DC-10 activated for California

DC-10 air tanker
Tanker 910, a DC-10 air tanker, at Rapid City April 23, 2013. Photo by Bill Gabbert

(UPDATE May 5, 2013)

The DC-10, Tanker 910, was one of the aircraft used May 4 on the Gorgonio Fire in Riverside County, California. The spread of the fire was stopped after it burned 650 acres.

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(Originally published at 3:41 p.m. MT, May 3, 2013.)

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has activated one of the DC-10 air tankers on a call-when-needed contract.

Rick Hatton, President of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, the company that operates the two DC-10 air tankers, confirmed for us today that it will come on duty tomorrow, May 4. He said most likely the one they will use will be Tanker 910, the aircraft that visited four cities last week on the way back from scheduled maintenance in Michigan.

Neither CAL FIRE nor the U.S. Forest Service have exclusive use contracts for the DC-10s, so they operate on a call-when-needed basis, which results in a slower activation, higher per day costs, and less assurance that they will be available.

The USFS call-when-needed and exclusive use contracts for Very Large and Large air tankers all expired on December 31, 2012, but some were extended for a few months. Several weeks ago the agency awarded eight new exclusive use contracts for large “legacy” air tankers, with seven of them being Korean War vintage P2Vs, but it has been 520 days since they first began an attempt to contract for large “next generation” air tankers, with no results yet.