Letter To The Editor: A Solution to Fighting Forest Fires

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A solution to fighting forest fires

The concept is simple to understand. Using the concept of a crop sprayer aircraft, spraying insecticide on a crop and use this concept to fight forest fires. Instead of a 2,000 pound aircraft, you use an 800,000 pound aircraft like a 747 and you are spraying vast amounts of water on a forest fire.

To convert, one takes a used aircraft like a Boeing 747, removes all unnecessary items like seats, all interiors including insulation, ceiling material, storage bins, and even the carpet, leaving the interior essentially just skin and frames. Optional items that could be removed are the windows, window frames, (skin over the window holes) the air conditioning pacts, and more with cost being the deciding factor. The weight of the removed items can then be added to the maximum water weight possible.

Then after engineering analysis and the structure modifications are made, one installs the two 12 to 15 inch diameter spray booms through the fuselage and extending out each side of it. Each piece is about 20 feet long joined in the middle by a tee. There is plumbing connecting the huge pump, the boom and to the nozzles mounted through the bottom skin. Since the aircraft will only need a fuel range of around 1,000 miles, the extra unneeded tankage is converted to water tanks and change the plumbing accordingly. Next the water weight is calculated to bring the aircraft up to or near its design gross weight and then tankage for that capacity is added Finally other plumbing and controls are added.

Recognizing that the slower the airplane flies and the bigger the pump, the more water per square foot is distributed. The stall speed of a 747 is about 145 MPH, but if the pilot flies with full flaps and slats just during the spraying operation, the minimum safe flying speed is estimated at 120 MPH. An analysis assuming 120 MPH speed, a huge 15,000 GPM pump and a width of 60 feet will result in a calculated value of .05 inches of water. With enough passes, the fire can be totally extinguished and all from the air and probable in less than a day with no firefighters required on the ground. If they are able to extinguish all forest fires in their infancy, then there will be no more “major” forest fires. That will be wonderful!

This concept is magnitudes superior to any other system flying today.

Finally one recognizes that the 2018 fire season is not far off and if there is to be

enough of this equipment available in time, much has to be done. Time is critical. Urge the decision makers and others to make it happen.

One thing is for certain, if nothing changes, the 2018 fire season will be similar to the 2017, which was similar to the 2016, and on and on.

Joseph C. Coomer

Retired Aircraft Weight Engineer

Oak Harbor, Wash.

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