10 Tanker Air Carrier is retiring one of their three DC-10 air tankers, Tanker 910, the first DC-10 to be converted.
Its final flight after serving for 10 years was this Saturday when it flew from Castle Airport, 910’s base since last summer, to Oscota Michigan for dismantling. To honor the work the airplane has done on California fires, officials at Castle saluted the airplane as it took off for the last time.
The aircraft was converted to an air tanker in 2004, and began working in California under a CAL FIRE contract in 2006. Since that time Tanker 910 has dropped on over 500 fire missions in California, and over 750 across the country. It has been joined by two other converted DC-10s, with the third one being introduced to the fleet on August 30.
10 Tanker Air Carrier will replace Tanker 910 with a newer air frame that will carry the same “910” designation as the plane being retired this fall. The work on the replacement began in early September and now the aircraft is going through a “C” check at Kalitta Air in Oscoda, Michigan.
10 Tanker expects to have Tanker 910 Version 2.0 ready to go by April, 2015.
Kristin Biechler sent us these photos that she and Dave Clemens shot at the Medford, Oregon Airport (map) over the last few days. She said her house is directly under the tankers’ flight path to the Happy Camp and Beaver Fires in northwest California. The planes depart MFR, she explained, bank west, and mostly follow Highway 238 toward Jacksonville and out to Applegate Reservoir and into California.
On August 30 the latest DC-10 air tanker to be retrofitted, Tanker 912, joined its’ sisters, T-910 and T-911 at Castle Airport near Merced, California. It has been carded by the U.S. Forest Service and is ready to go, according to 10 Tanker Air Carrier.
(UPDATED, July 25, 2014: excerpts from SAFECOMS are at the end of the article. UPDATED September 3, 2014: a lessons learned report can be found HERE.)
One of the DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers incurred some damage to a wing July 19, 2014 while it was taxiing at the air tanker base at Moses Lake, Washington. While relocating in the loading pit area Tanker 910 struck a portable “air stair”, a structure that can be pushed up to the aircraft door. Two people on the ground were marshaling the DC-10 as it slowly moved, directing it where to go and supposedly watching for obstructions.
The wing was damaged on the front and back sides –the aileron and the slats. Rick Hatton, the President of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said on Sunday that parts to repair the damage were en route to Moses Lake. The company’s other DC-10, Tanker 911, was also at the tanker base when the accident happened.
Mr. Hatton said retardant systems tests on their third DC-10 which is being converted now into an air tanker will begin the week of July 28. In a month or two they hope to have it fully operational. It will be designated as Tanker 912.
Below is a copy of a portion of SAFECOM 14-0491 about the incident. Click on the image to see a larger version.
Below is a copy of a portion of SAFECOM 14-0446 about the incident. Click on the image to see a larger version.:
There is an extremely rare site in the photo above, at least in recent years — two DC-7 air tankers on active duty at an air tanker base in California. CAL FIRE has arranged for them to be on contract so that their 23 S-2T air tankers can rotate in for their annual maintenance. The wildland fire season in the state does not appear to be ending, so they had to do something to provide the needed maintenance for their airborne firefighting fleet while the fire danger remains high.
The state of Oregon routinely uses DC-7 air tankers, but the federal government stopped contracting for them a number of years ago.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service in recent days has had a couple of P2V air tankers on duty. Yesterday Tanker 910, one of the two DC-10 11,600-gallon air tankers operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, was brought over from Albuquerque to be available at Santa Maria, California.
These photos were graciously sent to us by Steve Whitby who took them on the Mountain Fire in July. The fire burned over 20,000 acres in and near the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California. Thanks Steve — great pictures!
10 Tanker Air Carrier, the company that operates the two DC-10 air tankers, has moved their corporate headquarters from Victorville, California to the airport at Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Rick Hatton, the CEO of the company, said yesterday about the relocation that occurred in September:
We surveyed a number of sites in the Rocky Mountain West, wanting to have more of a national presence versus being perceived as a “California Only” or Region 5 resource. Albuquerque topped the list due to a combination of off-season weather, business environment, and airport facilities.
The company moved into on-airport space with additional nearby offices and a warehouse. One of the facilities is a 7,600-square-foot building previously owned by Eclipse Aviation Corp, who’s business plan was to produce and sell small jets for $1 million each, a concept that failed.
10 Tanker has evaluated airports that could serve as air tanker bases for their DC-10s and identified 30 that could handle the jumbo jets either with the existing infrastructure or with the addition of a temporary mobile retardant base.
Mr. Hatton said their two DC-10s, Tankers 910 and 911, so far in 2013 have delivered 4.4 million gallons of retardant on 386 flights.
They have started converting a third DC-10, speculating that it will be used in 2014.
Tanker 131 was dispatched to its first fire today, September 20, near Santa Maria, California.
(Originally published September 13, 2013)
Coulson’s Air Tanker 131, a converted C-130Q, has been fully certified by the FAA, the Interagency AirTanker Board, and the U.S. Forest Service. The 3,500-gallon aircraft was carded on Tuesday and the pilot check rides occurred Wednesday. Its first assignment was to report to the San Bernardino airport, which ironically is where it spent the last several months while going through the conversion process.
Wayne Coulson, President and CEO of Coulson Aviation USA Inc., said, “This C-130Q has been outfitted with a Coulson RADS-XL Constant Flow tank and a state-of-the-art drop controller system that will enhance the accuracy of retardant drops by using GPS speed and other inputs.”
T-131 becomes the second air tanker to be certified and activated, of the original seven that were awarded “next generation” contracts.
As you may know, the USFS announced on May 6 that contracts were going to be awarded for seven next generation air tankers. The contracts were for exclusive use and for five years, with options for the USFS to extend them for an additional five years. Another option allows the addition of more air tankers from the vendors. The activation of the contracts was held up by two rounds of protests in 2012 and 2013 from Neptune Aviation, 10 Tanker, and Coulson, but the awards, after over 500 days of dithering, finally went to:
Only one of the five companies had their air tanker fully certified and ready to go when the awards were announced — 10 Tanker Air Carrier and their DC-10. They put Tanker 910 to work around June 1. In fact, their second DC-10, Tanker 911, was activated on a Call When Needed (CWN) contract June 14 (later changed to a 90-day exclusive use contract) and both of them have been flying fires since then. The two DC-10s, which always carry 11,600 gallons, dropped approximately 698,000 gallons of retardant in the month of June.
The mandatory availability period for the six next generation air tankers was supposed to begin in the first part of August, 2013. Other than the DC-10, none of them made that date. Minden, Aero Air, and Aero Flite are still working on their conversion projects.