Wings snap off of Waterbomber

 - May 6, 2008, 11:50 AM

LOCKHEED C-130A, WALKER, CALIF., JUNE 17, 2002–Engaged in a firefighting mission near Walker, the four-engine turboprop broke apart during a low-altitude run to deliver its fire-retardant load. All three crewmembers were killed and the aircraft was destroyed.

VMC prevailed and the aircraft was on a company flight plan. N130HP, registered to Hawkins and Powers Aviation Inc. of Greybull, Wyo., was being operated under Part 91 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Forestry Service for firefighting.

Approximately 16 min before the accident, N130HP departed Minden, Nev., to participate in firefighting efforts near Walker. Videotapes of the accident taken from the ground indicate that the airplane had started its retardant-delivery run. During the delivery the wings separated from the fuselage near the wing roots, and fire immediately erupted in the area of the separated wings. The recorded wind at the Reno-Tahoe Airport, located about 30 mi northwest of the accident site, was 190 deg at 15 kt, gusting to 21.

A survey of the wreckage trail has been completed, and detailed structural examinations of the airframe and the aircraft’s maintenance records are in progress. Collection and examination of local wind, turbulence and other weather data; operational procedures data; radar data; and information about flight crew training and experience was ongoing at press time.