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Thu Jan 23, 2020, 02:43 AM

Three dead after Large Air Tanker crashes while fighting bushfires in southern NSW

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

Three American firefighters died when a Large Air Tanker crashed while fighting a bushfire in southern NSW. Earlier this afternoon, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said it had "lost contact" with a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, used in water bombing operations, in the Snowy Monaro area.

Firefighters, emergency services and military personnel launched a search and rescue and located the wreckage. However, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said all the crew members were "tragically" killed.

"[The aircraft] impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground," he said.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said there was no indication on what caused the accident, but is working with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to determine what happened. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was contracted through American aerial firefighting company, Coulson Aviation (USA).

Read more: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-23/nsw-rfs-air-tanker-crashes-near-numeralla-bushfire/11893554



Horrible reminder of the risks involved in fighting these massive bushfires in Australia. RIP to the three brave Americans.

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Reply Three dead after Large Air Tanker crashes while fighting bushfires in southern NSW (Original post)
KY_EnviroGuy Jan 2020 OP
herding cats Jan 2020 #1
KY_EnviroGuy Jan 2020 #3
applegrove Jan 2020 #2
KY_EnviroGuy Jan 2020 #4
applegrove Jan 2020 #7
SunSeeker Jan 2020 #5
BigmanPigman Jan 2020 #6
Duppers Jan 2020 #8
Dennis Donovan Jan 2020 #9
KY_EnviroGuy Jan 2020 #12
Violet_Crumble Jan 2020 #10
KY_EnviroGuy Jan 2020 #11
Karadeniz Jan 2020 #13
LineNew Reply .
Dem2theMax Jan 2020 #14
SunSeeker Jan 2020 #15

Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 03:01 AM

1. This hits close to my heart.

My heart breaks for their loved ones!

The risk is assumed, but the good they do is beyond dispute. Still... damn, I'm deeply sorry to read this.

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Response to herding cats (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 03:36 AM

3. Yes, and as a former volunteer firefighter it hits home every time....

whether close to home or far, far away. Firefighters are a very close-knit world-wide community.

It's far more difficult for the families because of the extreme distance from home. There will be a difficult recovery and investigation process in an active fire zone and it probably will involve U.S. officials.

This is the web site news page for the company whose plane was lost: https://www.coulsonaviationusa.com/newsmedia

It's probably too soon for them to post any details on this accident. I'm spot checking ABC (Australia), Guardian UK and the BBC.

BBC says:
The three crew members have not been identified but officials said they were US residents.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) said the experienced and "well known" crew had been contracted to Australia to help fight the bushfires this season.
+++
The Hercules C-130 water-bombing aircraft had been leased from North American firm Coulson Aviation as part of seasonal arrangement. All large air tanker aircraft operations had been suspended for the rest of the day pending investigation into the crash, Mr Fitzsimmons said.

"It was operating as it routinely does with water bombing activities...there is no indication at this stage of what's caused the accident."


KY.........

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 03:17 AM

2. The firefighters are exhausted. The planes must be exhausted too.

Vibes to the lost souls and their loved ones.

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Response to applegrove (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 03:44 AM

4. I suspect all of Australia is exhausted, but the stress on their volunteers.....

and professionals has to be overwhelming.

Also can't imagine the extent of respiratory problems that will result from this massive fire season, both with firefighters and millions of residents near these fires.

Australia will be mourning this one for decades in many ways.........

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 04:14 AM

7. Yes. Canada sent firefight safety coordinators to Australia. That would be exhausting

Last edited Thu Jan 23, 2020, 05:39 AM - Edit history (2)

to be saying who should evacuate and where to fight the fires, and to coordinate ground and air crews. Very stressful. I think we are giving a break to the Australians coordinators because they use a system from canada so all are familiar with the protocol. And we are sending firefighters out to the front lines this week, i think. And you just know that those exhausted Australians and Americans will be itching to fight after only a day off and one good sleep. Such a horrible thing to lose three brave Americans. I hope they are extra careful with the planes. Vibes that it rains again.

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 03:50 AM

5. So sad. I bet they were from CA. A big group from CA went there.

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 04:07 AM

6. Oh man, that's awful!

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 04:41 AM

8. 🕯




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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 07:14 AM

9. Coulson Group is the largest aerial firebomber company - they operate 2 Martin Mars aircraft



for the crew.

This reminded me of a video of another C-130 firefighting aircraft that had major structural failure around the wing box (center section of fuselage where the wings connect) back in 2002:



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_United_States_airtanker_crashes#C-130A,_Walker,_California

N130HP crash scene from NTSB report

Lockheed C-130A Hercules registration N130HP, call sign Tanker 130, was flying against the Cannon Fire, near Walker, California on June 17, 2002, when it experienced structural failure of the center wing section, causing both wings to fold upward and separate from the aircraft. The fuselage rolled and crashed inverted, killing the three crewmen on board. Unusually, the aircraft was being filmed during the retardant drop and at the moment the wings separated, providing valuable evidence for the subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Tanker 130 had departed the Minden, Nevada air attack base at 2:29 p.m. PDT loaded with 3,000 US gallons (11,000 L) of fire retardant for its sixth drop of the day with a pilot, copilot and flight engineer on board, and arrived at the fire at 2:45 p.m. The aircraft made an initial spotting pass over the drop zone, then flew back for the drop, which was to dispense half of the load of retardant. The drop run required the aircraft to make a perpendicular crossing of a ridgeline and then descend into a valley. A video of the accident shows the aircraft crossing the ridge and then pitching down to begin its drop of the retardant. Near the end of the drop, the nose of the aircraft began to pitch up to level attitude as the descent was arrested. The nose continued to pitch up past level attitude, and at the end of the drop, the right wing began to fold upwards, followed less than one second later by the left wing. Two debris fields were found, one 500 feet (150 m) in length and the other 720 feet (220 m) in length. A post-impact fire in the first debris field consumed major portions of the wing and engine components; there was no fire in the second debris field, which included the fuselage and empennage.

The aircraft, previously United States Air Force (USAF) Serial Number 56-0538, was one of the original C-130A production series and had been built and delivered to the USAF in 1957. It was retired from military service in 1986. In May 1988, the aircraft was acquired from the General Services Administration by the USFS, which in August that year sold it and five other C-130s it had acquired to Hemet Valley Flying Service, for conversion to an airtanker. Hemet then sold the C-130 to Hawkins & Powers. At the time of the crash, the aircraft had logged 21,863 flight hours.

The NTSB investigated the crash and determined that the accident was caused by a structural failure that occurred at the wing-to-fuselage attach point, with the right wing failing just before the left. The investigation disclosed "evidence of fatigue cracks in the right wing's lower surface skin panel, with origins beneath the forward doubler. The origin points were determined to be in rivet holes which join the external doubler and the internal stringers to the lower skin panel. These cracks, which grew together to about a 12-inch (30 cm) length, were found to have propagated past the area where they would have been covered by the doubler and into the stringers beneath the doubler and across the lap joint between the middle skin panel and the forward skin panel."

</snip>


Perhaps the 2002 crash will shed light on what happened with the C-130 in Australia?

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 11:09 AM

12. Thanks, Dennis. That was a horrifying clip.

The article I posted below said "The aerial firefighting environment is terrifically hard on an aircraft with anywhere from 5.7 to 7 times the fatigue of airline flying".

According to my quick calculation, these planes carry up to 33,000# of liquid for quick dumps on fires which means very fast changes in stresses on the structures.

Don't know the age of this plane but the one in your post was around 45 years old. One would logically assume the operators would do very intense structural inspections on a regular basis.

That article also said there was two C-130s lost in 2002 with a second lost in South Dakota.

Very dangerous business even without worrying about the planes falling apart......

Thanks too for the reminder about the Martin Mars, which I believe is no longer being built. That thing is very impressive, being able to land on a lake and refill on the move. Now that takes some guts!

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 07:35 AM

10. This news is gut-wrenching...

As if it's not bad enough, what makes it even worse is those American firefighters died so far from their homes and their families. They're heroes and we owe them and other foreign firefighters who are here to help a massive debt of gratitude.

RIP, and my condolences to their families and friends

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 10:56 AM

11. New background info on this incident.

The C-130 Large Air Tanker that crashed while fighting NSW fires — what we know about the plane
By Paul Johnson

Link: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-23/large-air-tanker-c-130-water-bomber-crash-cooma/11894892

(snips)
The Large Air Tanker, a Lockheed C-130, went down near Cooma, in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains on Thursday, killing the crew from aerial fire-fighting company Coulson Aviation.
++++++++
According to Tim Collins from Upstream Aviation, who has 40 years of experience flying C-130s, they are so effective because they can be flown low to the ground for maximum impact when dropping retardant.

"They're big and fat, they can carry 15,000 litres of fire retardant and they don't have to go fast," Mr Collins said. The aircraft can also be refilled in just 12 minutes and can take off and land on short, unsurfaced runways.

The crew of the aircraft typically consists of three highly skilled people.
++++++++
There is speculation by experts based on past incidents as to what may have caused the plane to crash.

"The aerial firefighting environment is terrifically hard on an aircraft with anywhere from 5.7 to 7 times the fatigue of airline flying," Mr Wardall said.
++++++++
Mr Collins believes there "are a handful of scenarios that could have happened" with the most likely being the aircraft could no longer handle the conditions.

"The stress on the aircraft becomes too much and it breaks up in flight [is the most likely]," he said. "Or it becomes so turbulent up there because of the extreme heat that the pilots lost control of the plane, or they get into thick smoke, become disoriented, can't see the ground and they crash the plane."


KY........

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 02:10 PM

13. Damnation!!

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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Thu Jan 23, 2020, 02:18 PM

14. .







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Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Fri Jan 24, 2020, 12:58 AM

15. The three have been identified.

The three U.S. firefighters killed in a plane crash while battling Australia's wildfires were residents of Montana, Arizona and Florida. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-firefighters-killed-plane-crash-while-battling-australia-fires-n1121741

Peace and strength to their families.

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