It appears from the video that as the drop was made the wind was approximately from the 5 o’clock position of the aircraft. Judging from wind noise on the cell phone’s microphone, dust blowing on the road, and the movement of the smoke, the wind speed was pretty significant.
The video contains a brief view of fire near the end, which may be sensitive to some people.
After making the drop, the aircraft began a left turn and climbed slightly before disappearing in the smoke, reappearing for a second, and soon after that crashed.
All members of the three-person crew died in the crash. Captain Ian H. McBeth lived in Great Falls, Montana and served with the Wyoming Air National Guard and was still a member of the Montana Air National Guard. He spent his entire career flying C-130’s and was a qualified Instructor and Evaluator pilot. Ian earned his Initial Attack qualification for Coulson in 2018.
First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson of Buckeye, Arizona graduated from the Naval Academy in 1999 and spent the next twenty years serving in the United States Marine Corp in a number of positions including C-130 pilot. He retired as a Lt. Colonel.
Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr. lived in Navarre, Florida. He served in the United States Air Force for eighteen years as a Flight Engineer on the C-130. Rick had over 4,000 hours as a Flight Engineer with nearly 2,000 hours in a combat environment.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jay. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
The Canadian Armed Forces are sending aircraft to Australia to assist with the unprecedented number bushfires that have been plaguing the eastern side of the continent for months. At least one of the aircraft will be a CC-177 Globemaster III, similar to the C-17 used in the United States and Australia.
Their plans are to transport dry fire retardant mix from the U.S. to Australia, provide airlift support to Australia, and provide imagery support for two hard hit areas in Victoria. The images acquired will support fire prediction modeling and enhance the efficiency of firefighting efforts on the ground.
Australian media outlets have published aerial photos of the site where Air Tanker 134, an EC-130Q, crashed in New South Wales January 23, 2020. In some respects the site looks similar to those taken after the 2012 crash of the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) C-130 aircraft. The sections of the aircraft that received the least damage were the tails.
The 2012 accident occurred on the White Draw Fire near Edgemont, South Dakota and resulted in four fatalities among the seven-person crew. Two crewmen in the rear of the aircraft were injured but survived. Those two were operating the pressurized Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) in the cargo hold which enables a military C-130 to function as an air tanker, capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. On a C-130 with a conventional gravity-powered retardant delivery system, all three crewmen are in the cockpit.
I will not force anyone to look at the crash scene photos, but if you feel up to it you can find them at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) here and here. Reuters also has decent coverage. Most of the photos were taken by a drone operated by the Army. They are using the aircraft to map the site.
The information that has come out so far indicates that the crash occurred following a retardant drop. The drop could have been planned, or the retardant might have been jettisoned if the aircraft was suddenly in a dangerous position.
Investigators with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) have found the cockpit voice recorder in the tail of the plane and hope to analyze it by Sunday.
NSW police said they have recovered the bodies of the three crew members that were killed, Ian H. McBeth, Captain, Paul Clyde Hudson, First Officer, and Rick A. DeMorgan Jr., Flight Engineer. They will be repatriated to the United States as soon as possible.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim and Bean. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
A video has been posted on YouTube by “blancolirio”, who frequently makes aviation-related videos. In the 15-minute piece he analyzes from afar the January 23, 2020 crash of Air Tanker 134, the Coulson Aviation EC-130Q in which Paul Hudson, Ian McBeth, and Rick DeMorgan Jr. were killed while working on a bushfire in New South Wales, Australia.
Keep in mind it will be months before the investigators release a report and the cause of the crash has not been determined.
This incident and the loss of these three men has had a severe impact on the small air tanker community.
Coulson has two C-130 air tankers (the other is T-131). The loss of T-134 drops that number to one. They also operate several Type 1 helicopters, a recently converted Boeing 737, and have four other 737s and five more C-130s with plans to convert them into air tankers in the future.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kelly. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
The City of Colorado Springs and the US Forest Service are going to build a new permanent air tanker base at the Colorado Springs Airport.
On January 24, the Forest Service signed a lease agreement with the Colorado Springs Airport. The two agencies will share the costs for construction and maintenance, currently budgeted at approximately $20 million.
“This project is a perfect example of how we can work within all levels of government to promote shared stewardship,” said Forest Service Acting Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien.
The one-and-a-half-acre base will create six reload pits for any type of contracted air tanker, including Very Large Air Tankers such as the DC-10 and 747. It will be the largest base in the region, with the ability to serve a 600-mile radius — including Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska. The base will have the ability to reload multiple airtankers at once. This will allow an increased amount of retardant to be sent to a wildfire faster and with greater efficiency. It will also help the firefighters on the ground and protect communities from the approaching threat of wildfire. By being able to service aircraft of all sizes and capabilities, the base will also reduce the total number of flights needed to fight a wildfire in the area, reducing the risk to additional flight crews and other regions.
The new eight-acre ramp to be built will be near the airport’s main 13,500-foot runway and adjacent to the U.S. Army-operated ramp. During the winter months when the Forest Service is not using it, the airport will use it as a de-icing area for commercial aircraft.
The Forest Service has occasionally set up a temporary retardant base at the Colorado Springs Airport that had two pits and parking for six aircraft. The only permanent base in Colorado for large air tankers has been JEFFCO at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport near Denver. It has two pits but can fill only one air tanker at a time and can’t handle Very Large Air Tankers.
Vanessa Lacayo, the Acting Press Officer for the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, said the agency has no plans to close any other bases, including Single Engine Air Tanker Bases, after opening this new facility at Colorado Springs.
The Air Force Reserve base at Colorado Springs airport can activate two C-130 aircraft to serve as air tankers if needed, using the slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System, or MAFFS.
The headquarters for Global Supertanker is in Colorado Springs and their 747 Supertanker is sometimes parked at the airport.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new base is scheduled for spring 2020. Construction is set to begin this summer, with completion and a ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2021.
Congress awarded the Forest Service funding for the project as part of the 2018 Omnibus Bill that repurposed previous allocations to the agency’s Aviation Safety and Modernization Strategy. The Department of Agriculture prioritized the Colorado Springs Airtanker Base as one of the highest investments for Aviation Safety Modernization Projects, representing nearly one-fourth of the $37.2 million budget. The City of Colorado Springs is providing additional funding through a partnership agreement.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Robby. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
It is an EC-130Q, one of only 12 that were manufactured. The model began as strategic communications links for the U.S. Navy Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine force and as a backup communications link for the U. S. Air Force manned strategic bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile forces. They are similar to the C-130H, but the 12 “Q” models were outfitted with complex electronics systems, including a six-mile long trailing wire antenna, for communicating with submarines and bombers. Some of them still have the remains of a vent in front of the main landing gear for cooling the winch that was used to reel in the long antenna.
Tanker 134 (N134CG, Serial #382-4904) was manufactured in 1981. Coulson began converting it into an air tanker in early 2017. At that time it looked like it was far from what it later became.
By August of 2018 it was essentially complete, but still had not been painted. During the 2018/2019 bushfire season it was in Australia on its first firefighting contract. Its first drop on a wildfire occurred around November 1, 2018 a few kilometers away from NASA’s Deep Space Network of satellite antennas near Canberra, Australia.
It continued to serve throughout the bushfire season and by April, 2019 it received new livery after migrating back to the U.S.
During the 2019 fire season in the United States T-134 was on a contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was seen across the state that summer, and for a while operated out of Ramona, an airport with a relatively short runway that presents a challenge for some large air tankers.
In August November or December, 2019 it began working in Australia again.
Tanker 134 had been working on a contract in Australia since August, 2019.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will be investigating the incident which they said occurred at Peak View near Cooma, NSW. The agency is expected to release a preliminary report within 30 days.
New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said Coulson has grounded its entire fleet of air tankers out of respect for those who died. “Our hearts are with all those that are suffering in what is the loss of three remarkable, well-respected crew that have invested so many decades of their life into firefighting,” he said.
Cameron Price of 7NEWS Sydney reported on the incident:
Wreckage of missing RFS C-130 located by search crews. Reports only tail section intact. Aircraft has broken up on impact. Crews reporting difficult terrain and “terrible visibility”.
The Premier of New South Wales said out of respect for the crew flags would fly at half mast in the state, and:
Heartbreaking & devastating news that three US residents who were crew members operating a LAT in the Snowy Mountains region have lost their lives. Our thoughts & heartfelt condolences are with their families & the tight knit firefighting community.
The U.S. Ambassador to Australia, Arthur B. Culvahuse Jr. said:
I am deeply saddened by the tragic news we received today. The brave Americans who died near Snowy Monaro died helping Australia in its time of need. The families and friends of those who we have lost are in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you Australia for your sympathy and solidarity.
From the Canadian Interagency Fire Centre:
@CIFFC and its member agencies are deeply saddened by this tragic event. We send our condolences to our firefighting colleagues at #CoulsonAviation & @NSWRFS
Earlier the New South Wales Rural Fire Service reported that contact had been lost with a large air tanker that was working in the southern part of the state in the Snowy Monaro area.
Our sincere condolences go out to the families, friends, and coworkers of the crew.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.