Sunday, June 29, 2008

More Help on the Way

The Martin Mars -- a flying boat built in 1946 that was first designed to be a long-range bomber for the U.S. Navy and is now used as a water bomber -- is set to land on Lake Shasta today and load up with water and start dropping it on the flurry of fires still blackening the north state's national forests, said Mike Odle, spokesman for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Along with the massive aircraft, which is under contract with the U.S. Forest Service out of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, will come a tanker truck and a support semi to Lake Shasta. Looking at a photo of the outfit, Odle said the plane dwarfs the trucks.

The bomber holds 7,200 gallons of water -- 60,000 pounds worth, enough to douse 3 to 4 acres -- Odle said, and carries enough fuel to keep flying for six hours. To reload, the plane lands and uses scoops on its fuselage to draw in water. The water is dropped on a fire after the plane, which is comparable to a Boeing 747 jumbo jet in size, swoops down to 150 to 200 feet.