A third DC-10 air tanker to become available

Tanker 912, DC-10

(Article updated August 13, to include this photo of T-912 after arrival at Albuquerque.)

A third DC-10 air tanker is expected to become available in the very near future. 10 Tanker Air Carrier has announced that the conversion of their third Very Large Air Tanker is complete and they expect to receive it at their company headquarters this week in Albuquerque. The final step will be certification by the Forest Service, after which it will be dispatched where requested by fire managers. It will be designated as Tanker 912.

The DC-10s always carry 11,600 gallons of fire retardant unless a smaller load is requested by fire managers. That is three to six times more than conventional air tankers.

Firewatch Cobras at Redding

Two Firewatch Cobras

Two Firewatch Cobras going through their 150-hour service at Redding, California, August 8, 2014.

While we were at Redding on August 8 the two U.S. Forest Service Firewatch Cobra helicopters were both going through their 150-hour service. Dan Johnson, the Regional Aviation Group Supervisor for the U.S. Forest Service’s North Zone in California, told us that they have both been heavily used in recent weeks and the 150-hour came due quickly.

The helicopters are retrofitted Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, two of the 25 that the U.S. Forest Service acquired from the military. Most of the other 23 are at the aircraft boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson. A couple that are used for spare parts are sitting outside the hangar at Redding.

Spare parts Cobras

Cobras used mostly for spare parts at the Redding Airport.

We first wrote about the Firewatch program in 2010 at Wildfire Today. The USFS has them outfitted with infrared and other sensors so that they can be used for close-in intelligence support for ground troops, such as GIS mapping, real time color video, geo-referenced infrared, and infrared downlink. In addition to intelligence gathering, they are also used as a platform for an Air Attack Group Supervisor (ATGS) or a Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO). Mr. Johnson said it would be possible to use them as lead planes, but he feels fixed wing aircraft are better suited for that role.

Sensors on Firewatch Cobra

Sensors on Firewatch Cobra

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Aircraft at Redding, August 7, 2014

We spent some time yesterday at the Redding Air Attack Base in California and shot photos of the aircraft and will be posting them over the next few days. Here are a few to get started. Click on the photos to see slightly larger versions.

T-94 and T-95 at RDD 8-7-2014

T-94 and T-95 at RDD 8-7-2014

AA-240 and AA 505 and Coulson rig at RDD 8-7-2014

AA-240 and AA-505 (OV-10s) and the Coulson support rig at RDD 8-7-2014

AA120 landing at RDD 8-7-2014

AA-120, an OV-10, landing at RDD 8-7-2014

Chinook at RDD

California National Guard Chinook at RDD

Cobras and a Sherpa at RDD

Two Cobras and a Sherpa at RDD , 8-7-2014

All of the photos were taken by Bill Gabbert and are protected by copyright.