Douglas DC-10 "Tanker 910" - largest jet air tanker currently in fire service

jetsetter

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Douglas DC-10 "Tanker 910" - largest jet air tanker currently in fire service

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Tanker 910 is the call-sign of the only wide-body jet air tanker currently in fire service. The aircraft, operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, is a converted McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft used for fighting wildfires, typically in rural areas. The turbofan-powered craft carries up to 12,000 gallons (45,600 liters) of water or fire retardant in an exterior belly-mounted tank, which can be released in eight seconds.

Development

The aircraft, currently registered as N450AX, was originally delivered as a civil passenger plane to National Airlines in 1975, and subsequently flew for Pan Am, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Omni Air International.

The conversion of the original airframe to a fire-fighting aircraft was a joint venture under the name of 10 Tanker Air Carrier between Cargo Conversions of San Carlos, California and Omni, with conversion work being performed by Victorville Aerospace at the Southern California Logistics Airport at Victorville, California.

Usage

The water or retardant is carried in three center-line belly tanks. The tanks have internal baffles to prevent fluid shift (and consequent shift in center of gravity) while in flight, and sit with a 15 inches (38 cm) ground clearance. All three tanks can be filled simultaneously on the ground in eight minutes. The retardant is gravity-fed out of the tanks, and the entire load can be dumped in eight seconds, although the actual drop rate is computer controlled by the flight crew in order to produce the desired retardant spread over the fire lines. The aircraft is capable of applying a line of retardant 300 feet (91 m) wide by 1 mile (1.6 km) long.

The number of drops it can make in a day is only limited due to the time it takes to reload the jet with water/fire retardant and fuel, as well as its need for a proper landing field, which may well be a considerable distance from the subject fire. Because of the aircraft's limited maneuverability, California Department of Forestry (CAL FIRE) officials have said that it will not be used on all fires, and will not be used as an initial attack aircraft. One drop from Tanker 910 is equivalent to 12 drops from an S-2 Tracker. Initially, the aircraft is intended to be operated primarily in California, and the entire state will be serviced from the plane's Victorville base, but in 2007 the CAL FIRE began looking into setting up a second operations base at the former Mather Air Force Base outside of Sacramento, California.

10 Tanker Air Carrier announced in 2007 that a second aircraft would be converted to tanker usage for the 2008 fire season.

Tanker 910 was to get competition from a Boeing 747 that has been converted to tanker use by Evergreen International Aviation and which is able to carry up to 22,000 gallons, but that project has been placed on hold.

Contracting

In 2006 the aircraft was operated on a limited evaluation contract from the State of California. During the 2006 season, the aircraft was offered on a "call-when-needed" basis, which came with a $26,500 per-flight-hour (three hour minimum) cost and a 12- to 24-hour activation delay. Under these terms, Tanker 910 flew on six fires in California and one in Washington.

For the 2007?2009 fire seasons, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger authorized a contract for exclusive use of the aircraft at a cost of $5 million per year, or an average of about $41,000 per day for the June 15 to October 15 fire season; there is an additional $5,500 per-flight-hour charge. The exclusivity of the contract allows the aircraft to always be ready for dispatch, and it will be able to launch to a fire within one hour of being called.

The aircraft has not been certified by the U.S. Forest Service, so it is not permitted to fly on fires which are on USFS land in California.

Fire use

2006 call-when-needed use

Tanker 910 was first used in July of 2006 when it fought the Sawtooth Complex fire in San Bernardino County, California. While the fire was burning, Tanker 910 initially sat on the ground at Victorville, as it had not received CAL FIRE approval to operate. The mayor of Victorville, Mike Rothschild, became concerned and investigated why it was not flying, finding that the approval process was expected to take up to six months to complete. After a call to California State Senator George Runner, the CAL FIRE was able to complete the necessary training and paperwork in a matter of days, with the California certification being granted on July 15, 2006. The following day, July 16, the aircraft made two drops on the Sawtooth fire, and CAL FIRE personnel were reported to have said that "the two fire drops made a greater impact on containing the fire than the 12 helicopters drops for the past 10 days."

Later in the same month, the aircraft was used against several smaller California fires, as well as the Columbia Complex Fire in Washington. In September 2006, Tanker 910 was activated by CAL FIRE for use against the Day Fire, and the following month it flew against the Esperanza Fire.

2007 contract use

Under the terms of the exclusive-use contract, Tanker 910 was activated against the White Fire where it flew two runs before incurring its incident. After repairs were completed, it was activated for use on the massive Zaca Fire, the second-largest fire in modern California history, in August 2007. Tanker 910 was also activated for the Moonlight Fire in Plumas County, as of September 6, 2007. On October 22nd Tanker 910 became involved in the effort to put out California wildfires, including the Slide Fire and the Grass Fire near Lake Arrowhead, California. The next activation came on November 24, 2007 when the tanker joined the effort to fight the Corral Fire above Malibu, CA.

Incident

Tanker 910 experienced its first serious incident on June 25, 2007. While on its third run over the White Fire in the Kern County mountains near Tehachapi, California, the aircraft was in a left bank while turning from base to final approach, when it encountered severe turbulence, the left wing dropped, and the aircraft descended 100 to 200 feet lower than expected. The left wing struck several trees before pilots were able to power out of the descent. The aircraft climbed to altitude for a controllability check and to dump its load of retardant, then returned to its base in Victorville, where it made an emergency landing and was grounded pending an investigation, inspection, and repairs.

A post-incident investigation showed that the aircraft suffered damage to the left wing's leading edge, slats, ailerons and flaps.

Despite the accident, the CAL FIRE has stated that they are happy with the aircraft. The aircraft returned to the sky for a test flight after repairs on July 30.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanker_910
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Saw a program on this aircraft while watching the History Channel. Thought I'd share with you all.
 
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KaJuN

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That's one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. It takes only eight minutes to fill the tanks? Wow! :shock: Although the "10 Tanker Air Carrier" name is a letdown based on how badass this machine is.
 

Viper007Bond

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So the plane is just... empty? Seems a bit silly, but I guess it couldn't get off the ground or fly right if it's body was filled.
 

jetsetter

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So the plane is just... empty? Seems a bit silly, but I guess it couldn't get off the ground or fly right if it's body was filled.

Converting the interior of the aircraft to hold water would be hugely expensive.
 

KaJuN

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The KC-10 refueling tanker keeps all its fuel in the wings and in the belly. The cabin is just as empty as a plane flying for FedEx (well without the boxes obviously). It's all about that center of gravity.
 

WillDAQ

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currently in fire service being the key words...

http://www.evergreenaviation.com/supertanker/gallery.html
drop_05.jpg

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chaos386

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Converting the interior of the aircraft to hold water would be hugely expensive.

Even if you did, it probably wouldn't be able to take off carrying that much weight. The 12,000 gallons of water alone weigh over 100,000 lbs as it is.
 

jetsetter

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currently in fire service being the key words...

I am aware of the aircraft but apparently it has been put on hold for the time being.
 

jetsetter

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It has proven to be quite effective.
 

Viper007Bond

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jetsetter

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I think in most areas the opportunity to refill would be somewhat limited.
 

Viper007Bond

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And drop lots of random fishies that get scooped up :p
And the occasional boat and scuba diver (a popular urban legend).
 

Gman333-X-ferrari

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It was on CSI, it must be true.

They tested that myth on Mythbusters.

MYTH BUSTED!

But then again they only tested a helicopter's suction mechanism and not a planes. If the planes just flies over a body of water and scoops up the water, then it might be plausible.
 

Viper007Bond

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Hmm, I musta missed that episode! :cry:
 
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