Reload bases for the DC-10 air tanker

DC-10 Tanker 911 on the Robbers Fire
DC-10 Tanker 911 on the Robbers Fire in California July 15, 2012. Photo by David Wilson. (Click to see a larger version.)

With the DC-10 being activated again, I am reminded of the shortage of air tankers during the Myrtle fire in the Black Hills of South Dakota a few weeks ago, which during the first six hours had no large air tankers. On the radio a conversation between two people in the Operations section could be heard discussing the no-show of the air show. I could sense the frustration in their voices. One of them suggested that they consider requesting the DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker, but they did not know with certainty the nearest air tanker base where it could land and reload with retardant.

They knew that the aircraft is too large for most of the dozens of air tanker bases, since it has a wing span of around 160 feet and a weight of about a half million pounds. The physical layout of the bases and the runway, taxiways, and ramps at the airports are not designed for the size and weight of such a large air tanker.

However, there are eight bases that can accommodate the DC-10 in the western United States, according to Pam Baltimore, an Acting Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington D.C.

  • SBD – San Bernardino, CA
  • MCC – McClellen – CA (Sacramento)
  • MWH – Moses Lake, WA
  • BOI – Boise, ID
  • IWA – Mesa-Gateway, AZ (Phoenix)
  • HIF – Hill AFB, UT
  • HLN – Helena, MT
  • CPR – Casper, WY

When contemplating using a DC-10 air tanker on a fire, aviation personnel consider, in addition to the cost per delivered gallon, the fact that it can cruise at 564 MPH, and the retardant capacity of 11,600 gallons, equivalent to almost six P2V or four BAe-146 air tankers, which carry about 2,000 and 3,000 gallons, respectively.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

13 thoughts on “Reload bases for the DC-10 air tanker”

  1. That blazetamer product belongs to an Australian co I believe?? Would like to see Fireice from Geltech as the replacement for phos chek here in the US (if it ever does happen) .I say we support the US co’s and keep the US jobs; first and foremost 🙂

  2. If there were alternate policies for the use of other suppressants in LATs and VLATs in the US, this aircraft could reload with water only at the nearest rated airstrip and self inject suppressant concentrate. It then becomes a viable direct attack aircraft.

    1. that fireice product from Geltech might be a good alternative product for the DC10?

    1. The reload base at Victorville has been completely dismantled and shut down. While the airport can house the aircraft, it is no longer set up for retardant.

      The bases that Pam mentioned (above) are “current” air tanker bases that are fully equipped to handle Tanker 911.

      While many airports are capable of having Tanker 911 land/take off, it takes quite a complex retardant operation to support a VLAT.

    2. Last I heard victorville is no longer a reload base. Cal Fire pulled all of their equipment out of there.


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