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As jets take charge of fire-bombing missions, the 62-year-old piston-powered Tanker 60 takes its last flight over Oregon

As jets take over as fire-bombing aircraft, the piston-powered Douglas DC-7 plane, aka "Tanker 60," is going into retirement. This Eastern Air Lines plane was built in 1958 and spent its early years flying up and down the East Coast and to the Caribbean. In the 1970s, the plane was gutted and refit to be a air tanker and fire bomber, used to drop fire retardant from above, and has since spent over 40 years fighting fires. ( More...

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bbabis 21
Great article. Thank you Tanker 60 and crews for service above and beyond!
Ray Harrop 8
On the 31st January this year one of the jet replacements saved our property here in Bermagui (Australia) dropping 3 loads of retardent - each one coming from a base in Canberra 128 KM away (as crow flies) - we will be forever indebted to the crews and management of these types of planes. Thanks guys.
It would be nice to think that a flying museum would purchase Tanker 60 and perhaps return her to original condition. I know it would be an expensive project, but at least they would be starting with an airworthy example of the DC-7.
dee9bee 3
Yes, very expensive to operate, too. In the fifties flying transcons, three engine approaches were rather common with the DC 7. On the other hand, I read that the crews were running the engines pretty hard. Perhaps if you "babied" them...
ImperialEagle 1
The trick was to keep them in Low-Blower. BUT, you couldn't climb very high and could risk giving the folks in back a rough ride.
In any event, those 3350TC's were very prone to failure. They were on the Super Constellations as well.
There is an Erikson Aircraft Museum in Madras, OR where it's last flight ended. Maybe it will join their collection.
john doe 1
Tillamook Air Museum...
SmokedChops 5
The specialized parts for the turbo-compound Wright's are probably non-existent (ones unique from the 3350's). When Kermit Weeks was working on his Connie, he knew of a gentleman in New England? who had containers of NOS parts for these engines, PRT's, superchargers, Connie and DC-7C airframe parts, etc. The gentleman passed away, and the parts were literally sold for scrap metal. These are items that can't be replicated without obscene amounts of $$, which is most likely why Tanker 60 is being sent off to retirement. Availability of high rent AvGas -the purple shtuff well above 100LL- will only get worse with time. Preserve it, keep it flying folks. People 60+ years from now won't be excited by an Embraer 145 or B738, they be will still be excited by this.
Great story. Thanks to all who flew that plane
Bruce Black 5
I flew auto parts out of Willow Run airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1972. We were flying DC-7B, 7C, and CW-46. It was a great experience that I got to participate in the beginning of my career. I hope someone can keep the Tanker 60 airworthy as a flying museum.
Tom Bruce 2
got pictures of that one too, I think...old Saturn Air plane?
Bruce Black 1
Ortner Air Service, home airport, Wakeman, Ohio.
Tom Bruce 4
was up at McClellan-Sacramento for awhile last fire season 2019.. a beauty
Excellent write-up. Hate to see these ol' propliners go away. Seconding the comment, grizzly Mike at Buffalo might want her.
Dan Chiasson 3
My guess is probably not as much as one would think based on age alone. Especially considering her 40 years of seasonal work. And she still looks great! My guess is the glut of jets and the steep downturn in the aviation economy for obvious reasons are driving companies to lower maintenance airframes and engines. Maybe she will go north to continue on her efforts. (Everts? Buffalo?)
I realize that they don't get constant use like a commercial airliner. But what hours they do fly there has to be some higher stress than normal airline flyers.
sharon bias 3
With the fires on the West Coast getting so frequent and hot, we need jets that can dump big loads quickly. I live under the flight path of McClellan Airport. We have 747 and DC10 fire bombers. They can load, fly 300 miles, dump, return to base and repeat in about an hour. They can hold between 12,000 and 19,000 gallons of retardant. The have been particularly effective at laying down long wide break lines to keep fires going up and over hills and into housing areas. It does get a little crazy having them fly low over my house about every 30 minutes. They come in and depart hot. I think being a Navy carrier pilot is a requirement for them to fly :)
ImperialEagle 3
Nice write-up and fitting for the old bird. I am amused by the comment about extra barrels of oil stored on board. With the 3350TC's it was the oil that determined the longest range! "Give us a bit of gas and top-off the oil". Also, nearly impossible to find 145/90 gas these days. So High-Blower is not an option!
Rob Spencer 5
somebody call "Mike" up at Buffalo . . . maybe they'd be interested . . .
Wayne Fox 2
It is a shame that people of the Northwest will not hear the roar of the radial engines on the DC7 #60. I have a suspicion that as the wildfires continue to become more frequent and intense in the NW, this bird will fly again. Thanks to all the crews that have taken her out and returned home safely throughout her storied life. Well done!
Dave Mathes 2 was so appropriate to see Captain Carpinella log out sitting in a 1st class seat...exactly where he belongs...
Dan Chiasson 2
May she have an enjoyable retirement somewhere in the sun knowing that her efforts are appreciated and her impact on human lives real.
Wonder how many hours were on that air frame?
cyberjet 2
Can the 60+ year old birds with ancient and hard to find turboprop engines be far behind (L188, CV580, P3)? How many more wing planks can they add to those Electras? Those old wings have been flexed and stretched thousands of times.
It flew over my house several times in August. Low and slow but doing the job. Glad we got to see it in action.
Great read. Thank you.
Thomas Francl 1
Keep flying for a couple of weeks. California needs you.
B Trott 1
Makes me teary. Thanks for good service.
Nicely done article. Delta also had some of the 7B planes I was privileged to work on a few years. We always ran up the engines each morning before flight time and loading passengers. Easy engines to start. Great times!


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