Home » Aviation » Marine KC-130T Experienced Problems at Cruising Altitude, Broke Into At Least 2 Pieces

Marine KC-130T Experienced Problems at Cruising Altitude, Broke Into At Least 2 Pieces

Romanian static-line paratroopers enter a KC-130T Hercules Aircraft from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, on the flight line of Campia Turzii, Romania, June 3, 2010. A pair of KC-130 Hercules aircraft, from VMGR-452, out of Newburgh, N.Y., and VMGR-234, out of Fort Worth, Texas, are currently deployed as the air combat element of the Black Sea Rotational Force Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force. US Marine Corps photo.

The Marine Corps KC-130T that crashed Monday afternoon likely experienced a failure at cruising altitude and fell to the ground in two main pieces, the service announced today.

The Marines have still not commented on potential causes of the crash, as the investigation is ongoing. But Brig. Gen. Bradley James, Commanding General of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, told reporters in a press conference in Mississippi today that there are “two large impact areas” and that “indications are something went wrong at cruise altitude. There is a large debris pattern.”

James said at the press conference that the families of the victims – nine Marines from the reserve unit Marine Air Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452 based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., along with six Marines and a Navy corpsman from 2nd Raider Battalion based at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. – had been notified but that the names of those 16 service members would not be released until “the next few days” out of respect for their families.

The Marines from VMGR-452, which falls under James’ 4th MAW, were tasked with transporting the 2nd Raider Battalion special operations personnel from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., to Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif. Around 4 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration notified the Marine Corps that the plane had dropped off local radar readings. Around that time, large plumes of smoke were noticed by local residents in fields in Northwest Mississippi.

Two U.S. Marine Corps KC-130 Hercules refueling aircraft with the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452 prior to departing for a refueling mission in support of exercise Northern Edge 2011 June 13, 2011, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. US Marine Corps photo.

The fact that the KC-130T would experience issues at cruising altitude leading to a crash is unusual in that the airplane has among the best safety records of anything the military flies today. USNI News previously reported the Marines’ KC-130 fleet, which has included three older models before the introduction of today’s KC-130J, has experienced just two in-flight Class A mishaps before this week. Class A mishaps involve a fatality or more than $2 million in damages. In the two previous mishaps, one involved a flash fire breaking out as a plane was coming in for a landing in Pakistan, leading to a fatal crash into a mountainside, and the other occurred just after takeoff, leading to a crash landing that all personnel survived. The Marines have not seen any similar instances of a KC-130 having issues at cruising altitude.

  • Isa Akhbar

    As a former AFSOC C-130 maintainer for many years, I am quite surprised to hear that the aircraft broke up like that in flight. I have never heard or read about anything like this happening to the C-130 series ever before. I hope the accident investigation board releases some information about the cause(s) of this incident, because it is extremely unlikely for any C-130 to do this inflight…its really hard to believe, but there it is. To my brothers-in-arms lost in this incident, may you rest in peace.

    • Horn

      It was carrying ammunition. Could have been caused by that. We shall see after the investigation.

      • Isa Akhbar

        I saw that reported too, and I really think some sort of on-board detonation separated the forward fuselage from the rest of the aircraft. Herks are incredibly strong aircraft and just do not come apart like that inflight, short of something like explosives going off. The AIB will be able to detect any fired explosive residues in the wreckage, and the damage to the line of separation will indicate the same thing, especially on the unburnt forward fuselage section. Flight data recorders should also be recoverable from the empenage section.

        • muzzleloader

          You and Horn share my thoughts on what very likely occurred.

    • me109g4

      “H” box failure?? saw video of an early 130 as the box failed, wings folded like a deck of cards. wasn’t pretty.

      • Isa Akhbar

        From the pictures of the site, it looks like the entire wing structure came down intact with the center wing box in place…everything is in line, just upside down and flat.

        • draeger24

          nice avatar…lol

          • Isa Akhbar

            great minds think alike, right?

          • draeger24

            AMEN, brutha….ar you a Christian apologist – I am studying Apologetics presently.

          • Isa Akhbar

            Maybe not exactly an apologist, but I know God’s truth and will tell anyone who’ll listen.

      • Michael D. Woods

        After fifteen years flying those Marine tankers in the seventies and eighties, I have no idea what an “H box” is. The wing spars’ structure perhaps?

        • draeger24

          it is the box structure where the wings attach – and the reinforced H-box was a concern with the new J-model as the engines were more powerful.

        • me109g4

          yes, its shaped like an H,, joins the wings together. I found there was a retrofit to fix the problem, airframe would be out of service for almost a yr.

      • Scott Stein

        Was the early C130 back in the 50s?

        • Isa Akhbar

          First one flew in 1954. Still in production, and will be for many years to come. I’d have to look up the exact number currently, but its gone past 2500 aircraft delivered to users. Only aircraft ever to have replaced itself in the fleets that have been flying it over the years. Hero of the skies!

          • mark hernandez

            Only aircraft except for the B-52 perhaps?

          • Isa Akhbar

            BUFs ended production, I think, in 1964…they’ve been continuously updated over the years for their evolving missions, with only the H-model still flying. Most of them are twice the age of the people flying the acft.

          • El Kabong

            Also, the C-135 series.

      • Ruckweiler

        The C-130 you mentioned was a water bomber for the Forest Service and an A model which may or may not have had the appropriate modification to the wing box.

        • me109g4

          Thanks for the brain jolt,,, yes, that was the one.

        • publius_maximus_III

          An ex-neighbor of mine used to be attached to the Air National Guard wing here which had five C-130’s. At least once and maybe more, they flew them all the way out west to help fight fires. I remember watching them heading toward the airport where the base was across the runway from the main terminal — one right after the other, just loping along like bumblebees, on a much tighter spacing than would be allowed for civilian aircraft.

    • jason lozinski

      I agree, I hope they look into this might have foul play another Bomb or terrorist incident even if domestic, U.S.A.F. Fire Protection (Ret.)

    • old guy

      AGREE 100%. This should require a major investigation, I aam an old aero engineer who worked both C-130 and C-5. If I remember correctly, at full load the wing loading is less than 79#. Very light. C-5 is 81#, Wing box is very lightly loaded, The wing break there was over 120#.

      • Isa Akhbar

        Latest rumor I’ve heard from a fairly knowledgeable source is that one of the props threw a blade and the unbalanced load broke the engine off off the wing, pilot lost control. Not sure how that contributed to fuselage separation, but an inboard engine could have ripped loose and hit the fuselage right in front of the center wing box.

        • old guy

          A c
          catastrophic prop failure might do that much damage, but I doubt it Cargo explosion more likely. We shall see.

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    Apparently the “spinning” was reported and the fire on one of the engines. It was loaded with the fuel as well. At certain regimes of flight the engine failure on a heavy Herc. Could be extremely challenging especially with spread of fire on tankers.. spinning could split the plane if heavy cargo got loose.

    My heart and prayers go to their families and friends and may our Marines RIP

    • publius_maximus_III

      Isaac — One eyewitness also heard a “boom” before looking up to see a spinning plane with a flaming engine. It landed in a field of soybeans which were about waist high. One witness said nothing was protruding above that height. Pretty flattened out wreckage (hit hard, but must not have been nose down.). Highly suspicious.

      • R’ Yitzchak M

        There was a case few days ago with “drone” dangerously interfering with F-22 flight path. We can speculate any mechanical part sometimes has tendency to defy the “statistics” as well we have idiots that defy common sense (terorists, irresponsible kids.. etc.)

        All the best my friend

        • Code1Buck

          I think we may have another Value Jet issue where cargo may have been the culprit. Center wing box is inspected regularly now and I believe all have been updated. Mechanical failure is unlikely to cause departure like this. I expect to hear that the root cause was an onboard ignition of munitions cargo. JP-8 just doesn’t burn like that after a crash. Such a tragedy. Thinking about the families

      • Murray

        Regrettably, investigators will need to think the unthinkable – that the explosion was deliberate. This raises all sorts of security issues. Let’s see what comes out of the enquiry.

    • publius_maximus_III

      “…he heard a boom and looked up to see the plane corkscrewing downward with one engine smoking.”

      Can’t post the link here, but search on the following string for Military-DOT-com article:

      KC-130 Plane Crash Kills 16 Troops Aboard, Marine Corps Says

  • Michael D. Woods

    I flew those for about fifteen years in the seventies and eighties and I can’t imagine what would cause that. The only volatile fluid would be fuel, but only if the fuselage tank was installed. The meager passenger load suggests that as a possibility. Small arms ammunition shouldn’t be enough to bring it down even if it all exploded at once. What else was manifested aboard? Other comments are correct–the fuselage space is quite large so explosive pressure from something small should be dissipated in the volume and there are redundant control systems. If the crew detected fumes they’d go on breathing oxygen, open all the pressurization valves to clear the fumes, and begin an emergency descent, which hasn’t been indicated yet. We could get down from cruising altitudes quickly enough that the passengers wouldn’t be hypoxic. There’s also been no indication of radio communication. The Board’s findings will be interesting.

  • Mack

    “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and make perpetual Light to shine upon them.”

  • Ruckweiler

    As a civilian A&P this is unheard of for this great aircraft. Without generating contention, was there an outside source for this catastrophe? May all aboard RIP.

  • noloc

    Inflight structural failure in and of itself is not necessarily a cause, it could be an effect. Was the departure from controlled flight caused by a structural failure, or was the structural failure caused by a departure from controlled flight or some other source of induced overstress on the airframe?

  • Butch P-3FE

    Catastrophic engine and/or prop gearbox failure taking out other engine on same side could create the “Flat Spin” indicated by the crash site. Sudden loss could have rolled first into an inverted and unrecoverable flat spin. Debris field could have been props/nacelles.

  • old guy

    I’m 90 and I understand the problem. seriously, I remember one old cobbled up C-1230 fire fighter that shed its wing. but that was a junker,

  • Sam Houston

    The same type/ model/ series that I maintained as an AirFramer and flew Missions in as Loadmaster. There had to be an external cause to the structural failure. From what is presented, sadly, it looks to be in their hazmat cargo (Explosives) which is in the Load’s responsibility. The only other possibilty that would be aircraft related would be a damaged longeron in the aft section. The two members are what hold the empennage to the rest of the airframe with structural integrity. Starboard side is susceptible to corrosion from the aft head and both members can be damaged during loading/unloading evolutions by cargo and equipment.