MESA, Ariz. — Large firefighting air tankers like the DC-10 that is now stationed in Mesa at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport are a reassuring sight but their use has been somewhat controversial.
Some firefighters call them off-the-record CNN air shows — needless and expensive tools to appease politicians who demand their use on major fires.
The owner of Tanker 11 said ‘CNN air show’ is a term he hears frequently. And it’s unfortunate.
“The plane garners a lot of attention because of its size. We like to downplay that because it’s just another tool and happens to be an effective one,” Rick Hatton said.
Hatton said it’s important the public understands in most cases these large retardant-dropping planes don’t put out fires. They create a line of defense for homes and cities.
“That’s a temporary block which enables ground crews to get in more safely with hand tools and bulldozers.”
This week alone Tanker 11 has flown missions to the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso, N.M., the 257 Fire near Superior and the Grand Fire near Grand Canyon National Park.