Tanker 910
Tanker 910 is the call-sign of a wide-body
Wide-body aircraft
A wide-body aircraft is a large airliner with two passenger aisles, also known as a widebody aircraft or twin-aisle aircraft. The typical fuselage diameter is . In the typical wide-body economy cabin, passengers are seated seven to ten abreast, allowing a total capacity of 200 to 850 passengers...

 jet air tanker currently in fire service. The aircraft, operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, is a converted McDonnell Douglas DC-10
McDonnell Douglas DC-10
The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is a three-engine widebody jet airliner manufactured by McDonnell Douglas. The DC-10 has range for medium- to long-haul flights, capable of carrying a maximum 380 passengers. Its most distinguishing feature is the two turbofan engines mounted on underwing pylons and a...

An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 used for fighting wildfire
A wildfire is any uncontrolled fire in combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Other names such as brush fire, bushfire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, squirrel fire, vegetation fire, veldfire, and wilkjjofire may be used to describe the same...

s, typically in rural areas. The turbofan
The turbofan is a type of airbreathing jet engine that is widely used for aircraft propulsion. A turbofan combines two types of engines, the turbo portion which is a conventional gas turbine engine, and the fan, a propeller-like ducted fan...

-powered former airliner carries up to 12,000 US gallons (45,000 litres) of water or fire retardant
Fire retardant
A fire retardant is a substance other than water that reduces flammability of fuels or delays their combustion. This typically refers to chemical retardants but may also include substances that work by physical action, such as cooling the fuels; examples of these include fire-fighting foams and...

 in an exterior belly-mounted tank, the contents of which can be released in eight seconds.


The aircraft, currently registered as N450AX, was originally delivered as a civil passenger plane to National Airlines
National Airlines (NA)
National Airlines was an airline founded in 1934 and was headquartered on the grounds of Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States near Miami.- History :...

 in 1975, and subsequently flew for Pan Am, American Airlines
American Airlines
American Airlines, Inc. is the world's fourth-largest airline in passenger miles transported and operating revenues. American Airlines is a subsidiary of the AMR Corporation and is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas adjacent to its largest hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport...

, Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. is a major airline of the United States. It is the largest airline based in the State of Hawai'i, and is the 11th largest commercial airline in the country. Based in Honolulu CDP, City and County of Honolulu, the airline operates its main hub at Honolulu International...

 and Omni Air International
Omni Air International
Omni Air International, Inc. is a United States charter airline with its headquarters in Hangar 19 on the grounds of Tulsa International Airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. It operates international and domestic passenger charters, as well as wet leasing....


The conversion of the original airframe to a fire-fighting aircraft was a joint venture under the name of 10 Tanker Air Carrier between Cargo Conversions of San Carlos, California
San Carlos, California
San Carlos is a city in San Mateo County, California, USA on the San Francisco Peninsula, about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. It is an affluent small residential suburb located between Belmont to the north and Redwood City to the south. San Carlos' ZIP code is 94070, and it is within...

 and Omni, with conversion work being performed by Victorville Aerospace at the Southern California Logistics Airport
Southern California Logistics Airport
Southern California Logistics Airport , also known as Victorville Airport, is a public airport located in the city of Victorville in San Bernardino County, California approximately north of San Bernardino...

 at Victorville, California.


The water or retardant is carried in three center-line belly tanks. The tanks have internal baffles to prevent fluid shift (and consequent shift in center of gravity
Center of gravity of an aircraft
The center-of-gravity is the point at which an aircraft would balance if it were possible to suspend it at that point. It is the mass center of the aircraft, or the theoretical point at which the entire weight of the aircraft is assumed to be concentrated. Its distance from the reference datum is...

) while in flight, and sit with a 15-inch (38 cm) ground clearance. All three tanks can be filled simultaneously on the ground in eight minutes. The retardant is gravity-fed out of the tanks, and the entire load can be dumped in eight seconds, although the actual drop rate is computer controlled by the flight crew in order to produce the desired retardant spread over the fire lines. The aircraft is capable of applying a line of retardant 300 ft (91 m) wide by 1 mile (1.6 km) long.

The number of drops it can make in a day is only limited by the time it takes to reload the aircraft with water/fire retardant and fuel, as well as its need for a proper landing field, which may well be a considerable distance from the fire. Because of the aircraft's limited maneuverability, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is the State of California's agency responsible for fire protection in State Responsibility Areas of California as well as the administration of the state's private and public forests. It is often referred to as The California Department of...

 (CDF) officials have said that it will not be used on all fires, and will not be used as an initial attack
Aerial firefighting
Aerial firefighting is the use of aircraft and other aerial resources to combat wildfires. The types of aircraft used include fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Smokejumpers and rappellers are also classified as aerial firefighters, delivered to the fire by parachute from a variety of fixed-wing...

 aircraft. One drop from Tanker 910 is equivalent to 12 drops from a Grumman S-2 Tracker. Initially, the aircraft is intended to be operated primarily in California, and the entire state will be serviced from the plane's Victorville base, but in 2007 CDF began looking into setting up a second operations base at the former Mather Air Force Base
Mather Air Force Base
Mather Air Force Base is a closed United States Air Force Base located east of Sacramento at Rancho Cordova, California on the south side of U.S. Route 50....

 near Sacramento, California
Sacramento, California
Sacramento is the capital city of the U.S. state of California and the county seat of Sacramento County. It is located at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River in the northern portion of California's expansive Central Valley. With a population of 466,488 at the 2010 census,...

. 10 Tanker Air Carrier announced in 2007 that a second aircraft would be converted to tanker usage for the 2008 fire season.

In 2009, Tanker 910 faced competition from the newly-introduced Evergreen 747 Supertanker, a Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

 which has been converted to tanker use by Evergreen International Aviation
Evergreen International Aviation
Evergreen International Aviation, Inc. is a global aviation services company based in McMinnville, Oregon. Founded as Evergreen Helicopters in 1960 by Delford M. Smith, Evergreen is primarily known for commercial helicopter operations in agricultural and forestry applications...

 and which is able to carry up to 20,500 U.S. gallons (78,000 litres).


In 2006 the aircraft was operated on a limited evaluation contract from the State of California. During the 2006 season, the aircraft was offered on a "call-when-needed" basis, which came with a $26,500 per-flight-hour (three hour minimum) cost and a 12- to 24-hour activation delay. Under these terms, Tanker 910 flew on six fires in California and one in Washington.

For the 2007–2009 fire seasons, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American former professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Schwarzenegger served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011....

 authorized a contract for exclusive use of the aircraft at a cost of $5 million per year, or an average of about $41,000 per day for the June 15 to October 15 fire season; there is an additional $5,500 per-flight-hour charge. The exclusivity of the contract allows the aircraft always to be ready for dispatch, and it will be able to launch to a fire within one hour of being called.

As of 2007 the aircraft had not been certified by the U.S. Forest Service, so it was not permitted to fly on fires on USFS land in California; however, the aircraft has been used in the 2009 Station Fire, so it is believed that such concerns have been addressed.

2006 call-when-needed use

Tanker 910 was first used in July 2006 when it fought the Sawtooth Complex fire
Sawtooth Complex fire
The Sawtooth Complex fire was a group of wildfires in San Bernardino County in the U.S. state of California in the summer of 2006. The Complex was made up of the Sawtooth, Waters, and Ridge fires, and burnt in chaparral two miles east of Yucca Valley.The Sawtooth Complex fire was started by...

 in San Bernardino County, California
San Bernardino County, California
San Bernardino County is a county in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 2,035,210, up from 1,709,434 as of the 2000 census...

. While the fire was burning, Tanker 910 initially sat on the ground at Victorville, as it had not received CAL FIRE approval to operate. The mayor of Victorville
Victorville, California
Victorville is a city located in the Victor Valley of southwestern San Bernardino County, California. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 census, the city had a population of 115,903, up from 64,030 at the 2000 census.-Geography and climate:...

, Mike Rothschild, became concerned and investigated why it was not flying, finding that the approval process was expected to take up to six months to complete. After a call to California State Senator George Runner
George Runner
George C. Runner, Jr. is the Republican Board Member for District 2 of the five-member California Board of Equalization ....

, CAL FIRE was able to complete the necessary training and paperwork in a matter of days, with the California certification being granted on July 15, 2006. The following day, July 16, the aircraft made two drops on the Sawtooth fire, and CAL FIRE personnel were reported to have said that "the two fire drops made a greater impact on containing the fire than the 12 helicopters drops for the past 10 days."

Later in the same month, the aircraft was used against several smaller California fires, as well as the Columbia Complex Fire in Washington. In September 2006, Tanker 910 was activated by CAL FIRE for use against the Day Fire
Day Fire
The Day Fire was a wildfire that burned largely in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County, California.It was the sixth largest wildfire in California history. The fire started on Labor Day, September 4, 2006 and by October 1 had burned over , cost US$70.3 million, and at one point had...

, and the following month it flew against the Esperanza Fire
Esperanza Fire
The Esperanza Fire was a wind-driven, arson-caused wildfire that was started in a river wash near Cabazon, California, west of Palm Springs, California. By Sunday, October 29, 2006, it had burned over 61 square miles and was 85% contained...


2007 contract use

Under the terms of the exclusive-use contract, Tanker 910 was activated against the White Fire where it flew two runs before incurring its incident. After repairs were completed, it was activated for use on the massive Zaca Fire
Zaca Fire
The Zaca Fire was a wildfire which began burning northeast of Buellton, California, in Santa Barbara County, California. The fire started on July 4, 2007 and by August 31, it had burned over , making it California's second largest fire in recorded history after the Cedar Fire of 2003. The fire was...

, the second-largest fire in modern California history, in August 2007. Tanker 910 was also activated for the Moonlight Fire
Moonlight Fire
The Moonlight Fire started on Labor Day, September 3, 2007, near Westwood in Lassen County, California, United States. It was a human-caused wildfire started as a result of logging operations on private land southeast of Mountain Meadows Reservoir and is still under investigation. Approximately...

 in Plumas County, as of September 6, 2007.
On October 22 Tanker 910 became involved in the effort to put out California wildfires, including the Slide Fire and the Grass Fire near Lake Arrowhead, California
Lake Arrowhead, California
Lake Arrowhead is an unincorporated community and a census-designated place in the San Bernardino Mountains of San Bernardino County, California, within the San Bernardino National Forest, adjacent to Lake Arrowhead Reservoir...

. The next activation came on November 24, 2007 when the tanker joined the effort to fight the Corral Fire above Malibu, CA.

2008 fires

In June, Governor
A governor is a governing official, usually the executive of a non-sovereign level of government, ranking under the head of state...

 Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American former professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Schwarzenegger served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011....

 activated Tanker 910 in response to the state of emergency regarding the Humboldt Fire in Butte County, California
Butte County, California
Butte County is a county located in the Central Valley of the US state of California, north of the state capital of Sacramento. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 220,000. The county seat is Oroville. Butte County is the "Land of Natural Wealth and Beauty."Butte County is watered by the...

, in order to combat the 20,000+ acre fire in adverse conditions on rough terrain. It flew sorties out of a former Air Force base, now called McClellan Airfield
McClellan Airfield
McClellan Airfield , known officially as McClellan Airport, is a county-owned public-use airport located six miles northeast of the central business district of Sacramento, a city in Sacramento County, California, United States....

, in Sacramento County. It made 14 drops, totaling 168,000 gallons of retardant, to quell the raging blaze, Hill said. The aircraft also participated in the defense of Big Sur
Big Sur
Big Sur is a sparsely populated region of the Central Coast of California where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The name "Big Sur" is derived from the original Spanish-language "el sur grande", meaning "the big south", or from "el país grande del sur", "the big...

 at the end of June and into July.

2009 fires

The aircraft was used during the Station Fire in La Cañada
La Cañada Flintridge, California
La Cañada Flintridge is a small and affluent city in Los Angeles County, California, United States whose population at the 2010 census was 20,246, down from 20,318 at the 2000 census. According to Forbes, as of 2010, La Cañada Flintridge ranks as the 143rd most expensive U.S...

 and Acton, California
Acton, California
Acton was founded in 1887 by gold miners who were working in the Red Rover Mine. It was named after Acton, Massachusetts by one of the miners. Two of the best-known gold mines located in Acton were the Red Rover mine and the Governors mine. Mining of gold, copper, and titanium ore continued into...

 in August 2009.

2011 fires

In April 2011, and again in September, the aircraft was deployed to Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 to assist in fighting an outbreak of wildfires
2011 Texas wildfires
The 2011 Texas wildfires are an ongoing series of destructive wildfires in Texas, United States that have occurred in the 2011 fire season. Statistics on the fires have been recorded since the current fire season began November 15, 2010...

. Tanker 910 was expected to assist firefighters in tackling the Bastrop County Complex fire
Bastrop County Complex fire
The Bastrop County Complex fire was a major wildfire that struck Bastrop County in the U.S. state of Texas in September 2011. The fire started on September 4, 2011, during Labor Day weekend, and burned east of the city of Bastrop. 1,645 homes were destroyed by the fire, making it the most...

, the most destructive single wildfire in Texan history, but it was not deployed due to delays in preparing the fire-retardant mixing facility at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is a mixed-use commercial airport located southeast of the central business district of Austin, Texas, United States. It covers and has two runways and three helipads.The airport began passenger service on May 23, 1999...


Tanker 910 was ultimately used to fight a prioritised fire north of Houston, as the Bastrop County Complex fire had been largely contained by September 16. As of September 18, the aircraft is still at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, conducting fire-fighting operations across the state.

Additions to widebody air tanker fleet

The aircraft's owner, 10 Tanker Air Carrier, added a second DC-10 to its fleet in July 2008, to be used on an on-call basis. On December 19, 2009, the aircraft arrived in Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 for the Australian fire season. Leased by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre on behalf of the Victoria state government, the DC-10 became operational in Australia in early January 2010, based at Avalon
Avalon, Victoria
Avalon is a locality situated north east of Geelong, Victoria. Its Local Government Area is the City of Greater Geelong and its Ward is Windermere...

. The Premier of Victoria at the time, John Brumby
John Brumby
John Mansfield Brumby , is an Australian Labor Party politician who was Premier of Victoria from 2007 to 2010. He became Premier after the resignation of Steve Bracks. He also served as the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs. He contested his first election...

, described the leasing of the tanker as being part of a record financing program to make sure the state was as fire-ready as possible.

2007 incident

Tanker 910 experienced its first serious incident on June 25, 2007. While on its third run over the White Fire in the Kern County mountains near Tehachapi, California
Tehachapi, California
Tehachapi is a city incorporated in 1909 located in the Tehachapi Mountains between Bakersfield and Mojave in Kern County, California. Tehachapi is located east-southeast of Bakersfield, at an elevation of...

, the aircraft was in a left bank while turning from base
Airfield traffic pattern
An airfield traffic pattern is a standard path followed by aircraft when taking off or landing, while maintaining visual contact with the airfield....

 to final approach
Final approach (aviation)
A final approach is the last leg in an aircraft's approach to landing. In aviation radio terminology, it is often shortened to "final".In a standard airport landing pattern, which is usually used under visual meteorological conditions , aircraft turn from base leg to final within one to two miles...

. It encountered severe turbulence, the left wing dropped, and the aircraft descended 100 to 200 feet lower than expected. The left wing struck several trees before pilots were able to power out of the descent. The aircraft climbed to altitude for a controllability check and to dump its load of retardant, then returned to its base in Victorville, where it made an emergency landing and was grounded pending an investigation, inspection, and repairs.

A post-incident investigation revealed that the aircraft had suffered damage to the left wing's leading edge slats
Leading edge slats
Slats are aerodynamic surfaces on the leading edge of the wings of fixed-wing aircraft which, when deployed, allow the wing to operate at a higher angle of attack. A higher coefficient of lift is produced as a result of angle of attack and speed, so by deploying slats an aircraft can fly at slower...

, aileron
Ailerons are hinged flight control surfaces attached to the trailing edge of the wing of a fixed-wing aircraft. The ailerons are used to control the aircraft in roll, which results in a change in heading due to the tilting of the lift vector...

s and flaps
Flap (aircraft)
Flaps are normally hinged surfaces mounted on the trailing edges of the wings of a fixed-wing aircraft to reduce the speed an aircraft can be safely flown at and to increase the angle of descent for landing without increasing air speed. They shorten takeoff and landing distances as well as...

. Despite the accident, CAL FIRE stated that they were happy with the aircraft. The aircraft returned to the sky for a test flight after repairs on July 30, 2007.

See also

  • Aerial firefighting
    Aerial firefighting
    Aerial firefighting is the use of aircraft and other aerial resources to combat wildfires. The types of aircraft used include fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Smokejumpers and rappellers are also classified as aerial firefighters, delivered to the fire by parachute from a variety of fixed-wing...

  • Wildland fire suppression
    Wildland fire suppression
    Wildfire suppression refers to the firefighting tactics used to suppress wildfires. Firefighting efforts in wildland areas requires different techniques, equipment, and training from the more familiar structure fire fighting found in populated areas...

  • Evergreen 747 Supertanker

External links

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