Name: Rick Wolverton
Species: Timber wolf
Voice: Chris Pratt
Eye color: Olive green
Love interest: Vivica Wilde
Personality: He is confident and charming. Has a dry wit. Open-hearted, heady, selfless, and honest. He is open-minded and perceptive. Is intelligent, open-faced, high-minded, complacent, and clear-sighted. He is also somewhat stubborn but with good intentions.
History: His family had always been involved in firefighting; his father had been a firefighter, and his grandfather had been a fire chief. Instead of following family tradition, his brother Larry became a security guard.
Rick was always fascinated by aerial firefighting whenever it was shown on TV, watching the planes come in and drop their load of retardant, piloted with skill and precision. After graduating from high school, he took several years of the necessary training to become an aerial firefighter. After completing training, he got a job at Pine Peak Air Attack Base, in the mountains many miles outside Zootopia.
At age 37, after several years of not having much luck with speed dating, his brother Larry set him up on a blind date with a fox named Viv; she worked as a waitress in Zootopia. Larry had been to the restaurant many times and had become good friends with her, also learning of her situation with her son Nick.
Rick and Viv dated for about two years. After that time getting to know him, she found she didn't like him as much as she thought, but still wanted to be friends. She was planning to break up with Rick but was unsure of how to go about it, given how her last relationship went.
In the early afternoon of July 18, 2002, Rick was reading a favorite book when the base's alarm went off. He put the book down, got the mission details from the base dispatcher, and ran to the closest air tanker, number 23 (pic of the actual plane: https://upload.
At 6:15 pm, Tanker 23 took off from the air attack base with another full load of retardant; a ZNN reporter assigned to cover the air tankers at the base saw no signs of trouble during the many times they watched the plane take off and land that day.
At 6:45 pm, Rick and the copilot flew in from downwind, prepared to make their eighth drop of the day after making a couple of practice runs. They were in a gentle turn to the left, about a mile north of the fire. Other than the noise of the engines, all was quiet; no-one said a word. Suddenly there was a loud bang from the left side of the plane; the entire left wing had broken off at the wing root, trailing fire from where it had been. The frightened pilots could do nothing but watch helplessly from the cockpit as their plane spiraled towards the ground, then slammed nose-first into the side of a tree-covered mountain, claiming them instantly.
About half a mile away, a hotshot crew on another mountain watched as Tanker 23 came in for the drop. "Here he comes, he's gonna come in!", one of them said, before he started taking pictures. The firefighters watched in shock as the plane's left wing suddenly broke off and the rest of the plane spiraled downward and hit the side of a mountain, exploding in a fireball upon impact. The crash created a plume of smoke that could be seen over the ridge line and started several spot fires (https://www.merriam-webster.
Viv first heard about the crash on the news that night, and she hoped Rick wasn't on that plane. The next day she got the phone call she'd been dreading, from the tanker base Rick flew from. Upset and in shock, Viv sat down, hiding her emotions from Nick since he'd already been through so much. In the days following the crash, Viv tried to be brave, putting on a fake smile at work, as well as around friends and family. But behind closed doors, she broke down and cried.
The memorial service was held at the tanker base where the pilots refueled each day while fighting the fire. While visiting the crash scene with Larry, as well as friends and family, a devastated Viv ran her hand on a mangled propeller blade, one of the few pieces of debris still recognizable as an airplane part.
After examining the wreckage, investigators found the cause of the crash to be inflight failure of the left wing due to fatigue cracking in the forward spar and wing skin. The 18-inch crack had been hidden from view by the wing's fuel tank, as well as the retardant tanks in the fuselage. Also contributing to the accident were inadequate maintenance procedures to detect fatigue cracking, being based on repair manuals that hadn't been revised since '48. The plane had been built in the 1940s for the navy, and was in service until 1956. It was converted for firefighting use in 1958, and had been in that role until the time of the crash.
The entire air tanker fleet was grounded following the crash. The contracts for the 9 older air tankers were not renewed, while the remaining 33 underwent an improved inspection program before they went back into service.
Viv eventually moved on and got over Rick's death, but for a while she was sad by trying to hide it in front of Nick.
Relation to Zootopia: Is Larry's brother; his love interest is Nick's mother
*Based on Rick Schwartz, one of the two pilots of Tanker 123, which crashed on July 18, 2002. Other than his first name, age, occupation, and demise, his life has been fictionalized. More info about the actual crash can be found at these links, or by Google searching "tanker 123":
*I designed the uniform, his fur colors were done by Blazetail.
*Base is from some sketches by Borja Montoro, freelance character designer for Disney; they can be found here: