Report that pieces of metal fell from Erickson MD-87 air tanker over Fresno, California

(Last Updated On: September 15, 2015)

(UPDATE at 9:20 p.m PT, September 13, 2015)

KMPH reports that the pieces of metal that fell into a Fresno neighborhood Sunday afternoon, breaking a car window, came from an engine that failed on an air tanker, reportedly an Erickson MD-87. Below is an excerpt from their article:

…The plane had departed the Fresno Airport around 3:30 p.m. Sunday when, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and Fresno Firefighters, the pilot reported a left engine failure.

Shortly after, families in a neighborhood near Ashlan and Highway 168 said they heard a boom and saw smoke coming from the plane.

In the process, pieces of the plane’s engine fell into a neighborhood. At least one piece shattered a windshield. Others landed on the streets.

The plane returned to the airport moments later…

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(Originally published at 5:43 p.m. PT, September 13, 2015)

Medford tankers by Dave Clemens (4)
File photo of Tanker 101, an MD-87, at Medford in September, 2014. Photo by Dave Clemens.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Barbara and Steve.

UPDATE, September 15, 2015: The Fresno Bee published an article on September 14 with additional information.

We don’t know what caused the engine to fail, and it might not be related, but here is a link to a story we ran in June of 2014 about all three of Erickson’s MD-87s being recalled“ due to intermittent engine surges when dropping [retardant at] high coverage levels”.

11 thoughts on “Report that pieces of metal fell from Erickson MD-87 air tanker over Fresno, California”

  1. Uh oh

    Airfoil shaped pieces…

    Baked on retardant in compressor sections and maybe overheated and departed engine case??

    1. I think before jumping to conclusions about what caused the to engine fail we should wait for the official FAA/NTSB report.

  2. Bad part about the design for the retardant delivery system on the MD-87, to high of coverage and you suck it in the turbine before dropping it..

  3. Leo-
    Are you saying that the ingestion of slurry into the engine caused the failure?
    Has the aircraft type been removed from service?
    If not, then maybe the thought is that this is just an unfortunate radom failure.

    Was the aircraft loaded with slurry? Did it dispose of the load? Or did it land with the load on?

  4. David

    Unknown to me

    This was a discussion last year due proximity of droplets or spray of retardant and possible ingestion and coking or buildup of the retardant in the commpressor section and baking on onto the compressor sections creating possible hotspots on combustion casing creating failure.

    As hard a the MD was run this year……i would imagine engine washes were done religiously but nonetheless, maybe a random failure

    In my days of light and heavy helicopter turbine work, these hot spots in combustion casing caan create havoc, generally resulting in engine failure and replacement

    In my opening email…..i should have stated combustion rather than compressor sections. But operating temperatures in the inlet sections coupled with slurry wet content with known metals, silicas, and phosphates in retardants can be a precursor of what leads to buildups of material in combustion sectrions

    I am sure Erickson is on it

  5. Pretty obvious that the design of the MD87 isn’t the best for the platform it is being used as. Not saying it doesn’t work, but there are issues as with any aircraft converted from it’s original intent.

    The engine itself is another thing. Do turbine operators still do walnut shell and water engine washes? It might not prevent a mechanical failure but it does keep the turbine blades clean and in this environment might not be a bad idea on this platform.

    I hope they get things worked out – SAFTY is the most important thing for all parties!

    1. Doing a wash after the retardant has been baked on engine parts when it hits the 700 degree C hot section does what again? Last year or so didn’t we almost loose a MD-87 over a fire due to the engines being so loaded with retardant they wouldn’t respond? Turbine engines were never designed for more than rainwater and air to pass through them.

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