NTSB: All Three Aboard Were Lost
REAL TIME UPDATE 1907 EDT -- The Aero Union Corporation
says one of the company’s P-3 Orion airtankers was lost on a
routine training mission Wednesday night around 1900. The
aircraft and its three crewmembers went down in a remote area of
Tehama County in the Ishi Wilderness of
Search and rescue teams have reached the aircraft, which
came down in the Brushy Mountain area, and confirmed that all three
crewmembers died in the crash. The pilots were identified
- Captain Brian Bruns
- Captain Paul Cockrell
- The company's chief pilot, Captain Tom
"Our thoughts and prayers go with the families of our
pilots," said Aero Union CEO Terry Unsworth. "We all are
grieving the loss of these brave men and our immediate concern is
for their families."
The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to
conduct a complete investigation of the cause of the
accident. "We will cooperate fully with the investigation,
and have already been in contact with the NTSB", Unsworth
At approximately 1850 PDT Wednesday a Lockheed P-3B air tanker,
N926AU, owned and operated by the Aero Union Corporation of Chico,
California, crashed immediately following a fire retardant training
drop near Chico. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed,
according to a statement from the NTSB.
According to the company, the accident flight was the seventh
flight of the day for that aircraft. The purpose of the flights was
to conduct qualification checks for pilots who were scheduled to
conduct firefighting operations during the upcoming fire season.
The aircraft was manufactured in 1966 and was formerly operated by
the United States Navy. It was powered by four Allison T56A11
Although search crews were flown to the site in a California
Highway Patrol helicopter, the terrain was so steep and rugged that
they had to be put on the ground some distance away from and hike
in on foot. They were unable to get to the wreckage until early
Thursday morning, according to local news reports.
"It's a fairly remote spot, and it took them a while to find a
route in," said Leona Rodreick, a spokeswoman for the Lassen
National Forest. "There are no roads or trails. They had to hike in
two or three miles."
The crash sparked a two-acre fire.
Rodreick said the P-3 was not on a government contract mission
at the time of the mishap.
Senior air safety investigator
Georgia Struhsaker, from the NTSB's Seattle regional office, will
lead the team as Investigator-in-Charge. She will be joined by four
NTSB investigators, with assistance from representatives of the
Federal Aviation Administration, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, and
the Aero Union Corporation. Rolls Royce (Allison) Engines will also
be offered party status. NTSB Member Ellen Engleman Conners will
accompany the team and serve as principal spokesperson for the
on-scene investigation. Paul Schlamm is also accompanying the team
as press officer.
The NTSB last year issued five recommendations (A-04-29 through
33) to the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Interior
and the Federal Aviation Administration as a result of several
accidents involving structural failure of firefighting aircraft (it
is unknown at this time if yesterday's accident is related to
The P-3 was one of seven Aero-Union aircraft among ten tankers
accepted by the US Forest Service for use in fighting wildfires