PUEBLO, Colo. - For the first time in Colorado firefighting history, a DC-10 jumbo jet is based in the state for wildfire operations.
While such aircraft have made retardant drops in the past, the aircraft have never had a fixed refueling point in the state.
Unlike smaller aircraft, the DC-10 can carry up to four times more liquid, or up to 12,000 gallons. The water can be released 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 DC-10 being used to fight the Royal Gorge and the Black Forest Fires is owned by 10 Tanker Air Carrier LLC, based in Victorville, Calif. It’s under contract with the US Forest Service for approximately the next 160 days.
"Every flight is different, because we're going to different spots in the fire," said flight engineer Brad Pace. "Terrain, smoke, wind, people, helicopters. We had do one go around earlier, cause a helicopter going across the nose, trying to save a structure," he said in an interview with 7NEWS.
The cabin of the former Continental Airlines jet is now empty. The seats and galleys have been removed -- a strategic move to reduce the weight, allowing for additional retardant to be stored in the belly tanks. The substance used is very heavy and will eventually turn into fertilizer.
Pace has flown for the military and for an airline, yet this current assignment is the most satisfying."
"For me this the best job in the world, because the flying is fun. And then you're helping the guys on the ground save structures and put fire out,” he said.