One of A Kind Firefighting Plane Lands in Midland - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: |

One of A Kind Firefighting Plane Lands in Midland

by Anayeli Ruiz 
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - If you've driven by the Midland International Airport in the last day, you may have noticed a huge plane sitting on the tarmac. It may look like an ordinary passenger plane, but look again. The air tanker is one of only two in the U.S. and this air tanker is in Midland to help firefighters.

"We lay lines and retardant to try and slow the fire down so they can get a grip on spreading out the fuels and hopefully stopping these fires," Flight Engineer, Brad Pace, said.

That's what the DC 10 air tanker is here to do. It used to be a commercial airliner but was transformed in to firefighting plane. It's one of two of the largest firefighting planes in the U.S.

"In the early 2000's, they retired this one and the owner decided to see if we could put a tank in the bottom to use it for firefighting. So he used his own money and after the flight test, it worked great. Now we have two of these and hope to build more in the future to help fight fires," Pace SAID.

The DC Air tanker holds about 12,000 gallons of fire retardant and can be dropped in a matter of seconds to help fight the fires in West Texas.

"They bolted three tanks on the bottom of the airplane and it's gravity fed, so once you get over the fire, you set up the computer and you push a button and it comes out. We are about 300 feet off the ground and drop it anywhere from 1/2 a mile to 3/4 of a mile," Pace said.

Pace said his job is to make sure the plane is working well and he also releases the fire retardant.

"I'm a professional button pusher," Pace said.

On Tuesday, the tanker plane flew out for the first time to help with the Wildcat Fire burning near San Angelo.

"For the Wildcat Fire, it's 100 miles away, 15 minutes to get there, about 10 mins to drop, 15 back and however long to load and then well go again," Pace said.

It's the first time a DC 10 fire tanker has ever been to Texas. The tanker's home is in California but the tanker has been to Washington and even Australia. Now, they can add Texas to the list.

"We can stay for as long as they need us," Pace said.

The DC 10 will be stationed at the Midland International Airport to help assist in the fires here in West Texas.