A fourth DC-10 air tanker nearing completion

The conversion of the fourth DC-10 into a Very Large Air Tanker is nearing completion. Rick Hatton, the President and CEO of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said he expects Tanker 914 to be finished with the modification process in June, including the incorporation of their Next Gen tank controller.

Tanker 914 will join the other three DC-10’s that can each hold up to 11,600 gallons of fire retardant.

air tanker 914, DC-10
Tanker 914 undergoing conversion. 10 Tanker photo.

Video: DC-10 makes drop on West Mims Fire

As firefighters on the ground continue efforts to get a handle on the West Mims Fire on the Georgia-Florida border, the attack from the air has intensified.

The Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), a DC-10 fitted with a retardant delivery system, arrived Tuesday afternoon but was only able to make one fire retardant drop before low visibility due to settling smoke made subsequent air operations unsafe, officials said.

The aircraft made two 12,000-gallon retardant drops on Wednesday. Extreme conditions are expected to continue through the rest of the week, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees and winds gusting to 20 mph forecast — Red Flag Warnings are also expected to be issued in the area.

The blaze remains the largest and most active currently burning in the U.S., having already charred about 144,000 acres. It remains just 12 percent contained.

DC-10 tanker joins West Mims Fire efforts

Above: A helicopter makes a water drop next to the road in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the West Mims Fire. Photo via InciWeb.

Additional air resources arrived on Tuesday to join crews battling the 140,000-acre West Mims Fire on the Georgia-Florida border.

The Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), a DC-10 fitted with a retardant delivery system, arrived Tuesday afternoon but was only able to make one fire retardant drop before low visibility due to settling smoke made subsequent air operations unsafe, officials said. The aircraft is capable of dumping 11,600 gallons (44,000 liters) of chemical fire retardant in a single run, and it joins more than 700 firefighters and support personnel working to contain the blaze with bulldozers, helicopters and smaller planes.

The DC-10 is stationed in Chattanooga, Tenn., hundreds of miles away from the fire. Though clear across the entire state of Georgia, that location is the closest airport rated to handle the needs of a place its size, officials said.

Crews caught a break on Tuesday — the fire wasn’t as active as it had been of late, though temperatures still hit 96 degrees with relative humidity hovering about 19 percent.

“For the first time in 3 days, the fire was not as aggressive as was anticipated,” incident commanders wrote in the Tuesday evening update, posted to InciWeb. 

Hotter conditions and gusty winds are forecast for Wednesday.

Eight heavy helicopters and six heavy air tankers will be supporting ground operations Wednesday, as conditions allow.

The lightning-sparked fire started April 6 has burned 140,400 acres and remains just 12 percent contained.

DC-10 air tanker Utah
A DC-10 on a fire in Utah. Posted on Twitter by the Alpine Hotshots September 4, 2016.

Infrared video of DC-10 drop

The fire was just a few miles from the DC-10’s base at Richmond, northwest of Sydney, New South Wales.

This infrared video, shot from a New South Wales Rural Fire Service aircraft, shows a DC-10 air tanker dropping on a wildfire in Australia. In the normal video the aircraft disappears in the smoke, but after switching to IR it can be seen again. The water or retardant it drops shows up as black, much cooler than the fire which is white.

In addition to the drop, there is fascinating IR footage of thousands of burning embers being blown downwind. A spot fire can be easily seen thanks to the IR soon after it starts. It later grows very large.

Impressive DC-10 drop in Australia

One of the comments says this was shot on a fire in New South Wales, Australia.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the air tanker ties onto and extends a previous retardant drop. I’d love to see an AFTER photo, when the fire hits the retardant.

A DC-10 is dropping an alternative to retardant on wildfires in Australia

Above: Tanker 910 dropping on the Londonderry Fire in New South Wales. Screen grab from the video.

On November 14 we posted a video of Air Tanker 910, a DC-10, dropping what we thought was water on the Londonderry Fire in New South Wales where it is working on a contract during the Australian summer.

We heard from John Gould, Business Development Manager at 10 Tanker Air Carrier that operates the three DC-10 air tankers, letting us know that it was not water:

Thanks for your great coverage on fires in Australia. In the video you posted yesterday, the DC-10 wasn’t dropping water, but instead a “gel” made by Blaze Tamer. We’ve been asked to drop it on about 50% of the fires we’ve had in NSW this year, and our pilots seem to like it, mostly in terms of the consistent pattern they’re getting on the ground when compared to water.

A few other air tankers have the ability to drop gel including the reborn 747 and the Martin Mars.

The BlazeTamer website claims it is a “short-term fire retardant”.

Here are some excerpts from their site:

BlazeTamer380™ is especially beneficial for any type of air attack, including helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. It is well suited to provide accurate and reduced drop zone footprint by reducing drift caused by strong winds by up to 71%.

The unique formulation of BlazeTamer380™ creates an excellent fire break by penetrating Class A materials to increase the moisture content of the fuel, thus inhibiting ignition.

A revolutionary fire fighting weapon BlazeTamer380™ guarantees safe handling for fire fighters and is proven harmless to humans, animals and vegetation. BlazeTamer380™ is not a Gel or a Foam and it is totally noncorrosive. (includes Intergranular testing for the aviation industry.)