Three DC-10 air tankers at Castle

Tankers 919, 911, 912 at Merced 8-30-2014
Tankers 910, 911, and 912 at Castle Airport, 8-30-2014. Photo by 10 Tanker.

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: DC-10 damages wing while taxiing at Moses Lake

Wing damage on Tanker 910.
Wing damage on Tanker 910.

(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.

air stair
The “air stair” that was struck by the wing.

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.

SAFECOM 14-0491

Below is a copy of a portion of SAFECOM 14-0446 about the incident. Click on the image to see a larger version.:

SAFECOM 14-0446

Air tanker fleet beefed up in California

DC-7 air tankers at Paso Robles Air Tanker Base
Two DC-7 air tankers and an S-2T air tanker at Paso Robles Air Tanker Base, January 19, 2014. CAL FIRE photo.

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.

Air Tanker 66 at Paso Robles Air Attack Base
Air Tanker 66, a DC-7, at Paso Robles Air Attack Base, January 19, 2014. CAL FIRE photo.

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.

DC-10 air tanker landing at Santa Maria Air Tanker Base
DC-10 air tanker landing at Santa Maria Air Tanker Base January 18, 2014. USFS cell phone photo.

Photos of aircraft on the Mountain Fire

Air tanker 07,  a P2V
Air tanker 07, a P2V, July 15 on the Mountain Fire in southern California. USFS photo by Steve Whitby.

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!

Air tanker 73, an S2T
Air tanker 73, an S2T, flown by Mike Venable, July 15 on the Mountain Fire in southern California. USFS photo by Steve Whitby.
Tanker 910, a DC-10, July 16
Tanker 910, a DC-10, July 16 on the Mountain Fire in southern California. USFS photo by Steve Whitby.
CAL FIRE Helicopter 301 July 16
CAL FIRE Helicopter 301 July 16 on the Mountain Fire in southern California. USFS photo by Steve Whitby.
Erickson Air-Crane July 16 on the Mountain Fire
Erickson Air-Crane, July 16 on the Mountain Fire in southern California. USFS photo by Steve Whitby.

10 Tanker Air Carrier moves to Albuquerque, begins converting a third DC-10

Tanker 910 Rapid City
Tanker 910 landing at Rapid City, April 23, 2013. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

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.

In May Mr. Hatton announced that they were moving to Casper, Wyoming but by July cancelled those plans.

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.

DC-10 potential reload bases
DC-10 actual and potential retardant reload bases, as determined by 10 Tanker Air Carrier. The red circles represent permanent air tanker bases at which they could reload. The blue circles are airports at which they could reload from a mobile retardant base. (click to enlarge)

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.

 

Thanks go out to Jared.

Coulson’s C-130Q reports for duty

air tanker 131 at San Bernardino
T -131 at San Bernardino, August 24, 2013. Photo by Dan Megna

(UPDATED at 1:47 p.m. PDT, September 20, 2012)

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.