“24-hour” briefing for off-runway excursion at Grass Valley, CA

On October 7, 2014 Laurence Crabtree, the Forest Supervisor for the Eldorado National Forest, issued a “Preliminary (24-hour) Briefing” about the air attack aircraft that ended up off the runway at Nevada County Airport near Grass Valley, California three days earlier. The document has very little information:

Aero Commander 690B veered off the runway at approximately 1343 hours. The ship had been performing an aerial supervision mission on the King Fire, located on the Eldorado National Forest. There were three people onboard, the pilot, an Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS) and an ATGS trainee. The National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB) classified this event as an accident on October 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM. The Forest Service has assigned an investigation team to work in collaboration with the NTSB.

It is obvious that the USFS can’t say a lot about the official cause of an accident three days after the incident, but in a document that took three days to prepare, many people would appreciate a little more information, including indisputable facts such as injuries, the weather, obvious mechanical malfunctions such as a blown tire or collapsed landing gear, or did it occur on takeoff, landing, or taxiing.

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25 thoughts on ““24-hour” briefing for off-runway excursion at Grass Valley, CA”

  1. The Forest Service 24-Hour and 72-Hour report “process” has pretty much lost the original goals… rapid info sharing and lessons learned.

    Maybe NTSB will share a quick preliminary?

  2. I would trust more information coming from the NTSB anyway even if it is a preliminary.

    Unless Mr Crabtree has more creds than most aviation folk……I could see where this lack of “info” comes from.

    Agree with Ken….”rapid info” and “lessons learned” are reads that lose that 24 and 72 hour process component

  3. Another 690B accident. Too much airplane for many pilots. I’ve flown numerous ATGS’ who have had stories about how Aero Commanders have problems in cross-winds especially when the pilot puts out too much flap. In addition, some Aero Commander pilots try to fly these aircraft in the same takeoff and landing configuration in hot weather and on paved airstrips as they do on cool weather, gravel and grass airstrips. One such situation lead to a crash at the end of the North Las Vegas airport in the mid-2000s which ended a trainee FS ATGS’ fire career and put the ATGS on the shelf for a whole summer. Again, too much airplane for many pilots and probably too much airplane for the ATGS mission.

    1. As a retired Air Tanker pilot and former Air Attack pilot who has actually flown this particular aircraft and many like it including King-Airs, I respectfully disagree with your statement. In entirety.

      You are aware an Aero Commander is a different aircraft from a 690B correct? Am I to further assume that second hand ATGS reporting on his pilot’s technique is in fact a credible source?

      Back in the saddle, you have demonstrated quite clearly the problem with all of the Federal Fire Aviation programs.

      Those with no first hand knowledge or experience professing to have the answers for us foolish front line pilots.

      Quite frankly my concern with the 690B is it is underpowered. I will take -10’s over 5’s in a 690 any day. The enhanced performance is striking and very useful in its ATGS role.
      IFF you can find an ATGS capable of handling his position, I have only met a couple over the years. Most were weak and lacked any real world aviation experience, those who had some, thought they were God and infallible. They were the most dangerous.

      1. Likewise, “Retired”. That was one awesome fell swoop! “IFF (sic) you can find an ATGS capable of handling his position, I have only met a couple over the years. Most were weak and lacked any real world aviation experience, those who had some, thought they were God and infallible. They were the most dangerous.”…. IF I were to refer to you as the “bus driver”…. That might be slightly uncool, no? Sounds like you were a CWN AA pilot, and you shouldn’t put all your eggs into one basket. That being said, I didn’t necessarily agree with what BITS wrote either.

        1. CWN, EU. In over twenty years flying on fires, I have done a bit of it all. From C119’s to Skycranes to Turbo Commanders I had exposure to the best and worst of an industry. My eggs got spread around quite a bit. There were a couple of ATGS’s I met over the years who were a pleasure to watch work, but like I said, they were a rare breed.

          The -5 s lack that right here right now oomph I want when DA is high and I am down low in a tight place.

          I spent yesterday looking over the crash site of T-42. They were mere feet from clearing that ridge.

  4. “too much airplane for many pilots and probably too much airplane for the ATGS mission”

    One question: are any pilots incapable of handling a 690 actually flying them over fires?
    One statement: the 690B is a wonderful ATGS platform…it has a great combination of speed, power, mission endurance, especially when loitering, and visibility. The 690B is an even better lead plane – much more so than a King Air 90. It’s no wonder so many are used on fires in North America.

    1. British Columbia flies almost exclusively the 690 Turbo Commander for an air attack platform. (We could go back to the days of TS Aerostars and Cessna 337’s). This aircraft is well suited to our terrain and needs.

  5. Too much aircraft for many pilots??

    This an observation from ATGS’s with or without pilots licenses and a type rating / check out in AC 500/ 585/600 and 690 series of aircraft?

    There is a level of risk in all flight operations and when one veers off a runway, everyone has a concern for all involved….

    1. Training is the most important aspect of any aircraft.
      If you follow proper procedure then not much can happen. That is what manuals are for also. Not every
      company can do Sim work,but, the Commander series
      are great aircraft. Agree the -10 powered 690 is superior…

          1. My guess- only a guess looking at the photos-Hydraulics- steering actuator failure.
            May have even had normal pressure until they put the gear down…

  6. On landing, only one engine would go into beta. The aircraft ran long and sustained some prop and fuselage damage.

  7. This is the AA17 at my base. The reverse thrust failed on right side. Made him veer off runway. Gear did not collapse. Some pretty good holes on the belly and the prop hit a runway light, other than that no injuries.

  8. I would venture say DRD and BITS

    That pilots with many years of EU and CWN experience and in general, flying experience such a Retired with handling numbers of aircraft are unquely more qualified to FLY an aircraft and an ATGS is merely a POC in seat with DIVS 310-1 experience and fire experience. Some may have CRM skills

    Since the IFPM requirements came about 10 yrs ago for fire positons…then there ought to be ANOTHER requirement for ATGSs’ a Private Pilot license..a mere 10K nowadays. Get run through the paces of a snarly flight instructor would would work one to death in a 2 hour 110 degree F cockpit with no air for about ohhh 65 hours to 75 hours National average to get the PPL and then to go on to get more ratings….ohhhh about another 65 to 110K to get the Commercial / Instrument/ Multi ..oooh then a Turbine transition to King Air or AC series…that maybe another 10 to 50 K

    Then maybe we / I can believe an ATGS fully qualified with a bare minimum of a Private license to UNDERSTAND what we bus drivers are capable of

    Many of us are former firefighters, forest technicians etc who have found other employment in the free world, and are qualified to make commentary here.

    Haven’t heard many pilots be very critical of forest / range technicians no matter the mission

    1. I’m finding it hard to follow you, Leo. My remark was based on Retired’s remark that he had, apparently, met only a couple of ATGS’ in his/her illustrious career as an air attack pilot. You might want to re-read both posts. That being said…. Thank you for learning how to fly an airplane, and getting that POC (whatever that is) to where he/she need to be in order to do their job. That is a doctorate degree, right? Maybe one day, we can take the POC out of the right seat and have everything done by a select few that have had to endure a few hours in a 110 degree cockpit. Again, cheers.

      1. My apologies to lack of proof reading… It wasn’t that “retired” stated that he met only a couple of ATGS’, but that he/she had only met a couple that could handle his position. So maybe I’m all jacked up,and maybe you and I, Leo, read the same thing with different interpretations. Anyway, we are ultimately on the same team. So we should all understand that what you do for a living does not define your intelligence. Nor does it define you ability to understand fairly simple concepts about what others do for a living…. Cheers, one last time.

  9. No……thank you

    ATGSs’ could stand to spend a few nickels learning to fly themselves and gaining ..oooohhh around 5000 hours before making judgements about piloting abilities.

    I seem to remember some ATGS about 15 replies ago stating AC 690 being too much of an aircraft to handle…seems like us folks you thanked for learning how to fly an airplane…….ARE able to handle the ships we fly…

    cheers again!!

  10. I just had to delete a comment that violated our policy.

    That’s enough of the bashing of the skills, qualifications, and experience of other firefighters. This is not the place for penis measuring.

    If you have not read them recently, please review our rules for comments.

    And, neither is it a place for bragging about your own skills, especially when hiding behind a fake name.

    Have I ever mentioned that I was the Chief Pilot for the Space Shuttle program? 😉 (kidding!)

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