Photos show the DC-10 firefighting aircraft during fire season

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According to the National Interagency Fire Center, wildfires in the United States have exceeded 65 continuous burning days at readiness level 5, setting a record for the number of days at that level. Readiness Level 5 is issued when more than 80% of national firefighting resources are used.

Firefighters monitor the Sugar Blaze, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, as it burns at Frenchman Lake in Plumas National Forest, Calif., Thursday, July 8, 2021.

AP Photo / Noah Berger


Source: National Interagency Fire Center

One of the nation’s assets is the New Mexico-based aerial firefighting organization 10 Tanker Air Carrier, which operates a fleet of McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft in the United States and overseas.

10 Air tanker carrier

10 Air tanker carrier

John hall


Source: Flying Magazine, 10 tanker air carriers

The company is engaged by the US Forest Service and state entities like the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, better known as CAL FIRE.

United States Forest Service Fire Danger Sign

United States Forest Service Fire Danger Sign

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock


Source: Flying Magazine, 10 tanker air carriers

Currently, the company flies four DC-10s from Albuquerque and operates in North America, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, from April to October. He carries his business in the southern hemisphere to countries like Australia and Chile for their fire season.

10 tanker pilots with Australian flag

10 tanker pilots

10 Air tanker carrier


Source: Flying Magazine, 10 tanker air carriers

The planes are modified with three gravity feed tank systems that can carry up to 9,400 gallons of water or a flame retardant known as Phos-Chek. They are programmed to perform a “sequence” fall or a “split” fall, which means they can empty the retarder all at once or at intervals.

10 tanker planes dropping fire retardant

10 tanker planes dropping fire retardant

John hall


Source: Flying Magazine, 10 tanker air carriers

The retarder was released from 200 to 300 feet above the ground at 140 knots (161 miles per hour). Planes are usually on fire for about 10 to 15 minutes before returning to base for more self-timer. Charging takes about 15 minutes.

10 tanker planes dropping fire retardant

10 tanker planes dropping fire retardant

10 Air tanker carrier


Source: Flying Magazine, 10 tanker air carriers

According to 10 Tanker CEO John Gould, the DC-10 is a favorable aircraft because the tanks at the bottom of the aircraft allow it to carry three times more retarder than any other carrier on the market.

10 Tanker CEO John Gould with 10 Tanker Air Carrier

10 Tanker CEO John Gould with 10 Tanker Air Carrier

10 Air tanker carrier


Source: 10 air supply carriers

Plus, its tanks are capable of dropping a thick, consistent line of flame retardants ranging from a quarter mile to a mile depending on the area of ​​coverage.

10 tanker planes dropping fire retardant

10 tanker planes dropping fire retardant

John hall


Source: 10 air supply carriers

Gould told Insider that the plane can fly downhill as well, so it can drop a retarder on mountain sides where no other plane can access, making the DC-10 extremely versatile and in reliable safety margins.

10 Air tanker carrier

10 Air tanker carrier

Kaileen hannigan


Source: 10 air supply carriers

“These three engines each provide 50,000 pounds of thrust, so we have horsepower to burn,” Gould told Insider. “It’s a big fire safety issue when you do all of these maneuvers, so not only can we go downhill, but we also have a lot of power to get out and up a hill. “

10 Refueling aircraft engine

10 Refueling aircraft engine

10 Air tanker carrier


Source: 10 air supply carriers

Gould also explained that 10 Tanker planes take off at less than 400,000 pounds, making them “light and nimble” compared to competitors who depart at near maximum gross takeoff weight. “There is a margin of safety for us that we really appreciate,” Gould said.

10 Air tanker carrier

10 Air tanker carrier

Shuttervita, LLC


Source: 10 air supply carriers

The aircraft is piloted by two pilots and a flight engineer who monitors systems and makes entries for drops. Up to two mechanics can be carried for repositioning flights.

10 Supply air carrier pilot

10 Supply air carrier pilot

Bill Morson / Shutterstock


Source: Flying Magazine, 10 tanker air carriers

On the ground, 10 tanker planes are followed by seven maintenance technicians equipped with a truck and trailer unit carrying spare parts and equipment, such as tires, brakes or any other element necessary for the operation.

10 Tanker truck / trailer unit

10 Tanker truck / trailer unit

10 Air tanker carrier


Source: Flying Magazine, 10 tanker air carriers



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