Martin Mars Water Bomber, DC-10 Dispatched To Fight Blazes
In fighting the largest series of wildfires in his state's
history, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to use
"every possible resource" to fight the blazes now raging in
southern California. And two relatively rare aircraft have answered
British Columbia-based Coulson Flying Tankers dispatched one of
its vintage Martin Mars waterbombers to fight the blazes. The
four-engined Navy seaplane -- originally used to ferry troops
between San Francisco and Hawaii during World War II -- can dump as
much as 7,200 gallons of water and retardant at a time.
"I know this plane can make a difference by dropping a huge wet
blanket," company CEO Wayne Coulson told InsideBayArea.com.
The seaplane also offers a quick turnaround time, as it is able
to refill its tanks while skimming the surface of a lake or ocean.
The water then mixes with fire retardant chemicals. Cal-FIRE
official Daniel Berlant said the Mars waterbomber "will be
especially effective in coastal areas and near lakes."
Despite the mammoth size of the Mars -- exceeded only by the
famed "Spruce Goose" -- Coulson adds the aircraft is also highly
The Mars' tanker capacity is exceeded only by a second rare
aircraft also pressed into service fighting the California
wildfires -- an experimental DC-10 tanker, converted for
firefighting duty by Cargo Conversions LLC. That plane sports a
According to Cal-FIRE, Tanker 910 sports three separate external
tanks mounted along the centerline, which can hold 50 tons of water
or retardant and are balanced with baffles to prevent shifting
while in flight. The tanks’ ground clearance is approximately
15 inches above the tarmac. The tanks can be re-filled concurrently
on the ramp in eight minutes.
The converted DC-10 is fresh from repairs made following a brush
with treetops in June. As ANN reported, the tanker
sustained minor damage to the leading edge of its left wing, and to
control surfaces including the aileron. The flight crew -- unaware
the incident had occurred -- returned to base safely.
In addition to these two unique aircraft, another 25 air tankers
and 40 helicopters are assisting firefighters on the ground in
battling the intense fires fueled by the fierce Santa Ana