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Scored an airplane Quadrifecta: DC-10 FIre-Fighting Slurry Bombers
Posted By: AstroDave, 06-15-2022, 03:52 PM

The forests around Flagstaff are currently the scene of two large fires: the Pipeline Fire (Pipeline Fire Information - InciWeb the Incident Information System) and the nearby Haywire Fire.

From my house, I have a front-row seat to the Pipeline fire. This fire started Sunday morning (June 12) - quite possibly thanks to an illegal camper burning toilet paper! - and grew quickly thanks to high winds.

Here’s what the fire looked like, within about 2 hours of its being called in.

The fire fighters were able to bring in slurry bombers by Sunday afternoon, and I began taking pictures of them. The next day, the winds were gusting up to 50 mph and the planes were grounded. Tuesday, they were back in the air.

All kinds of slurry bomber planes were put into play, and Sunday afternoon we had our first visit from one of the biggest - a DC-10. Of course, I had to get some shots of that!

Turns out, there are 4 of these planes in service, operated by the joint technical venture 10 Tanker Air Carrier ( Quoting wikipedia: “Four air tankers are currently in operation, all DC-10-30 aircraft, with the call-signs Tanker 910, 911, 912 and 914.”

As I examined my shots more closely, I realized at some point that I had taken pictures so far of 3 of the Tanker10 planes. I was monitoring the air activity over the fire on Flightradar24 and on Tuesday afternoon, I noticed that the 4th of the DC-10s was on its way here. So, I once more grabbed my camera and managed to get pictures of the last one for my “collection.”

So, here are shots, of varying quality!, of ALL 4 of the Tanker 10 group. Some of these were shot from several miles (4 to 6 typically) away, at low elevations, through the afternoon heat as well as heat added from the fire, so they tend to have some atmospheric shimmer distortion. The 910 and 912 shots are the cleanest, while the 914 had some sharpening applied in Photoshop Elements.

Even though these are the biggest fire-fighting planes in operation, they are none-the-less dwarfed by what they are up against! Here’s a shot of Tanker 914 shortly after it dropped a load of slurry.

For any pilots among us (I’ve been known to fly Cessna 150s, 172s, and 177 (RG), as well as a brief stint in a Piper), I noticed in almost all my shots that the planes have their wing flaps at least partially extended while in action. They drop their loads while only a few hundred feet above the ground, so I guess they want the best lift option while low and slow.

At some point during the fire, I had all my Pentaxes firing away. I was using my new K-3 III with the DA* 300 for most of the airplane shots, and am impressed with its ability to keep focus on the airplanes, which often were quite small in the frame. I used my K-1, old original K-3, and Q7 to take time lapse shots for assemblage into movies of the fire.
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06-15-2022, 06:17 PM   #2
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I take my hat off to those crews. They do an awesome job. Regrettably, we lost a US crew here fighting our fires back in 2019-20. I like your shots. You say you applied some sharpening to 914, but my first impression was that it was not taken in "clean" air. It hardly matters because it only adds to the story you are telling with the pics.
06-15-2022, 06:38 PM   #3
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Thanks for this timely coverage of current events in your area. Those pilots have to fly in difficult circumstances and can't be thanked enough for their services. Hope that these blazes can be brought under control. Thanks for the images and information about these events.

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