George Petterson receives Walt Darran award

George Petterson
George Petterson receives the Walt Darran award. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Wednesday night at the Aerial Firefighting conference during a dinner at the California Aerospace Museum in Sacramento, George Petterson received an award named after Walt Darran, a legend in aerial firefighting, who passed away November 15, 2013.

Mr. Petterson was instrumental in determining the cause of two fatal crashes of air tankers. Below is an excerpt from an article in Aviation Week and Space Technology, February 21, 2005, (which is more accurate than the information which we received and posted earlier).


“George Petterson of the Los Angeles office of the National Transportation Safety Board investigated the 2002 inflight wing failure of a U.S. Forest Service Lockheed C-130, which led to the grounding of the firefighting fleet. Finding that metal fatigue hidden by a doubler was the cause, Petterson expedited the dissemination of this information to operators so there would be the least interruption to firefighting services. The investigation stirred his curiosity about a 1994 crash of a C-130 in which the wing also came apart during firefighting. The NTSB had attributed that accident to a fuel explosion. At considerable personal effort, Pettterson retrieved evidence from that crash in mountainous terrain, showing how a fatigue crack had grown unseen beneath a doubler in a manner similar to that experienced by the 2002 crash aircraft. Due to Petterson’s initiative, the NTSB changed the probable cause of the 1994 accident to fatigue cracking (AW&ST May 10, 2004 p. 69).”

28 thoughts on “George Petterson receives Walt Darran award”

  1. Met George for the first time in Reno this year, and listen to the accounts of his investigation. This award is certainly well deserved.

  2. George is the first recipient of the Walt Darran Award. He represents the Spirit of what it’s all about.
    His contribution to aerial fire fighting is incredible and George is as modest as talented.
    It was a priviledge to be seated at his table and present him the Award.

    Thank you so much George!

    At the next Tangent Link Conference, there will be another Walt Darran Award. We hope to see a long list of names on the plaque Under the model of tanker 93 (last tanker flown by Walt Darran out of Chico when he retired in 2010).

    We thank you George!
    We miss you Walt!

    Comittee director of the Walt Darran Award
    16 friends of Walt. All involved in aerial fire fighting.

    1. Jerome thank you for the kind comments. Would you please send me your contact information. Thank You George

    1. George is not only a true professional and expert in his field but a man of outstanding character. Congratulations to you George!

  3. We owe George a great debt for his commitment and integrity. I wish I could have attended the meeting and met the man. Thank you George.

  4. Congratulations George on this great and well deserved award. What you have done in your career and life are very impressive. You have earned this award and the respect of the aviation industry. Well done!

    P.S. I am a friend of Pat Macha’s and have met you several times. I have enjoyed visiting several accident sites with you and Pat.

  5. I know that when your investigation showed the stressed parts, you did not expect any award. It seems your work was not about having a job but more of way to save lives. It makes me very happy that you were recognized for this award for being the person you are and leaving no steel un-seen. Congratulations on a well deserved award.

    Dave Minto

  6. Hi old friend and employer : Congrats on your recent and well deserved award.We are so happy to be among your many friends for all of these many years.There are just a few of us left. Love @ Aloha Len , Millie @ Ella

    1. Len, do you realize how far back we go to the days of Chandler Aircraft Service in the 50’s. That is some kind of record. And I am still doing my IA Seminars. Thank you for the positive response.

  7. I am wondering if this is the George Petterson from LaVerne Airfield and Bullhead City Airport.. My old boss.. and flight instructor and dear friend? Congratulations regardless…

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