Flying waaaaay too close to the edge

While fighting the Sage fire in California earlier this month, a DC-10 tanker aircraft made a low pass that almost turned deadly. Watch in full-screen mode for best results.

He can’t have been more than twenty to thirty feet above that last ridgeline . . .



  1. I remember reading someone arguing that for really getting down in those canyons that you don't want a DC-10, you want an A-10. Warthog. Much better climb power, much more maneuverable, although at the expense of carrying capacity of the fire retardant.

    I was left thinking some guys really wanted to get their hands on some Warthogs for some fun flying, but maybe they were onto something.

  2. When I flew in New Hampshire, we were instructed to watch out for the most deadly weather of all, cumulo granite. Apparently this guy didn't receive the same instructions.

  3. Used DC-10: $20 million
    100,000 gallons of firefighting chemicals: $25,000.00
    Watching your copilot duck into the locker room to change his pants after the flight: PRICELESS

  4. Sometimes, the only difference between bravery and stupidity is whether you live to tell about it.

  5. I'm thinking that that's a pilot who at the end of the day says: "and they PAY me to fly like this. Hell, I'd pay THEM if I had to! Yee-Haw!"

  6. I'm going with "he meant to do that." I'll also assume he's a local stick and is well aware of the terrain features and capability of the aircraft to deal with them. That said, I doubt another 100-200 feet would have made any difference in the effectiveness of the drop, but given the randomness of wind around peaks a couple hundred feet ain't much more of a cushion.

    Which leads me to ask: AFAIK all the fire bombers are re-purposed aircraft (with the possible exception of China's latest seaplane effort); why isn't someone bulding a purpose-specific fire bomber? Lots of low-loaded wing for slow speeds, lots and LOTS of power to carry large loads and get out of trouble, lots of load carrying capacity for large amounts of water.

    I'm quite sure it would be hideously expensive, but given that forest and brush fires are probably going to be around as long as the planet (and civilizations to worry about them) exists, it would seem a reasonable endeavor to create a "standardized" solution.

  7. Awesome to see them in person. Living near the foothills of So-Cal you see them every year. These guys flying are beyond amazing/crazy. Fires create crazy turbulence, and as seen in the video the margins are non existent. One of these actually hit trees during a fire, but the pilot managed to save it and land. Amazing.

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