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Jun 18, 2002, 11:12 AM
Plane hugging cat
Vonbaron's Avatar

Fire fighting plane folds wings

How did this happen? After watching the video a few times it looks like too much stress on the wings after coming out of a dive. I imagine the weight of the fire retardant would have made things worse but don't these planes do this all the time without incident?

Just wondering what went wrong. The news here mentioned fuel leaks but I don't see what that's got to do with it.
Last edited by Vonbaron; Jun 18, 2002 at 11:16 AM.
Jun 18, 2002, 11:19 AM
Ascended Master
Sparky Paul's Avatar
There was a similar mid-flight collapse with a C-130 out here about a year ago. (It was transiting, not dropping.)
I think the job is too much for the plane.
The first news I heard yesterday, with the closer video, the talking head wasn't sure if there were any deaths.. ????
No wings, the guys are in the front part...
And the "fire".. well, yeah there was a fire, -after- the wings fell off.
Jun 18, 2002, 11:24 AM
Most Exalted Windbag
I read a book about firefighting in the years shortly after WWII and the guy said that with the retardant they were flying grossly overloaded by FAA rules and even overloaded by Mil Spec for a full load of bombs.

I've also read the that the new retardants are significantly lighter than the old ones. The rules are probably more stringent now.

However, they still probably have to be very careful when pulling up from a dive.
Jun 18, 2002, 11:24 AM
..teach monkeys to fly..
Marten's Avatar
Wasn't there some scandal many years ago involving the calculation of the life span of the C-130's spars, and the appearance of cracks there-in? Consequently, the gross weights had to be reduced? Just a neuron firing randomly.

Jun 18, 2002, 11:28 AM
jbourke's Avatar
Originally posted by Marten
Wasn't there some scandal many years ago involving the calculation of the life span of the C-130's spars, and the appearance of cracks there-in? Consequently, the gross weights had to be reduced? Just a neuron firing randomly.
Marten, I think that was the C-5, not the C-130.

Jun 18, 2002, 11:36 AM
jbourke's Avatar
The video was amazing and terrifying.

I'd like to see a bit more of the video. The news station showed video of the wings coming off, but they didn't show what kind of flight was being attempted prior to the crash. It looked to me like the aircraft was coming out of a descent at a fairly high airspeed.

The metal may have been fatigued over decades, or it could also have been fatigued in a manner of months by a pilot who had grown too accustomed to high Gs. We won't know until the NTSB releases its report.

Jun 18, 2002, 11:55 AM
..teach monkeys to fly..
Marten's Avatar
Is there an online news account of this accident?

Hey Jim,
I think we're both right. I found this:

In 1968, thorough inspections of the Air Force C-130 fleet revealed that almost half of the 619 aircraft in operational service had fatigue cracks in the center wing section. The technical community offered numerous recommendations to update and repair this vital aircraft. The baseline C-130E aluminum center wing box design was modified by removing aluminum and adding unidirectional boron reinforcing laminates bonded to the crown of the hat stiffeners in the wing structure. The center wing sections on three C-130E fleet aircraft with fatigue cracks were replaced with the new stronger aluminum wing box.

This in an aircraft version that entered secvice in 1962.

I found a couple of references to premature cracks in C-5's and C-141's as well.

Jun 18, 2002, 11:56 AM
Ascended Master
Sparky Paul's Avatar
I've watched drops locally.. usually the planes slow way down.. the DC-4's,6's,7's will have the gear and flaps down when going into a canyon such as this one.
The red stream behind the plane indicates it had just completed the drop and the doors were closed..
Here's a link to the Associated Airtanker pages..
Jun 18, 2002, 12:03 PM
No "R" !!!!!!!
Fitz Walker's Avatar
Originally posted by Sparky Paul

And the "fire".. well, yeah there was a fire, -after- the wings fell off.
The website also has the video. It starts with a seemingly shallow climb before the wings loose their structural integrity.

To quote the article:
The C-130 transport battling the fire had just made a pass over the fire when it went up in flames Monday. TV news video showed the aircraft's wings catching fire, then falling off as the plane spiraled into the ground. It erupted in a giant ball of fire and smoke.
NO! The video clearly shows the fire AFTER the wings depart the fuselage. Sheesh!

It is pretty amazing. I've seen quite a few models do that, but to see a real plane, it's unreal. I would have thought that a C-130 would be able to handle such loads since it is a military cargo plane. It would be interesting to know how old the plane was. Maybe years of fire-bombing just cought up with it...
Jun 18, 2002, 01:08 PM
rebmeM roineS
MrBungle's Avatar
Fitz, I just said that to a friend; I've seen a few models do it, but to see a full-sized aircraft do it is amazing.

I've now seen the footage on TV from 3 different camera positions, in all three the fire does seem to come AFTER the wings fold, I didn't see any hint of flame before.

The NTSB report will be interesting.
Jun 18, 2002, 01:08 PM
God is good
Viper Pilot's Avatar
ALWAYS fiberglass the roots when joining wing-halves. My Avistar did that before I applied glass.

Jun 18, 2002, 01:45 PM
Ascended Master
Sparky Paul's Avatar
I've got the most useful 11 frames from the video.. about 600k in an animated GIF.. it is definitely a symmetrical failure, which generally indicates a design or material flaw. Local damage on one side wouldn't have folded so nicely.
Frame 04 is the end of the drop.. the doors have closed..

About 3 mins to download, or view online.
(I got a cleaner copy of the video later in the day.)
Last edited by Sparky Paul; Jun 18, 2002 at 08:54 PM.
Jun 18, 2002, 07:04 PM
Gravity sucks.
mrittinger's Avatar
This is Jim Babcocks area of expertise.He works for AeroUnion, a fire fighting co in Cali....I'm sure he might have a few things to say should he see the thread...

Jun 18, 2002, 09:20 PM
Registered User

So very sad...

I knew some guys that worked fire here in BC, and I carefully stayed away because of the stories of marginal maintenance and crazy loads. Regardless of the aircraft (Cansos, DC6, Trackers, Electras, Avengers, etc) the stories were the same. It is a tough racket, and I have a few friends that died too those 3 guys. I also remember spar failure problems with quite a few Lockheed designs that required online repairs during service both in the military and airliners. Sad, so sad.
Jun 18, 2002, 10:12 PM
Ascended Master
Sparky Paul's Avatar
I've found that some of the -worst- sources of information about almost anything are the guys that work on it... whatever it is.
The RADS retardant system in the C-130 carries 27000 pounds of water/retardant. This is less than the max gross cargo weight the plane is certified for.
In addition, there's no requirement to have the fuel tanks full to international range, when each sortie from the tanker base might take all of an hour.
As pilots are generally non-suicidal, and are in command of the plane, flying overloaded is probably not done all that frequently, even if it is possible.
From the Aero Union web site:
P3s, and the Douglas guys use about the same maximum loads..

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