Preliminary report released for fatal SEAT crash in Idaho

The pilot was killed September 22, 2020 southeast of Emmett, Idaho

October 16, 2020   |   3:56 p.m. MDT

NTSB preliminary report T-857
Image from the NTSB preliminary report on the September 22, 2020 crash of a SEAT in Idaho.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the fatal crash of a single engine air tanker (SEAT) in Idaho.

The Air Tractor AT-802A crashed September 22, 2020 while working on the Schill Fire, approximately 2 miles southeast of Emmett.

The pilot, Ricky Fulton, perished. The aircraft, Tanker 857, was owned by Aero S.E.A.T. Incorporated and was on an on-call (CWN) contract with the Bureau of Land Management. The aircraft was first registered July 10, 2020, FAA registration number N836MM.

Typically it takes 8 to 16 months for the NTSB to issue their final, complete report with an analysis of the causes of a crash.

This was the sixth firefighting pilot and the third SEAT pilot to be killed in the United States this year. In addition, three members of the crew of a C-130 from the U.S. died when their air tanker crashed January 23, 2020 while fighting a bushfire in New South Wales, Australia. In addition, one person was killed August 8 in the crash of a CL-215  based in Portugal while battling a fire in Spain.

Below is the complete text from the narrative section of the report about the September 22 crash.


On September 22, 2020, about 1830 mountain daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-802A, N836MM, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Emmett, Idaho. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 aerial firefighting flight.

Witness conducting firefighting operations, adjacent the accident site, reported that the accident airplane, a single engine air tanker (SEAT), descended and made an approach similar to the previous SEATs that were dropping fire retardant. The witnesses said the airplane passed over the top of the ridge and descended into the valley, however, the pilot did not drop the fire retardant as previous SEATs did. The witnesses stated he heard a brief application of engine power as the airplane began to ascend over rising terrain at the pilot’s 12’oclock position. The airplane subsequently impacted rising terrain near the peak of the ridgeline.

A video provided by a witness captured the accident sequence. The recording showed the airplane descend over an intermediate ridgeline and into a valley (see figure 1). About 3 seconds later, the airplane momentarily returned to level flight before it pitched to a nose-high attitude. The airplane subsequently impacted rising terrain approximately 80 feet below the ridgeline.

Examination of the accident site by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed that the airplane impacted rising terrain. The wreckage debris path continued from the initial impact point over the top of a ridgeline, and extended into a small ravine. The airplane came to rest approximately 100 yards from the initial impact pointe on a heading of 040 degrees. All major structural components of the airplane were located throughout the wreckage debris path. The wreckage was recovered for further examination.

(end of report)


Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Matt.

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.

Interim report released for fatal air tanker crash in Australia

All three crewmembers were killed in New South Wales, January 23, 2020

Flight path B134 air tanker crash

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released an interim report about the January 23, 2020 crash of a C-130, Air Tanker 134, that killed the three crewmembers on board. This follows the preliminary report the agency issued in February, 2020. The aircraft was known as Bomber 134 (B134) in Australia.

“The interim report does not contain findings nor identify safety issues, which will be contained in the final report. However, it does detail the extensive evidence gathered to date, which has helped ATSB investigators develop a detailed picture of this tragic accident’s sequence of events,” said ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood.

Tanker 134 at Medford, Oregon
Tanker 134 (B134) at Medford, Oregon July 27, 2019. Photo by Tim Crippin.

It was very windy on January 23, with a forecast for the possibility of mountain waves. Before the incident a birddog, similar to a lead plane, and  Bomber 137 (B137), formerly Tanker 138, a Boeing 737 that Coulson sold to New South Wales, was tasked to drop on a fire in the Adaminaby area. Based on the weather the birddog pilot declined the assignment. After B137 made a drop on the fire, the crew reported having experienced uncommanded aircraft rolls up to 45° angle of bank (due to wind) and a windshear warning from the aircraft on‑board systems.

After completing the drop, the B137 crew sent a text message to the birddog pilot indicating that the conditions were “horrible down there. Don’t send anybody and we’re not going back.” They also reported to the Cooma FCC that the conditions were unsuitable for firebombing operations. During B137’s return flight to Richmond, the Richmond air base manager requested that they reload the aircraft in Canberra and return to Adaminaby. The Pilot in Command (PIC) replied that they would not be returning to Adaminaby due to the weather conditions.

B134 was dispatched to the fire at Adaminaby. While they were in route, the PIC of B137 called to inform them of the actual conditions, and that B137 would not be returning to Adaminaby.

After arriving at Adaminaby the PIC of B134 contacted the air operations officer at the Cooma FCC by radio and advised them that it was too smoky and windy to complete a retardant drop at that location. The Cooma air operations officer then provided the crew with the location of the Good Good Fire, about 58 km to the east of Adaminaby, with the objective of conducting structure and property protection near Peak View. Again, there was no birddog operating with the air tanker.

B134 flight path air tanker crash
Flight path overview (in white), including the times and locations of where the crew of B134 was in communication with others. From the report.

Analysis of a witness video confirmed that the aircraft initially established a positive rate of climb and was banking to the left following the retardant drop, the report details. Continue reading “Interim report released for fatal air tanker crash in Australia”

Pilot killed in Idaho air tanker crash

Sunset Idaho
BLM

Updated September 23, 2020  |  3:33 p.m. MDT

The Bureau of Land Management has provided more information about the crash of a single engine air tanker:

“On Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, at approximately 7 p.m. MDT, a Single Engine Air Tanker with one pilot on board was involved in a fatal accident during initial attack operations on the Schill Fire, located approximately 2 miles southeast of Emmett.

“The pilot, Ricky Fulton, perished. The aircraft, T-857, was owned by Aero S.E.A.T. Incorporated and was on an on-call contract with BLM Fire and Aviation at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Firefighters on the scene rendered medical aid to the pilot and called for Life Flight, but the pilot did not survive his injuries.

“The 30-acre Schill Fire started at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22 in grass and brush in steep terrain. It was contained at approximately 10 p.m. on Tuesday. The cause of the Schill Fire is under investigation.”


Originally published September 23, 2020  |  8:58 a.m. MDT

The Bureau of Land Management announced that the pilot of a single engine air tanker (SEAT) was killed Tuesday evening September 22 while working on a wildfire near Emmett, Idaho. The agency said more information will be released following family notifications.

KTVB reported the accident occurred near Pearl Road about two miles southeast of Emmett. The fire started around 4:30 p.m. and grew to 25 acres as two SEATs and one helicopter assisted firefighters on the ground. According to the Gem County Sheriff’s Office, the air tanker was dropping retardant when it went down.

This is the sixth firefighting pilot and the third SEAT pilot to be killed in the United States this year. In addition, three members of the crew of a C-130 from the U.S. died when their air tanker crashed January 23, 2020 while fighting a bushfire in New South Wales, Australia.

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

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Steve, and Tom.

Summarizing the aerial firefighter line of duty deaths during a recent 49-day period

May they rest in peace

Rest in peace

If you are like me it seems like there have been a lot of deaths of firefighting pilots recently (there have been) and maybe it is getting difficult to keep track. I feel bad if for a moment I can’t remember all six men. So to help me and anyone else that can benefit from having an (awful) list to refer to, here is a brief summary, with links to articles that have more details.

During the 49-day period that began July 7 there were six crashes of firefighting aircraft — three helicopters and three air tankers. In chronological order, they are:

July 7
Bryan Jeffery Boatman, 37, was approaching a helispot delivering supplies by long line to firefighters in a remote area on the Polles Fire in central Arizona. The UH-1H was operated by Airwest Helicopters out of Glendale, Arizona. The aircraft was under an exclusive use contract with the USFS.

July 30
Two single engine air tankers (SEATs) crashed after a mid-air collision while working the Bishop Fire in southeast Nevada. The pilots were David Blake Haynes and Scott Thomas. Both Air Tractor AT-802A aircraft were operated by M&M Air Services out of Beaumont, Texas on a BLM contract.

August 8
A Portuguese water-scooping air tanker, a CL-215, crashed in Spain August 8 while battling a wildfire that started near Lindoso, Portugal and burned across the international border. The pilot, Jorge Jardim, 65, was killed and the Spanish co-pilot was seriously injured. The scooper was operated by the Portuguese branch of the international company Babcock.

August 19
Mike Fournier, 52, was killed in the crash of a Bell UH-1H helicopter while on a water dropping mission on the Hills Fire, approximately 9 miles south of the City of Coalinga. It was operated by Guardian Helicopters out of Van Nuys, California on a CAL FIRE contract.

August 24
Tom Duffy, 40, died in a helicopter crash during a water bucket mission on the White River Fire in Oregon. The K-MAX was operated by Central Copters of Bozeman, Montana on a Call When Needed contract with the U.S. Forest Service.


As a former firefighter I don’t view all firefighters as heroes, of course, but we should honor these men for their service, and pray that their families can find some sort of peace knowing that they were on a good, honorable mission in life, helping others and doing things that few people can.

Pilot identified in Oregon helicopter accident

The helicopter was a Kaman Aerospace K1200, better known as a K-MAX

K-MAX Salmon Idaho
K-MAX helicopter (N314) at Salmon, ID July 28, 2016. It was working on the Comet fire north of the city. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The pilot killed in the August 24 helicopter crash has been identified as Tom Duffy, 40. The information was released by a publication of the Seventh-day Adventist church, which said he was a lay leader. A news release by the U.S. Forest Service said the accident occurred during a water bucket mission on the White River Fire in Oregon.

The FAA reported the helicopter was N314, SN A94-0032, a Kaman Aerospace K1200, better known as a K-MAX. It is registered to Central Copters out of Bozeman Montana. The company operates several K-MAX ships with the distinctive red and black livery.

The FAA confirmed the crash occurred during firefighting bucket operations.

The White River Fire has burned 1,350 acres 11 miles southeast of Mt. Hood since it started from a lightning strike August 17.

A K-MAX can carry up to about 700 gallons and is rated as a Type 1 helicopter by the Forest Service.

I took these photos of the helicopter while on a motorcycle trip in 2016.

A K-MAX helicopter (N314) drops water on the Comet Fire north of Salmon, Idaho July 28, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.

Pilot killed in helicopter accident while battling Oregon fire

August 25, 2020 | 4:07 a.m. PDT

White River Fire August 24, 2020 Oregon helicopter accident
White River Fire August 24, 2020

The pilot of a helicopter was killed August 24 while assisting firefighters on the White River Fire in Oregon. According to the U.S. Forest Service the K-MAX helicopter was dropping water in rough terrain when the accident occurred.

Wasco County Sheriff’s Office and Forest Service air and ground resources responded immediately to the site. There will be an investigation into the accident, and the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified. The firefighter has not yet been identified.

The White River Fire has burned 1,102 acres of timber and light logging slash 11 miles southeast of Mt. Hood since it started from a lightning strike August 17. It is being suppressed by 304 personnel and a Type 2 incident management team led by Incident Commander Brian Goff.

We send out our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of the pilot.

White River Fire August pilot helicopter killed crash accident
White River Fire August 18, 2020. InciWeb.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jeff.

Pilots that were killed in mid-air collision of air tankers identified

Updated August 20, 2020 | 7:27 p.m. MDT

Red Canyon Fire
File photo. Air tanker 866 (N8510M) drops on the Red Canyon Fire in South Dakota July 9, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The Sheriff’s Office of Lincoln County, Nevada has officially released the names of the two pilots that were killed in the mid-air collision of two Single Engine Air Tankers that occurred July 30, 2020 that were working on the Bishop Fire in southeast Nevada. The aircraft were on contract with the BLM.

They were identified by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office as David Blake Haynes and Scott Thomas. When we asked Sheriff Kerry Lee why it took almost three weeks to release the names, he said that they have four ways to identify deceased individuals — dental, fingerprint, identification by the family either on scene or by photo, or DNA. Because of the condition of the victims they had to use DNA which required obtaining samples from family members then sending those to a lab with samples from the pilots.

A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that one of the two SEATs had fire retardant on the windshield. Both pilots of the aircraft, the only personnel on board, were killed while assisting firefighters on the Bishop Fire in southeast Nevada.

The investigators found that the tankers were working in tandem with one close behind the other. After the following aircraft got retardant on the windshield it made a rapid climb then suddenly turned left and collided with the other.

Both of the SEATs were operated by M&M Air Services out of Beaumont, Texas. The aircraft were made by Air Tractor, model AT-802A; N8510M (Tanker 866) and N1558W (Tanker 824).

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and co-workers of Mr. Haynes and Mr. Thomas.

Tanker 824 (N1558W)
File photo: Tanker 824 (N1558W) at Boise, July 19, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The article was updated August 20, 2020 after receiving information from the Sheriff’s office.