Investigators in California are examining a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 fire-fighting tanker after the tri-jet struck trees while combating a forest fire in the south of the state.

The incident occurred after the aircraft encountered severe turbulence while battling fires outside of Rosamond in Kern County, some 60nm northwest of its Victorville base.

California’s Department of Forestry & Fire Protection says that the blaze, known as the White Fire, has consumed over 4,200ha (10,400 acres) of brush. It has been attended by more than 1,400 fire personnel and 70 engines, assisted by six tankers and seven helicopters.

© Mark Wagner   
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 aka Tanker 910

The department says the incident to the DC-10, known as ‘Tanker 910’, happened at around 17:20 on 25 June while the aircraft was operating in the Bison Peak region south of the town of Tehachapi.

Tanker 910 drops load 
© Mark Wagner   
A firefighting DC-10 dropping its load

Serious turbulence caused the aircraft to descend and strike the top of several trees, it states: “The flight crew was able to apply power and fly out of the turbulence and safely return to their base at Victorville.

“There were no injuries to the flight crew or anyone on the ground. The incident is currently under investigation and will include a complete structural review of the aircraft.”

It has not indicated the extent of any damage to Tanker 910, but the department says the jet will remain grounded until the investigation is complete.

The aircraft, now registered N450AX, was originally delivered to National Airlines in 1975 and saw service with Pan Am, American Airlines and Omni Air International before being converted to a fire-fighting tanker.

Three external tanks mounted along the centreline of the aircraft are capable of holding some 50t of water or fire suppressant.

The aircraft operates under an exclusive summer contract with the California department, and complements its Grumman S-2 tanker fleet.

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