MAFFS air tanker experiences a hard landing

MAFFS 3 hard landing
The MAFFS 3 air tanker experienced a hard landing at Hill Air Force Base on August 17. There were no injuries. Photo supplied by the Air Force, originally from Fox 13.

One of the military Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers experienced a hard landing Sunday. The crew detected a potential malfunction with the nose landing gear and executed an emergency landing at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah. Upon landing at 2:53 MDT, there was a small fire and the aircraft, designated as MAFFS 3, sustained damage, but there were no injuries, according to the United States Northern Command.

The Fox 13 TV station in Salt Lake City reported that the air tanker was scheduled to “refuel and resupply” at Ogden when the problem was first detected.

Greg Brubaker sent us the photo below. He said he noticed the aircraft was flying in the area for over an hour and he observed that the nose gear was not visible.

MAFFS 3 nose gear problem
MAFFS 3 circling in the Ogden area before it landed with a nose gear problem. Photo by Greg Brubaker.

In the photo, the doors that cover the nose gear appear to be partially, but not fully open. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

On July 19, two MAFFS C-130s, MAFFS 1 and 3, from the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard in Cheyenne were activated to assist with the firefighting effort and have been deployed ever since, working out of Boise and other bases while rotating fresh crews in and out.

There have been three other hard landing incidents involving privately owned contract air tankers with failed landing gear or brakes since 2010. No injuries were reported in these accidents:

  1. 2010, June 26: Neptune’s Tanker 44, a P2V, experienced a hydraulic failure upon landing, had no brakes, and went off the runway at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (JeffCo) in Colorado.
  2. 2012, June 3: One of the main landing gears did not lower and lock on Minden’s Tanker 55, a P2V. The aircraft landed at Minden, Nevada and slid off the runway.
  3. 2014, June 15: Minden’s Tanker 48, a P2V, experienced a hydraulic failure, resulting in the nose gear collapsing while it landed at Fresno, California.

On July 1, 2012 a MAFFS C-130 air tanker, MAFFS #7 operated by the North Carolina National Guard crashed. The accident occurred July 1, 2012 as the aircraft was attempting to drop retardant on the White Draw Fire near Edgemont, South Dakota. There were four fatalities.

MAFFS at Helena
File photo of MAFFS 1 and 3 at Helena Regional Airport August 3, 2014. Photo by Jeff Wadekamper.

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6 thoughts on “MAFFS air tanker experiences a hard landing”

  1. It appears that rather than a potential problem with the nose gear it was an ACTUAL problem with the nose gear. Glad the crew was uninjured. Kudos to the PIC for getting it down in one piece. Unlike jet airline transports C 130’s are tough to land and keep the nose gear off the tarmac until the last possible second. When the mains touch the nose wants to come down NOW and holding it off is not an easy task

    1. Interesting info, thanks.

      Hercs are big fast transport aircraft.

      A number of airliners have done fine landing with nose gear up.
      Low wing propeller airplanes will ruin their props, I helped repair a Convair 640’s scraped lower nose, wing structure was fine..
      Turbofan airplanes may drag their expensive nacelles or worse.
      All need inspections in addition to the obvious repairs.

    1. Not in flight. All 4 were feathered once they were on the ground during the emergency ground egress. Engines were fine.

  2. You know the old saying.
    A good landing is where everyone walks away.
    An excellent landing is where the aircraft can be used again.
    Good landing Skipper. I hope you are getting back on the horse ASAP.
    There were potentially worse outcomes.

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