Erickson Aero Tanker N838/Tanker 60


By Dylan Phelps

Erickson Aero Tanker is a company that has been at the forefront of aerial firefighting for decades. Founded by Jack Erickson, the company began as a helicopter logging company but quickly expanded into aerial firefighting.

Of the types operated by Erickson Aero Tanker fleet was the Douglas DC-7. The DC-7 was a workhorse of the skies, with an impressive range and the ability to carry up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. These aircraft were used extensively by the US Forest Service, and were a regular sight over wildfires in the western United States.
One of the most recognizable DC-7s in Erickson Aero Tanker's fleet was Tanker 60, a Douglas DC-7B. This aircraft was originally delivered to Eastern Air Lines in 1958, before being converted to a fire fighting aircraft. Tanker 60 was one of the busiest aircraft in the fleet, fighting fires throughout the West Coast and beyond for decades.
However, as the fire fighting industry evolved, the use of large radial-engined aircraft like the DC-7 became less common. Turboprop and jet aircraft, such as the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and McDonnell Douglas MD-87, became the preferred choice for aerial firefighting due to their increased speed and range. Erickson Aero Tanker recognized this shift in the industry and began transitioning its fleet to newer, more efficient aircraft. Tanker 60 was retired in 2020, after an incredible 62 year career as MD-87s began to enter service to become the company's go-to LAT (Large Air Tanker) platform.
While the DC-7s have now been retired from Erickson Aero Tanker's fleet, the impact that they had on aerial firefighting cannot be overstated. These aircraft were an integral part of fighting wildfires in the western United States for decades, and they will be remembered for their reliability, strength, and the dedication of the pilots and crews who flew them.
Erickson Aero Tanker's DC-7s carry a rich history in the firefighting industry. As this industry continues to evolve, it is important to remember the pioneers who paved the way for the advancements we see today, and to continue to honor their legacy as we move forward.
Enjoy these photos I took at Madras Airport in Central Oregon back in 2021. As a bonus, I've thrown a couple extra photos in, including Erickson's stunning Neptune and an MD-80 bird that is used for spare parts to keep their MD-87 fleet going strong.

Dylan Phelps
July 2023

Photo Credits: Dylan Phelps

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----Created 3 July 2023----