Flightradar24 Blog

Fighting Fires from the Air

Fighting Fires from the Air

Share this article
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

When wildfires grow to sizes larger than a small city, it takes more than a standard fire brigade to put them out. That’s when the world’s fleet of specialized air tankers comes into service. Operated by private contractors and government agencies, air tankers offer the ability to drop massive quantities of water or fire retardant on a fire quickly and without endangering fire fighters on the ground.

Depending on the location of the fire, it’s possible to track a number of tankers either by aircraft type or registration. We track most fire-fighting aircraft with MLAT, so a number of factors determine whether or not an individual flight can be tracked.

You can read more about how we track flights with MLAT here.

This week, aerial tankers fighting fires in California have been in the news more than usual because a hobbyist flying a drone near one of the fires grounded the tanker fleet for a short time. Some of the tankers being used to fight the “Lake Fire” east of Los Angeles are converted DC-10 aircraft, currently the largest tankers in use.

A DC-10 Tanker completing a fire retardant drop over the "Lake Fire" in California
A DC-10 Tanker completing a fire retardant drop over the “Lake Fire” in California

The “10 Tankers” carry up to 44,000 liters (11,600 gallons) of fire retardant and can disperse a line 15 meters wide by 1000 meters long (50 feet by 3500 feet). The video below shows the DC-10 tanker in use during a 2013 wildfire.

Super Scooper

Other kinds of aircraft are also used as fire fighting tankers, including the Bombardier CL-415 “Super Scooper”, which is used by fire fighters around the world, including Italy and Canada. Unlike the DC-10, the CL-415 (Aircraft type filter CL2T) flies along the surface of the water, scooping water into its tanks.

I-DPCN

Fire Fighter Safety

Fighting wildfires is extremely dangerous, as the fires can be fast moving and unpredictable. To assist fire fighters on the ground and tankers in the air, surveillance and command and control aircraft are often employed above a fire. For the “Lake Fire,” LonAire Flying Service’s Twin Commander (Registration filter: N47TT) has been helping direct firefighters’ efforts and ensuring their safety.

N47TT
And if you’re looking to build your own aerial super tanker, you’re in luck.

 

Cover image by Maarten Visser, used under CCA-SA 2.0

Get the latest aviation news delivered to you

Get the latest aviation news delivered to you

Flight tracking and aviation industry news direct to your inbox

Aviation news comes quickly, so join more than 600,000 others who receive weekly aviation industry and flight tracking news from Flightradar24 direct to their inbox.

Share this article
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Useful flight tracking glossary

View our glossary of terms which you may encounter either on our site or in aviation in general that we hope enriches your flight tracking experience.

About Flightradar24

Flightradar24 is a global flight tracking service that provides you with real-time information about thousands of aircraft around the world.
Latest video
Get weekly updates on Flightradar24 and have the latest aviation news land in your inbox.

How flight tracking works

Flightradar24 combines data from several data sources including ADS-B, MLAT and radar data.
Search the blog
Trending articles
Follow us
Latest AvTalk Podcasts

Video: Testing out the Etihad 787-10 Business Studio (plus a bonus look at economy)

In this video we take a ride on Etihad’s lovely 787-10 from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi on EY78. Along the way we can’t figure out how to get our connecting boarding pass at Schiphol Airport; we have a chat with the Captain before departure; we get some beautiful views of Holland on the climb out; we test out the Etihad Business Studio seat, service, food and entertainment options; and we enjoy a scenic sunset descent over Iran and the Gulf.

Related news

Antonov An-225 Goes to Guam

The Antonov An-225, the world’s largest cargo aircraft, has had a busy summer. With heavy lifting in South America and the Middle East there hasn’t

Help to grow our flight tracking coverage

We are continually looking to improve our flight tracking and the airports below are where new receivers will add the most coverage. Apply for a receiver today and if accepted you’ll receiver a free Flightradar24 Business Subscription.

Free ADS-B Receiver
Most wanted global airports
Try the full Flightradar24 experience free for 7 days
Remove ads and unlock over 50 additional features

Get the Flightradar24 Aviation newsletter

Flight tracking and aviation industry news direct to your inbox

Aviation news comes quickly, so we want to bring more of the aviation world to you with our weekly Flightradar24 aviation newsletter - On The Radar.