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.

15 thoughts on “Air tanker fleet beefed up in California”

  1. I do not know who are crewing them but their very good airtankers. Will do a very good job! Have worked with them several years now and look forward to many more years.

  2. I do know who is likely crewing them- good to see the DC7
    used. There never a real reason for the 4 engine dougs
    to lose the fed contracts..

  3. agreed with tg mccoy

    The Dougs were all excellent Tankers! DC4, 6, 7’s.
    The reason to get rid of them was not a good one…

  4. Well tg

    I agree with you on the loss of Fed contracts.

    Pretty shortsighted and pretty uneducated for WO – FAM to put the Dougs out of service and keep the P2 Neptunes.

    Not knocking Neptunes whatsoever……….just knocking the decision making powers of a group of people who “manage” a program but have little or no operational experiences nor many that were in a pilot or mechanic group that can make decisions on aging aircraft issues other than what has happened in the last 10 – 12 years in the interest of aviation safety.

    Well intentioned I am sure……but look at the entire program that did a disservice to all operators involved in the ways of contracting and decision making………

  5. Hope there not in a hurry to send the tankers back home. It appears that about Jan. 30th there will be another Santa Anna event. A rancher that contracts our service told me that “this is our third year of drought” springs (7) that have never dried up on his families property (over 120 years) are now dry.

  6. Wow, love to see those in CA, they do great work in Oregon, flying with them is always a treat. Jack Erickson continues his Midas touch, buying Butler Aircraft and then having the DC-4 and 7 on contract in California again.
    From what I understand it is getting tough to find good Avgas for them though, they have had to pull the power settings way back from the old days.

  7. Joseph

    DC-4’s are gone… a shame if you ask me!
    At least put some turbines on these DC-4 Dougs! like the Dc-3’s. That was smart!

    Tankers 60, 62, 66 are DC-7’s…

  8. Note, that all three tankers are sitting loaded, immediate need. After a 911 report of a threatening wild fire the S2T is probably pulling up the gear in four to five minutes. As the S2T has dropped and is heading back to the base the first DC 7 should be over (on) scene. Spent a summer (Tanker 15) at Paso, wonderful Cal Fire people, great memories. Av fuel (tg) is purple still available 115/145?

    1. Brings back memories. in my days on both 51 and 62 -always liked the way Calfire/CDF does/did things..

  9. Any consideration to call up the Air Spray L-188 that was (is?) sitting in Chico with a CWN contract as posted on this site in mid-September? As good as the Douglas products are, an Electra will outperform them in every category.

      1. For aviation buffs…C-GHZI is former Reeves Aleutian Airways N1968R that made an emergency landing in Anchorage after No.4 prop separated and struck the fuselage and jammed the controls. (June 8, 1983.)

        The autopilot was used to gain minimal control of the aircraft and landing gear was retracted and extended to control climb and descent.

        Video of actual landing…

        Video of Aircraft Investigations Episode (44mins)

  10. Hurray for the Dougs! 3000 gal gravity tank,no download,on a platform that doesn’t have wing issues.These planes do a great job in Oregon every year and have worked in calif before with good results.Plus any aviation buff will tell you,the sound of 4 radial engines is sweeet!

    1. With the radial engines you had a sound that is notable and you had time to move out of way, next-gen jets you hear the whistle sound and they are on top of you already! The DC-7’s are a true type 1 airtanker. Of course I am prejudiced, as I have been the ODF ATBM at Medford, OR since spring 2010.

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