It wasn't an airframe problem that brought down a firefighting
P-3 Orion in California last year... it was pilot error. That's the
conclusion of an investigation by the San Mateo County Times...
whose reporters talked with industry experts, pilots, and aviation
As Aero-News reported, the
aircraft (file photo of type, above) went down in April of last
year while on a training mission near Chico. The paper's
investigation indicates Aero-Union Tanker 26 was flying down the
middle of a valley when it strayed east.
Experts consulted by the newspaper say it appears to have been a
case of controlled flight into terrain... an assertion they back up
with Navy radar data showing the Orion's flight track.
No one's sure which of the three men killed in the crash was
flying the plane -- Brian Bruns, Paul Cockrell, or Tom Lynch -- was
actually in command of the aircraft when it went down, and the crew
issued no distress call.
The Orion wasn't equipped with any sort of flight recorder.
The official NTSB finding of probable cause is still months
away. But if the board does cite pulot error as the cause of this
crash... it would clear Aero-Union's aging fleet of P-3s... which
make up about half the country's entire firefighting tanker