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Medford’s new air tanker arrives

McDonnell Douglas MD87 on contract to ODF for the fire season through Erickson Aero Tanker, and the jet aircraft replaces a 1957 Douglas DC-7 Type 1 tanker that began life as a commercial airliner but became one of the last piston-engine tankers still in regular rotation. ODF Southwest Oregon District photo

A new generation of very large air tanker has touched down at its home base in Medford, and it’ll give Southern Oregon firefighters jet power they haven’t had before.

The new generation Tanker 101 — which will be the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District’s exclusive use Type 1 very large air tanker for the fire season — touched down at the Medford Air Tanker base near the Medford airport on Friday, according to an ODF Facebook post.

The LAT is a McDonnell Douglas MD87 on contract to ODF for the fire season through Erickson Aero Tanker, and the jet aircraft replaces a 1957 Douglas DC-7 Type 1 tanker that began life as a commercial airliner but became one of the last piston-engine tankers still in regular rotation, according to earlier news report.

In earlier fire seasons, crews described needing to carry certain spare parts on board because parts for the 1957 propeller driven airplane were so uncommon.

The new Tanker 101 capable of carrying 3,000 gallons of fire retardant is significantly faster than any tanker ODF Southwest Oregon District has had before. ODF describes speeds of roughly 300 knots — or about 345 miles per hour — at altitudes of 18,000 feet.

The new tanker is also “federally carded,” according to ODF, which means that the tanker can additionally respond to U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.