Largest air-tanker in the business lands in Boise, awaits flying-orders to next fire
President and CEO Rick Hatton climbed just one flight of stairs on an airplane tarmac to reach his office, Tuesday afternoon: a gutted DC-10. Video by IdahoOnYourSide.comvideo
President and CEO Rick Hatton climbed just one flight of stairs on an airplane tarmac to reach his office: a gutted DC-10.
“This is where the 380 people used to hang out,” Hatton said of the passengers who used to fill this jetliner's coach cabin while he pointed inside an empty plane.
Hatton founded 10 Tanker Air Carrier nearly 10 years ago. A retired U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot, Hatton now has a plane that flies faster and farther and drops as much retardant on wildfires as any other in the business.
“Unlike some of the military stuff some of us have done,” he said, “this is a positive thing. We’re helping and we’re saving rather than destroying.”
They’re also making lots of money. The U.S. Forest Service pays Hatton $50,000 a day while he’s under contract and an additional $22,000 an hour when his plane flies missions.
“We wish there were eight days in a week,” Hatton said.
And still, Hatton believes, that exclusive-use contract actually qualifies as a good deal for his employer.
“The real business-end of the machine is right there,” Hatton said gesturing to the 11,600-gallon tank fastened to the bottom of the aircraft.
Hatton’s plane can drop nearly 12,000 gallons of retardant at a time – that’s five times the amount of any other aircraft under U.S. Forest Service Contract this summer.
The plane – named “911” – travels faster than other tankers and can reload in as little as 15 minutes.
“We’ve actually turned it in 12 minutes before,” Hatton said.
So, while 911’s three-man crew (pilot, co-pilot, engineer) pressure-washed dried retardant from the plane’s body and enjoyed a fire-free day in Boise, Tuesday, they knew that if fire season continued at its current pace, days like Tuesday likely qualified as a rarity.
“All the arrows are pointing in the wrong direction in terms of more fires,” Hatton said.