CAL FIRE Issues Statement on NTSB Preliminary Information
Sacramento – CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott issued the following statement regarding the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary information on the crash of CAL FIRE Tanker 81.
“Aerial firefighting is not simply flying from one airport to another. The wildland firefighting environment is a challenging one, both on the ground and in the air,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE. “We look forward to the final NTSB report to see if we can use the findings to help mitigate the inherent dangers of the job. We owe that to Craig, who traded his life in an effort to protect the lives of others.”
Airtanker Pilot Craig Hunt was tragically killed when his airtanker crashed in Yosemite National Park on October 7, 2014. http://www.fire.ca.gov/about/fire_protection_memorial_hunt.php
NTSB Preliminary Information:
NTSB Identification: WPR15GA005
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Tuesday, October 07, 2014 in El Portal, CA
Aircraft: MARSH AVIATION S 2F3AT, registration: N449DF
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. : NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.
On October 7, 2014, about 1630 Pacific daylight time, a Marsh Aviation S-2F3AT airplane, N449DF, call sign tanker 81, was destroyed by impact with terrain and a postcrash fire while maneuvering in the Yosemite National Park, near El Portal, California. The airplane was registered to and operated by Cal Fire under contract to the National Parks Service, as a visual flight rules (VFR), public use aerial firefighting tanker. The airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed Columbia Airport (O22), Columbia, California.
According to a Forest Service spokesman, the airplane was stationed at the airbase at Hollister, California, and had been dispatched to the Dog Rock fire. The airplane arrived on scene, and made one drop on the fire, then proceeded to the Columbia Airport to be reloaded with fire retardant.
During the aerial firefighting operations, in addition to the aerial tanker, 2 other aircraft were used; an orbiting aerial controller that coordinated aerial operations with ground units; and a “lead plane” that tracked ahead of the tanker to define the route and the drop initiation point.
Upon returning to the fire scene, the accident airplane had coordinated its next drop with the orbiting aerial coordinator, and was following the lead airplane. The crew of the lead airplane did not see the accident. The crew of the controller airplane reported that the accident airplane may have struck a tree with its wing, which separated from the airplane. Both aircrews reported that there was smoke in the area, but visibility was good.
On October 9, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge and an additional NTSB investigator arrived on scene. Also on scene were representatives (investigators) of the U.S.D.A Office of Aviation Safety (OAS), National Parks Service (NPS), U.S Forest Service (USFS), and CAL FIRE.