Crew of downed firefighting plane cited in crash
Investigators say the crew should not have avoided the storm that caused their plane to go down
By Bruce Henderson and April Bethea
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The crew of a Charlotte-based Air National Guard firefighting plane should have avoided the intense storm that fatally slammed the C-130 into the ground in South Dakota in July, investigators said Wednesday.
A six-week investigation found that the propeller-driven plane flew into a severe gust of wind called a microburst that blasted down from a thunderstorm. It crashed within seconds, killing four of its crew and seriously injuring two.
Accident investigators said the C-130’s cockpit crew had noted turbulent air from thunderstorms about 10 miles west. They had also puzzled over an unexplained drop in airspeed, despite full power, during the plane’s first pass to drop retardant on the wildfire it was attacking near Edgemont, S.D. The crew, part of the 145th Airlift Wing, discussed the airspeed problem but decided they could adjust to the conditions. The plane crashed on its second retardant-dropping pass over the fire about five minutes later, about the time a microburst lasts.