(Originally published at 4:58 p.m. PDT June 17, 2019)
The Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base called and asked if we were interested in accepting some old photos of air tankers that they didn’t know what to do with. I said, “Of course!”
I’ll be posting some of them off an on over the next few days and weeks.
Today we have two DC-7 air tankers that were photographed in August, 1975. The locations on many of the photos say Lancaster, California, and that is the case for these. There is no indication who took any of the photos. The aircraft model, N number, location taken, and the month/year are hand-written on the backs.
Most of the photos were taken while the aircraft were on the ground, a few show them airborne, and only a couple show them dropping water, which were probably a test flights.
If anyone has more information about these aircraft, such as what company operated them and the pilots who flew them, that would be great.
(UPDATED at 6:20 a.m. PDT June 18, 2019)
After getting more information in the comments from Tom Story and Jon (thanks folks), it turns out that there was an error in the hand written notation on the back of the Tanker 69 print. The N number should have been N4SW instead of N45W. I fixed the caption in the photo above.
And, like Tom said, the two DC-7s were operated by Butler, according to the information at Geoff Goodall’s Aviation website. In 2012, Tanker 60, N838D, was transferred to Erickson Aero Tanker and is still in operation.
In his comment, Jon said, “Tanker 69 was the one lost on the way to Medford from Klamath Falls for the end of the season party in 1979. My dad knew most of them.” Here is some of the information he referenced at aviation-safety.net:
[On September 14, 1979] DC-7 “Tanker 69” departed Redmond, OR a company business flight to Medford, OR, with an en route stop at Klamath Falls, OR. The aircraft struck trees on the crest of Surveyor Mountain and crashed. The aircraft departed Redmond for Klamath Falls about 19:45 and arrived there at 20:29. Two passengers enplaned and the aircraft departed runway 14 at Klamath Falls at 20:40.The aircraft struck trees on the crest of the 6400 feet high Surveyor Mountain about 7 minutes after takeoff.
PROBABLE CAUSE: “The flight crew’s decision to undertake a direct point-to-point high-cruise-speed flight at low altitude. The crew’s judgment in the selection of a low-altitude flight profile may have been influenced by their familiarity with the terrain.”
CLASSIFICATION: Controlled flight into terrain.
Any crash of an air tanker is awful, usually killing two or three crew members, but in this case 12 people died — two crew members and 10 passengers. May they rest in peace.