HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW)- Air Tanker 95 can hold 800 gallons of water and it’s already helping firefighters and the Kansas Forest Service manage wildfires in Kansas.
For the first time, the tanker showed what it was capable of to the public at Hutchinson Airport.
In a matter of seconds, the pilot can drop down more water than is held by a single brush truck, which will help fire crews in their battle against time and flames.
“It’s going to support local fire departments for those days when fires just may exceed what they can handle,” said Rodney Redinger with Kansas Forest Service. “Or if they just need some help.”
The pilot and owner of the aircraft, Bill Garrison has been flying for more than four decades. He said that lengthy time has prepared him for this big job.
“My whole career has kind of lead up to acquiring those skills,” said Garrison. “From flying multi-engine airplanes to crop dusting.”
Air Tanker 95 has been on the big stage before. It was used by the Navy in the Vietnam and Korean Wars.
Now, it will be a vital resource for the state of Kansas.
“Brush is thick, terrain makes it tough,” said Redinger. “If we can utilize some air resources to help get to some of those hard to reach areas, it could maybe help put some of those fires out quicker.”
The funding for the operation and maintenance of the tanker came from the Kansas State Legislature and the $650,000 allocated for that purpose will go toward wildfire suppression.
Garrison said he’s just having fun while he’s flying and said he’s humbled to be able to potentially help save lives and land.
“I think that’s a good feeling,” said Garrison. “That’s kind of why I bought the airplane. I’m glad The Forest Service is using it.”
Garrison said the tanker will be stored in Hutchinson and only take a few minutes to refill the water tanks on-board.
Garrison and Air Tanker 95 made their debut earlier this month when battling the Cherry Creek Fire near St. Francis.