USA — The firefighting DC-10 Supertanker, based at Southern California Logistics Airport, is being studied by NASA in what could pave the way for the planes first federal contracts.
The jets owner, 10 Tanker Air Carrier, has been trying for some time to get a contract with the U.S. Forest Service that would allow the agency to fight fires on federal land, managing partner Rick Hatton said. The Forest Service approached NASA for help in determining the best use for the plane.
They came to see us in Victorville with six or seven people last month, Hatton said. We briefed them on the plane and how effective its been for the state of California and how effective it could be for the federal agencies.
NASAs Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, about 30 miles northwest of Victorville, will be studying the supertanker to determine its safe flight envelope. The team will then recommend operational use regimes, policies and procedures for the aircraft.
The NASA team has spent the past few days in Miami, Hatton said, using an advanced DC-10 flight simulator to perform some preliminary tests.
We hope to get the NASA team on the DC-10 in a fire environment, Hatton said, so the company can show NASA what the plane can do.
If not, he said theyll do mock drops with water in a remote place over the desert, hopefully within the next few weeks.
The entire team is very excited about helping the Forest Service with this effort, said Mark Dickerson, project manager for Dryden. It is a bit different from our typical research projects, but we all enjoy being able to help find new tools to fight wildfires.
NASA is also studying a Boeing 747 owned by Evergreen International Aviation.
Hatton said his company has hope that the final report will be done in the next few months.
Contract extended for DC-10 Air Tanker
Though the DC-10s Supertankers contract with Cal Fire would have ended Oct. 15, 10 Tanker Air Carrier managing partner Rick Hatton said its been extended through the end of October. Santa Ana winds picking up and the dangerously dry conditions are rattling some nerves.
Its been a weird season, Hatton said. It was very busy early in the summer. We flew more mission in June and July than all of 07. But its been quiet for August and September. Now theres this huge fear that all hell could break lose.
The tanker was used to fight the Porter Ranch fire that engulfed parts of Los Angeles two weeks ago, but the plane has been grounded for the past few days. Last year, during its first year under contract with Cal Fire, the tanker flew 106 missions in fighting more than a dozen large wildfires.
Hatton said a recently completed second DC-10 is ready to come on line soon, with plans to get contracts in place for next years fire season.