staging the aircraft. Being prepared and ready to go, so that when they do call, we're ready to rock and roll and get to the scene quickly," Campfield said.

Even if BP decides not to use the plane to spray dispersants on the oil spill, Campfield said the supertanker could also be used as a transport plane to bring large volumes of chemical dispersant to the gulf coast.

"We're prepared at any moment's notice to take off and support," he said.

Campfield said the company is currently in discussions with BP, the Coast Guard and the Air Force about the capability and availability of the Evergreen Supertanker.

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