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Status: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Date:Thursday 23 January 2020
Time:13:15
Type:Silhouette image of generic C130 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Lockheed EC-130Q Hercules
Operator:Coulson Aviation
Registration: N134CG
MSN: 4904
First flight: 1981
Total airframe hrs:11888
Engines: 4 Allison T56-A-15
Crew:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Passengers:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 0
Total:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:near Cooma, NSW (   Australia)
Crash site elevation: 1048 m (3438 feet) amsl
Phase: Maneuvering (MNV)
Nature:Fire fighting
Departure airport:Richmond RAAF Base, NSW (XRH/YSRI), Australia
Destination airport:Richmond RAAF Base, NSW (XRH/YSRI), Australia
Narrative:
A Lockheed C-130 Hercules firefighting aircraft impacted terrain and burst into flames near Cooma, north-east of the Snowy Mountains in Australia. All three crew members died in the accident.

The aircraft, contracted to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, departed Richmond RAAF Base, Australia at 12:05 local time. The crew had been tasked with a fire retardant drop over the ‘Adaminaby Complex’ bush fire.
After approaching the Adaminaby complex fire, the drop was unable to be completed and the aircraft was diverted to a secondary tasking, to drop retardant on the ‘Good Good’ fire. Witnesses reported seeing the aircraft complete a number of circuits, prior to completing the retardant drop. The drop was conducted on a heading of about 190°, at about 200 ft above ground level, with a drop time of approximately 2 seconds. The crew released about 1,200 US gallons (4,500 L) of fire retardant during the drop.
Witness videos taken of the aircraft leading up to the accident showed a number of passes conducted at varying heights prior to the retardant drop. Following the retardant drop, the aircraft was observed to bank left, before becoming obscured by smoke after about 5 seconds. A further 15 seconds after this, the aircraft was seen flying at a very low height above the ground, in a left wing down attitude. Shortly after, at about 13:16, the aircraft collided with terrain and a post-impact fuel-fed fire ensued. The three crew were fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed.

Probable Cause:

Contributing factors:
- Hazardous weather conditions were forecast and present at the drop site near Peak View, which included strong gusting winds and mountain wave activity, producing turbulence. These conditions were likely exacerbated by the fire and local terrain.
- The Rural Fire Service continued the B134 tasking to Adaminaby when they learned that no other aircraft would continue to operate due to the environmental conditions. In addition, they relied on the pilot in command to assess the appropriateness of the tasking to Adaminaby without providing them all the available information to make an informed decision on flight safety.
- The pilot in command of B134 accepted the Adaminaby fire-ground tasking, which was in an area of forecast mountain wave activity and severe turbulence. After assessing the conditions as unsuitable, the crew accepted an alternate tasking to continue to the Good Good (Peak View) fire-ground, which was subject to the same weather conditions. The acceptance of these taskings were consistent with company practices.
- Following the partial retardant drop and left turn, the aircraft was very likely subjected to hazardous environmental conditions including low-level windshear and an increased tailwind component, which degraded the aircraft’s climb performance.
- While at a low height and airspeed, it was likely the aircraft aerodynamically stalled, leading to a collision with terrain.
- Coulson Aviation's safety risk management processes did not adequately manage the risks associated with large air tanker operations. There were no operational risk assessments conducted or a risk register maintained. Further, as safety incident reports submitted were mainly related to maintenance issues, operational risks were less likely to be considered or monitored. Overall, this limited their ability to identify and implement mitigations to manage the risks associated with their aerial firefighting operations. (Safety issue)
- Coulson Aviation did not provide a pre-flight risk assessment for their firefighting large air tanker crews. This would provide predefined criteria to ensure consistent and objective decision-making with accepting or rejecting tasks, including factors relating to crew, environment, aircraft and external pressures. (Safety issue)
- The New South Wales Rural Fire Service had limited large air tanker policies and procedures for aerial supervision requirements and no procedures for deployment without aerial supervision. (Safety issue)
- The New South Wales Rural Fire Service did not have a policy or procedures in place to manage task rejections, nor to communicate this information internally or to other pilots working in the same area of operation. (Safety issue)

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: ATSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 2 years and 7 months
Accident number: AO-2020-007
Download report: Final report
Language: English

Classification:
Loss of control

Sources:
» ATSB
» Flightaware flight track
» SMH


Photos

photo of Lockheed-EC-130Q-Hercules-N134CG
accident date: 23-01-2020
type: Lockheed EC-130Q Hercules
registration: N134CG
photo of Lockheed-EC-130Q-Hercules-N134CG
accident date: 23-01-2020
type: Lockheed EC-130Q Hercules
registration: N134CG
photo of Lockheed-EC-130Q-Hercules-N134CG
accident date: 23-01-2020
type: Lockheed EC-130Q Hercules
registration: N134CG
 

Aircraft history
date registration operator remarks
161496 US Navy Nov. 1981 delivered
161496 US Navy 1993 in storage
N130CG Coulson Aviation 2017 conversion to air tanker
N134CG Coulson Aviation May 2018 re-registered

Map

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Lockheed C-130

  • 2041 built
  • 329th loss
  • 207th fatal accident
  • 182nd worst accident (at the time)
  • 183rd worst accident (currently)
» safety profile

 Australia
  • 55th worst accident
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