Highly regarded for their durability as passenger and cargo airliners, DC10s are modified by the 10 Tanker Air Carrier company and operated as very effective aerial fire-fighting tankers.
Following four years of development, testing, and certification by U.S. federal and state regulatory agencies, 10 Tanker has operated since 2006 in California, Washington state and Victoria Australia.
Capable of carrying 11,600 gallons of retardant, gel, foam, or water in its constant-flow external tank system, the DC10 has consistently proven to be effective.
Fire fighting experts have stated that this innovative tool for aerial fire fighting is a real â€œgame changerâ€ due to the volume carried, jet speed, and rapid turn-around capabilities. Cockpit controls permit full or partial loads to be dropped in numerous quantities and coverage levels as required by incident commanders. Operations dovetail smoothly with conventional aerial and ground assets.
A MAFFS (Modular Airborne FireFighting System) unit is a 3,000 gallon pressurized tank installed on a military Lockheed C-130 cargo/utility aircraft. Crewed by a pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer, the craft has a cruising speed of 275 miles per hour.
Retardant or water is dropped out of the tank in under five seconds through two tubes at the rear of the plane or through one tube out of the side in the newer models. The retardant dropped can cover an area of one quarter mile long and 60 feet wide to act as a fire barrier.
The objective of the MAFFS program is to provide additional emergency aircraft to supplement the existing airtankers during major fire sieges. The MAFFS is not used for initial attack.
Congress established the MAFFS program after the 1970 Laguna Fire overwhelmed the existing aviation fire fighting resources. The U.S. Forest Service was directed to develop a program in cooperation with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve to produce the equipment, training and operational procedures to integrate military air tankers into the national response system.
In 2009 the MAFFS 2 was unveiled as the next-generation portable retardant dispersal system. The MAFFS 2 is more efficient and effective in its retardant dropping capabilities.