SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – While Australia was hoping the worst part of the bushfires was over, a new tragedy occured today when a C-130 Hercules firefighting aircraft crashed, while battling the bushfires in New South Wales, killing 3 American crew members onboard. The aircraft was leased from an American company – Coulson Aviation USA.
The Lockheed EC-130Q Hercules Air Tanker took off from RAAF Richmond Air Base – near Sydney – and was on a mission to fight the bushfires in the Snowy Mountains (The Snowies) east of Cooma and south of Canberra in New South Wales.
After 1,5 hour of flight the aircraft disappeared from radar near Peak View, northeast of Cooma. Three U.S. specialist firefighters have been confirmed dead after their firefighting aircraft crashed.
The Coulson Aviation EC-130Q Hercules #134 with registration N130CG, was nicknamed Zeus and was a former U.S. Navy aircraft. The Air Tanker was leased from Coulson Aviation USA and arrived in Australia at the start of the 2019/2020 wildfire season in Australia, to fight bushfires in the southeastern region of Australia for the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) in New South Wales.
According to 9news.com.au, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said at a press conference: “Tragically, there appears to be no survivors. The plane has impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball.”
“Crashed. Yeah, fire comms. It’s just a ball of flames. Over,” a witness said during an emergency call.
Several witnesses claimed to have seen the firefighting aircraft on fire before it crashed.
All C-130 Air Tankers grounded
It’s unclear what could have caused the C-130 to crash. Coulson Aviation however, has grounded their fleet worldwide, until a technical fault is ruled out.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed it would investigate the crash. “ATSB investigators will also analyse available recorded data, review weather information and interview any witnesses,” the ATSB said in a statement. “A preliminary report will be released in approximately 30 days.”
Coulson Aviation’s statement
Coulson Aviation said in a released statement that the crew were on a firebombing mission with a load of retardant.
“The accident is reported to be extensive and we are deeply saddened to confirm there were 3 fatalities. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the three crew members on board,” the company said in the statement.
Flags will fly at half-staff on Friday, as a sign of respect for the victims.
Coulson Aviation USA
Coulson Aviation USA Inc. – based in Portland, Oregon and operating from Sacramento McClellan Airport in California – was founded in 1990 as a subsidiary of Coulson Aircrane Ltd., a privately owned family company based in Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada.
Before the crash occured on Thursday, the company had over 110,000 safe flight hours and has been in the aviation business for over 29 years; operating a diverse fleet of both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft.
The company’s operations include heli-logging, wildfire suppression, power-line construction, airliner passenger transport and many other industrial heavy lift operations.
Coulson Aviation USA also provided the personnel for extensive heli-logging operations in Alaska from 1990 to 1993. Later on Coulson Aviation USA purchased its first C-130 Hercules firefighting aircraft that currently holds contracts within the United States and Australia. A second C-130 Hercules was purchased in 2015 to accommodate the growing need for large air tankers.
The company’s fleet consists of CH-47 & UH-60 heli-tankers, S-61 helicopters, Martin Mars flying boats (the world’s largest flying boats ever flown operationally), Boeing 737 fire liners (the newest addition to Coulson Aviation’s fleet) and ofcourse the C-130 air tankers, which has been the company’s leading attacker in firefighting.
During the 2019/2020 bushfire season, Coulson Aviation in Australia has flown over 600 missions for the RFS in an effort to help firefighters on the ground as they work tirelessly to put out these destructive fires.
(Head image: Bidgee / Wikipedia Commons)
Jerry Taha is the Founder, Chief Editor, and main contributor of flyhigh.news. He has written for avgeekery.com and luchtvaartnieuws.nl. Jerry is a passionate author, photographer, videographer, and YouTube creator. He lives south east of Amsterdam, Netherlands. In addition to his love for aviation, he also loves cars, traveling, being in nature, and he is an Ajax Amsterdam fan.
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