10 Tanker Reveals Stunning New Firefighting DC-10 Livery

Aerial firefighting business 10 Tanker is giving its fleet of DC-10 aircraft a new look. Firefighting is a niche corner of the aviation industry but the new livery will see 10 Tanker aircraft stand out from the crowd. The new-look is designed by Kyle Courtright of Courtright Design. It is styled as an abstract, eye-catching portrayal of the fire fighting retardant the DC-10s use.

10 Tanker is giving its fleet of DC-10 firefighting aircraft a new look. Photo: 10 Tanker

“It was my goal to create a marriage between the flowing, aerodynamic feel on the sides and the unapologetically edgy feel with the retardant triangles,” said Mr Courtright.

“10 Tanker has maintained a level of international brand recognition – particularly recognizable to its 10 Tanker “orange”. Staying true to the primarily orange palette preserved a level of brand equity and credibility already established in the industry.

“When it comes down to it, design has a return on investment. The compounding effect of a freshly recognizable visual brand is powerful and effective.”

A nice new look for critically important aircraft

While a new look is nice, and the new look 10 Tanker DC-10s would put the liveries of many passenger airlines to shame, it shouldn’t detract from the highly important role these planes have.

Since 2002, the New Mexico-based business has poured US$30 million into researching, developing, and converting fixed-wing jets into firefighting machines. 10 Tanker have modified four former passenger McDonnell Douglas DC-10s into tankers that can carry 9,400 gallons of firefighting retardant with a weight of 84,600 lbs.

The aft section of a 10 Tanker DC-10. Photo: 10 Tanker

“Year after year 10 Tanker responds to hundreds of wildfires while delivering millions of gallons of retardant worldwide,” says the 10 Tanker website.

“Our DC-10’s lead the way in performance and efficiency, with the capability to deliver 9,400 gallons of fire retardant within eight seconds and up to a mile long.”

Anyone who lives in wildfire-prone areas knows the value of planes like these. Even if a dump from the plane turns everything you own a horrible shade of orange, it’s far better than your house burning down.

In 10 Tankers’ fleet are four aircraft. N17085 first flew in 1975 for Finnair before moving onto Nigeria Airways, Air Liberte, Continental Air Lines, and Omni Air International before winding up at 10 Tanker in 2007. N522AX is younger, first flying in 1988 with Japan Airlines before going to Harlequin Air, Northwest Airlines, Omni Air International, and finally 10 Tanker in 2014. N603AX first operated for THAI in 1987 before moving onto Northwest Airlines, Omni Air International, and going to 10 Tanker in 2017. N612AX has an identical pedigree, starting out with THAI in 1987 and winding up at 10 Tanker in 2014.

A converted 10 Tanker DC-10 sporting the new look. Photo: 10 Tanker

The 10 Tanker DC-10 specs

Each plane has five tanks, including forward and aft fairing tanks. In between are three tanks housing the fire retardant. Each tank can hold 2,700 gallons, 4,000 gallons, and 2,700 gallons respectively. Heading to the fire zone, the DC-10s cruise at around 300 to 350 knots. When dropping the retardant, flight speed decreases to around 140 knots. To ensure precision, the drops usually occur when the aircraft is 200 to 300 feet above ground level. 10 Tanker says a full load of retardant can get dropped in as little as four seconds.

It must make for some pretty smart flying skills. On each 10 Tanker DC-10 is the Captain, a First Officer, and a Flight Engineer. The Flight Engineer monitors systems and input conditions for the retardant drops.

In 2020, 10 Tanker flew 826 missions in the United States alone. Those flights delivered over 7.5 million gallons of fire retardant. At the end of the day, when you are doing such an important job, it really doesn’t matter how your aircraft looks, as long as it works well. But as Kyle Courtright noted, he jumped all over the design brief because it is a pleasure to work for a business that makes an obvious difference for good in the world.


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