Fri, Apr 23, 2004
P4Y-2 Crashed Fighting Forest Fire
The crash of a Consolidated-Vultee
P4Y-2 firefighting tanker two summers ago was caused by an 18"
crack in the left wing. That's the assessment of NTSB investigators
who probed the downing of Tanker 123 in Estes Park (CO). It was one
of two aircraft to go down in fatal accidents while fighting that
"There was an 18-inch crack in the wing spar that caused the
wing to finally let go. Those are the facts," said David Bowling,
the regional director of the NTSB and the lead investigator in the
July, 2002 P4Y-2 crash.
Why didn't anyone spot the crack? Investigators say the wing's
fuel tank blocked it from view.
The privately-owned aircraft was lining up for its drop on July
18th, 2002. The NTSB preliminary report states:
The captain of T-161 said, "Tanker 22 had just completed his
drop and Tanker 123 had observed the drop and was preparing to
drop. All communication between 123 and Lead Bravo 8 was normal. I
fell behind T-123 on downwind and base. I looked away momentarily
and I again focused on T-123. I noticed his left wing was falling.
The aircraft was in a 15 to 20 degree bank. I next saw fire near
the fuselage as the wing failed inboard of the number 2 engine. The
aircraft pitched nose down in a huge fireball and plunged into the
ground vertically starting an immediate large fire."
Along with firefighting C-130s, all P4Y-2s in the Forest
Service's employ were grounded after the accident, putting
25-percent of the firefighting fleet out of action.
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