DC-10 Air Tanker

YouTube – DC-10 Air Tanker


Primary Function:
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First flight:
transport/air tanker
3 x 40,000 lbs. ea.
267,200 lbs.
580,000 lbs.
12,000 gallons
181 ft. 5 in.
155 ft. 4 in.
565 mph
600 mph
1,700 fpm
35,000 feet
3,450 miles



DC-10 Air Tanker

DC-10 Air Tanker

The DC-10 air tanker originated in the early 2000’s when a team of experts at the 10 Tanker Air Carrier Co. researched the best heavy jet to use for blaze fighting. By 2010 the company had applied for and received the necessary government certifications for the conversion of used McDonnell DC-10 aircraft for their purposes.

Since that time 10 Tanker Air Carrier DC-10 air tankers have proven the original concept time and time again showing its overall strength incorporating a system of dropping water or retardants on a number of different blazes. DC-10 air tanker aircraft can incorporating deliveries of multiple or full loads per mission and use the most effective levels of coverage for a particular terrain.

Modifications to the DC-10 aircraft incorporate the addition of three tanks to the bottom of the aircraft that can carry some 12,000 gallons of water or retardants. The tanks take about twenty minutes to fill all three to capacity. When desired, a computer controlled dispersal system can drop the entire load in eight seconds or spread it out some 300 feet wide by a mile long.

Due to its size, unlike some other air tanker aircraft, the DC-10 air tanker flies most of its missions with much less than a full load of fuel. Its low weight, typically half of its certified maximum gross takeoff weight, enables the aircraft to have an extra safe margin above its stall speed, plus a climb rate and maneuverability that equals or exceeds single engine air tankers..

DC-10 air tanker aircraft began operating in 2006 under a limited evaluation contract with California. Its missions included fighting six blazes in California and one in Washington. After the DC-10 air tanker flew missions on a single day, it was reported that CAL FIRE evaluated it stating that two DC-10 air tanker sorties had “a greater impact on containing the blaze than twelve helicopter drops for the past 10 days.”

In 2007 California contracted with the 10 Tanker Air Carrier Co. for exclusive-use of one of their DC-10 air tanker aircraft. The aircraft was used against some seven blazes, including the huge Zaca blaze.

The DC-10 air tanker was first used in 2008 after a state of emergency was declared due to the over 20,000 acre Humbolt blaze. A total of 168,000 gallons of retardant were dropped on the blaze by the DC-10 air tanker. At the end of June and into July the DC-10 was again in use, this time over Big Sur.

In August of 2009 the DC-10 air tanker was used to fight a single blaze that spread through La Canada and Acton, California.

We could not find any deployments for the DC-10 air tanker in 2010.

In 2011, during April and September, the DC-10 air tanker fought blazes throughout Texas. In June of 2011 the DC-10 air tanker was deployed to Arizona for use against the Wallow blaze.

In 2012, two 10 Tanker Air Carrier DC-10 air tanker aircraft were deployed simultaneously. During August the two aircraft flew against numerous northern California blazes using over 1.7 million gallons of retardant. A single DC-10 air tanker was deployed to Washington in August of 2012 for use against the Taylor Bridge blaze.

In 2013, 10 Tanker Air Carrier was one of five companies receiving a U.S. Forest Service five year exclusive use contract. However, it appears that its aircraft were not used against any blazes that year.

In 2014, 10 Tanker Air Carrier aircraft flew some 325 missions against a number of blazes in California, Oregon and Washington.

In 2015 we find that three DC-10 air tanker aircraft from the 10 Tanker Air Carrier Co. flew some 435 sorties against blazes in Canada, California, Oregon and Washington. A single 10 Tanker Air Carrier DC-10 air tanker was dispatched to Australia in September of 2015. There it flew some 32 times against blazes before returning to the United States in February of 2016.

In 2016 a DC-10 air tanker was deployed twice to fight blazes in Southern California.

In November of 2017 the New South Wales Rural Fire Service contracted with 10 Tanker Air Carrier Co. for the use of a single DC-10 air tanker to be flown there during its summer fire season. It wasn’t until December that the DC-10 air tanker in the United States was used against blazes in Bonsal and Santa Maria, California.

In June of 2018 both DC-10 air tanker aircraft were used to fight the Badger Creed Fire near the Colorado and Wyoming border.

Two 10 Tanker Air Carrier Co. DC-10 aircraft remain active to date.

DC-10 Peter Michel

RC DC-10 Air Tanker

The RC DC-10 by master craftsman Peter Michel has a wingspan of 124 in. with a length of 136 in. Weight is about 44 lbs. Michel powers it with a single 29 lb. thrust turbine engine in the tail.

DC-10 - Robert Pannell

RC DC-10 Air Tanker

Robert Pannell scratch built a fantastic RC DC-10 with a 112 in. wingspan and 124 in. length. Its construction is primarily balsa over foam. Featured are operating l/g, flaps, spoilers, and leading edge slats. Power comes from a pair of Neu 1527/1.5Y motors driving Schubler DS 94 EDF units. Weight is about 41 lbs.
The RC DC-10 from Rauch Airliner comes in wingspans of 117 in. or 124 in. with a length of 136 in. and weight of about 44 lbs. Power can come from three .75 two stroke engines, a thirty lb. thrust turbine in the tail, or up to 135 mm ducted fans.

3 thoughts on “DC-10 Air Tanker”

  1. The DC-10 Air tankers are amazing. Does anyone know if they are being used against the current blazes in Northern California?

  2. Just saw a Reuters news clip showing the DC-10 air tanker being used against new blazes in Northern California.


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