DC-10 air tanker to visit airports in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana

Tanker 911 dropping Poco Fire
Tanker 911 dropping on the Poco Fire in Arizona, June 15, 2012. Photo by Ian James.

UPDATED at 12:19 p.m. Monday, April 22, 2013:

The schedule for the visits of Air Tanker 910 to airports in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana described below has been revised due to snow at Rapid City — everything is being pushed by 24 hours. More details at Wildfire Today.


One of the DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers will visit airports in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana next week. Air Tanker 910, owned by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, has been in Michigan undergoing heavy maintenance in recent weeks and will leave from there Monday morning, April 22 and head west. On their way home in southern California, their plans are to stop at four cities:

  1. Brainerd, Minnesota, Monday morning;
  2. Rapid City, South Dakota, early Monday afternoon;
  3. Billings, Montana, Tuesday;
  4. Missoula, Montana, Tuesday.

If a DC-10 reloaded at Rapid City it would have to be from a portable retardant base, since it is unlikely that the existing rather cramped Tanker Base could support such a large aircraft, and possibly the weight would be more than the ramp could handle. Rick Hatton, President of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, told us that if they worked out of Brainerd the aircraft would most likely drop water, rather than retardant. Finding a fire hydrant within reach of the three-inch diameter hose the aircraft carries can be easier than accessing a Tanker Base.

The DC-10 always carries 11,600 gallons of fire retardant, about six times more than the 50+ year old Korean War vintage P2V “legacy” air tankers that drop an average of 1,948 gallons according to a 2007-2009 air tanker study.

The U.S. Forest Service has awarded exclusive use contracts for seven P2Vs and one BAe-146 air tanker for 2013. The agency has not yet announced any awards from the solicitation for “next-generation” air tankers they issued 505 days ago. There are indications they will give contracts to 7 next-gen air tankers, bringing the total number of air tankers to 15 for this year. In 2002 there were 44 large air tankers on exclusive use federal contracts. The USFS has said they may again borrow, if needed and available, some old CV-580 air tankers from Canada for a few months that carry 2,000 gallons of fire retardant. The CV-580s were produced between 1947 and 1954.

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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.

9 thoughts on “DC-10 air tanker to visit airports in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana”

    1. Sometime Monday morning, is all I know. Due to a weather forecast that that includes snow, they arrival time at Rapid City, scheduled for Monday afternoon, is uncertain.

      1. Due to snow in Rapid City today (Monday) the DC-10 will delay its arrival there, and now is expected on Tuesday. When we have more details we’ll put them here.

        An air tanker should not have to be subjected to the indignity of de-icing.

  1. Colorado? What is a DC-10 air tanker? The taxpayers of Colorado may be asked (Senate Bill 245) to cough up a little more money to protect their State from wildfires? The average person on the street who may live in the “interface” has little or no knowledge of fire aviation. A stop by the 10 folks in Colorado would certainly be educational.

  2. I was an airyanker pilot for H&P. I flew the 4ys and P2s, never did like the A-model Hercs. After 02, I flew cranes for HTS, then air attack in a 690.

    As such, I was a sceptic of the 10’s and Del’s 747. The first year they dragged the tail of the 10 through the trees, I thought, see, I was right!

    Those boys had a steep learning curve ahead of them, and me, not being a fan, didnt like them. My reasoning was the same as that against the Herc; a go fast airplane operating at slow speeds in an environment inappropriate for its maneuverability.

    If the ability to admit you were wrong is a mark of maturity, then I guess I am all grown up. I was wrong.

    Flying air attack on the station fire, the basin complex, and many others whose names no longer come to mind, I was witness to the skill and ability with which these kids flew those behemoths. Talk about a fire killing bitch! I was then and today remain IMPRESSED with their capabilities. Now, certainly there are many places where old Betty with Jan at the wheel would still be able to get into drop zones where the big birds could never reach, but it is a fact to which I have been witness; Tanker 10 is the real deal and has earned my respect.


    When we activated the 47 for the station fire, dispatch read us the riot act. We were told to be prepared to wait 24 hours, AND be able to document our justifications for such an $11 million call when asked and in triplicate. Funny thing is, after the lawsuits hit and dispatch’s incompetence was exposed, they never did ask for that paperwork.

    I guess they were afraid that I might actually testify in court about their utter incompetence; which may lead some of you to surmise my identity. Yes, as some of my brethren know, I am the son-of-a-bitch whom DAP could NOT intimidate.

  3. If you have not had an opportunity to stand next to one of the DC-10’s; it puts a whole new feeling into stopping wildfires. Don’t kid yourself this air tanker is a initial attack fire killing machine.

  4. I really hope they get exclusive use contract for this year, and multi-year contract is much better.


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