July 07, 2011 4:57 PM
Brooke Edwards
Staff Writer

VICTORVILLE • In the wake of the cash-strapped state yanking its contract with the DC-10 supertankers, a company official said they may be forced to leave California or — worse yet — ground the jumbo jets entirely just as fire season heats up.

“It’s foolish because it saves more money than it costs if it keeps one or two fires from becoming big fires,” said Rick Hatton, managing partner of 10 Tanker Air Carrier.

The company has had a full-time contract with Cal Fire from June 15 through Oct. 15 for the last four years, with its two converted DC-10s ready to drop up to 12,000 gallons of retardant on any fire in Southern California within 30 minutes.

The supertankers have been based at Southern California Logistics Airport during that time, using the Victorville site to maintain the jumbo jets and refuel between the 348 missions they’ve flown on 48 California fires since they launched on an on-call basis in 2006.

But with no money to pay the $7 million contract for the 2011-12 fiscal year, the state has suggested the DC-10s switch back to a call-as-needed basis.

Not only would that extend the response time from half-an-hour to 24 hours, Hatton said it wouldn’t be financially feasible for his company.

“That doesn’t work with a dedicated asset like the DC-10 because we have to pay the bank,” Hatton said, with tens of millions of dollars in startup costs to pay off.

For the more about the supertankers, read the second part of this story in Saturday’s Daily Press. Get complete stories every day with the “exactly as printed” Daily Press E-edition, only $5 per month! Click here to try it free for 7 days. To subscribe to the Daily Press in print or online, call (760) 241-7755, 1-800-553-2006 or click here.

Brooke Edwards may be reached at (760) 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.