The Beriev Be-200 Altair is a well-known tanker aircraft, used for firefighting. It may not be pretty, but the Russian-designed plane can drop 3,170 gallons of water on a blaze in one second. Now that Colorado is looking for a fleet of firefighting planes, an agreement has been made to build the Be-200 on U.S. soil.
Be-200 pic by Bob Wood on Flickr (CC Commercial License)
They have been used to fight fires in several countries, including Azerbaijan, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Portugal and Russia. After successful operation around the world, USA Firefighting Air Corps (USAFAC) said they signed a collaboration agreement with California-based International Emergency Services, Inc. (IES) to develop a U.S.-built Beriev Be-200 in Colorado.
The twin jet-engined, amphibious Altair first entered service in 2003 with the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations. It can scoop its aquatic payload from the surface while flying at 90-95 percent of its takeoff speed. Its cabin is air conditioned and pressurized, and can be configured to seat up to 72 people. It has a fly-by-wire cockpit, as well as GPS, FMS, autopilot and weather radar.
In the summer of 2012, Colorado was hit by fourteen major wildfires — the result of having received just thirteen percent of their average winter precipitation. Temperatures topping 100 degrees, with humidity levels in the single digits turned the state's dry forests into kindling. The combined fires burned hundreds of thousands of acres of land, and forced the evacuation of over 34,500 residents.
Top image via Aleksander Markin on Flickr (CC Commercial License)