Small squadron of VLAT’s attacked the Goodwin Fire Wednesday

Three very large air tankers, DC-10’s that carry 11,600 gallons of fire retardant, assisted firefighters on the Goodwin Fire in Arizona Wednesday, reducing the fire’s intensity around endangered structures.

As of Thursday morning the fire had burned 24,828 acres at Mayer, Arizona.

The DC-10’s are often used on wildfires, but there are only three of the “Very Large Air Tankers” on contract with the federal government, and it is unusual for all of them to be working the same fire. They were reloading with retardant at Phoenix Mesa-Gateway airport 80 miles southeast of the fire.

Rick Hatton, President and CEO of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said their three DC-10’s completed a total of 14 sorties to the Goodwin Fire during 16 total hours of flying Wednesday. He said the facilities and crews at the air tanker base accommodated the three huge aircraft very well.

Two of the aircraft are on exclusive use contracts with the U.S. Forest Service, and a third is on a call when needed contract.

Even though $2.4 million was spent in 2014 to improve the apron and plumbing at the air tanker base at Prescott, 15 miles from the fire, it was not designed to handle Very Large Air Tankers. But it can accommodate the “large” or “heavy” air tankers, such as the aircraft that can carry 2,000 to 3,500 gallons, including the P2V, BAe-146, RJ85, MD-87, 737, and C-130.

To improve the tanker base, the City of Prescott agreed to accept a $1.44 million grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) which was combined with $1 million from the U.S. Forest Service. The USFS funds were used to add new plumbing infrastructure and a taxiway.

The changes increased the number of loading pits from two to three. The ADOT grant covered 90 percent of the cost of the apron project, and the City of Prescott supplied the additional 10 percent.

Below are photos of the Prescott air tanker base ramp before and after the modifications.

Air tanker base ramp Prescott Airport
Air tanker base ramp at the Prescott Airport, June, 2010. Google Earth.
Air tanker base ramp Prescott Airport
Air tanker base ramp at the Prescott Airport, November, 2015. Google Earth.

As you can see below, Prescott makes a good temporary home for the helicopters working the Goodwin Fire.

An illegally operated drone flew into the fire area Wednesday, forcing all firefighting aircraft to be grounded for safety reasons. Law enforcement responded and is investigating the incident. Hobbyist drone operators are reminded that “if you fly, we can’t fly.” There is a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the fire area and it is against federal law to fly a drone within the restricted area. This also happened on the Brian Head Fire in Utah Wednesday, as well as the Lightner Fire in California.

In the video below you will see what appears to be a privately owned Blackhawk helicopter, a Firehawk, dropping retardant on the Goodwin Fire. Most of the time helicopters drop water directly on the flames, but the long term retardant can be effective when applied ahead of the fire.

Another helicopter dropping retardant:

2 thoughts on “Small squadron of VLAT’s attacked the Goodwin Fire Wednesday”

  1. We all thank the forest service for bringing in all 3 DC-10’s to fight the Goodwin fire and save so many homes. And a big thank you to the pilots and the supporting air and ground crews that make it happen. And to all the firefighters battling on the ground, thank you so much and please stay safe.

  2. Base Crews doing a good job. Because of poor layout, our Gateway base is not as efficient as could be. There is ramp space for at least a three-pit or four-pit independent-access config.. But since ICE occupies the south end of the same bldg. as the Fire Center, some ramp area not avail.. Contract acft used for Juan-air/Con-air occupy valuable real estate. In the video that shows the 2nd VLAT taxiing in at an angle-“Swift” is normally parked there. Has been fortunate that during some ops that those “tennants’ have been absent. Pit 1 is closest to bldg. Pit 2 is along a fence that runs 90 deg. from the corner of the ramp. (SEATs lane is on other side of fence) L-shaped thing. If theres another acft at Pit 2- whoever is departing Pit 1 has to be careful of the other folks off their left wing.. Not good. Set-up like Prescott would be nice. But would require those DHS folks to leave. Then could be turned into a proper tankerbase.

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