The SEAT that crashed Sept. 22 in Idaho was first registered two months ago

Ricky Fulton
Ricky Fulton

The Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in Idaho September 22 was manufactured this year and was registered for the first time July 10, 2020. The aircraft was an Air Tractor 802A, N836MM, SN 802A-0836, owned by Aero S.E.A.T. Inc. of Sterling, Colorado. It was working on a call when needed contract with the Department of the Interior.

The pilot, Ricky Fulton, died in the accident.

The aircraft took off from Ontario, just across the Oregon border, at 6:07 p.m. MDT and was over the fire southeast of Emmett, Idaho 30 minutes later, according to FlightRadar24. It circled the fire about four times before it could no longer be detected.

SEAT flight from Ontario, ID to Schill Fire. N836MM
SEAT flight from Ontario, ID to Schill Fire. N836MM.

The family of Mr. Fulton told KWTV – NEWS 9 there was a malfunction related to the crash:

“The preliminary finding from the FAA is saying that the dump gate malfunctioned and didn’t open to dump the fire retardant, so he wasn’t able to pull up over the ridge,” family said.

It will be many months, at least, before an official report on the cause of the crash is released by the National Transportation Safety Board, so that information reportedly from the FAA should be considered preliminary at best.

NTSB SEAT crash

(Update September 28, 2020: the company that manufactures the gate that allows the retardant to be dropped from the Single Engine Air Tanker issued a statement about the crash.)

The Air Tractor 802A can hold up to 820 gallons of fire retardant weighing approximately 7,380 pounds. If any air tanker pilot is depending on the release of retardant to make it possible to clear terrain while exiting the drop area, a malfunction preventing that release would affect the aircraft’s ability to climb, possibly resulting in impact with terrain.

Our sincere condolences go out to the pilot’s family, friends, and co-workers.

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3 thoughts on “The SEAT that crashed Sept. 22 in Idaho was first registered two months ago”

  1. A cardinal rule of flying into a drop, especially in a SEAT, is to conduct the drop run and plan the exit such that one can carry the load back out. A drop must NEVER be planned such that it can only be exited if the load is gone. That said, each SEAT has a mechanical release for the fire gate such that the load can be jettisoned using the emergency dump; it works different ways, depending on the particular fire gate installation. The most common reason for the drop system failing to work is the pilot’s failure to arm the system. I’m guilty of that, as is everyone else, at some time or another.

    What happened in this specific case is unknown, but will certainly be thoroughly investigated, with a written report available at some point.

    The same operator lost a pilot (a friend of mine) on his first flight with them, twelve years ago, on a fire in Colorado.

    As always, it is a sad day when a member of the team is lost, particularly so on an active fire.

  2. There are photos of the accident site, circulating on “the net”, that clearly show that the load was released prior to impact.
    The visibility, combined with the time of day that the drop was made should
    be of interest in the investigation.
    Was there an air attack or lead aircraft onsite?

    Condolences to the family. Ricky made the ultimate sacrifice. RIP.

    1. The load was partially released after the impact with the first ridge and the gate was damaged.
      There was a lead aircraft that dumped first. This was the second SEAT.

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