A problem with an engine on April 21 resulted in an unscheduled landing for an Erickson Aero Air MD-87 air tanker.
While Tanker 101 was returning to Alamogordo, New Mexico after dropping retardant on the Holcombe Road Fire in Crockett County Texas, the left, or number 1, engine went into an overspeed condition and had to be shut down. Matt Isley, General Manager at Erickson Aero Tanker, said as that was being done the auto-throttle decreased the thrust in the other engine. The pilot then had to override the auto-throttle to power up that engine again.
The crew declared an emergency and landed safely on one engine after diverting to Midland, Texas (MAF) as airport crash-rescue trucks stood by.
Mr. Isley said the engine itself did not fail, the problem was caused by an engine control cable.
We received a report that a lead plane followed Tanker 101 while it was en route to Midland, but Mr. Isley said he had not heard anything about that.
The company’s maintenance personnel are on scene to begin the process of replacing the engine. Erickson stores most of their spares at their facility in Madras, Oregon.
Mr. Isley said they have had an air tanker working out of Alamogordo, NM since the beginning of March.
This is the fourth MD-87 air tanker engine related failure of which we are aware. The other three:
- 2015, September 13, Fresno, California. Pieces of the engine fell in a residential neighborhood. One piece broke the rear window of a car.
- 2018, July 30, Coeur D’Alene Airport, Idaho. An engine failed while taking off. Hot debris started seven fires on the ground and a firefighter was injured while suppressing one of them.
- November 8, 2018, Chico, California. An engine failed at the beginning of takeoff, which was aborted.
Engine problems on the MD-87 are noteworthy because when they began there was an issue of retardant dispersing over the wing which left open the possibility of it being ingested into the engines. The company had an external tank, or pod, fabricated and installed below the retardant tank doors in 2017, which lowered the release point by 46 inches, mitigating the problem Kevin McLoughlin, Erickson’s Director of Air Tanker Operations said at the time.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Doug. Typos or errors, report them HERE.