2018 U.S. Air National Guard C-130 crash

On May 2, 2018, a Lockheed WC-130H transport aircraft of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard crashed in the US state of Georgia, shortly after departing from Savannah Air National Guard Base (which is located at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport).[2][3] The aircraft crashed on Georgia State Route 21 at 11:26 local time.[2][3] All nine airmen (five crewmen and four passengers) were killed in the accident.[1][4] All nine were members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.[5]

2018 U.S. Air National Guard C-130 crash
US Air Force - US Air National Guard - Puerto Air National Guard - (65-0968) - November 8 2016.jpg
65-0968, the aircraft involved, photographed in November 2016
DateMay 2, 2018
SummaryStalled shortly after take-off due to engine malfunction and pilot error
SitePort Wentworth, Georgia[1]
32°08′35″N 81°10′37″W / 32.143°N 81.177°W / 32.143; -81.177
Aircraft typeLockheed WC-130H
OperatorPuerto Rico Air National Guard
Flight originSavannah/Hilton Head International Airport
DestinationDavis–Monthan Air Force Base


The aircraft was a former Lockheed C-130E Hercules that had been ordered by the Air Force in 1965 and later modified to WC-130H standard and was approaching fifty years of age. The aircraft's tail number/Air Force Serial Number was 65-0968 and the Lockheed serial number was 4110. It had been converted to a WC-130H for weather reconnaissance operations, first with the Regular Air Force, and then with the 403d Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command. With the 403 WG's transition to the WC-130J, the aircraft had its weather reconnaissance equipment removed and it was ressigned to the United States Air National Guard to be operated by the 156th Airlift Wing of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, the 146th having recently retired its legacy C-130E aircraft. Although the mishap aircraft was no longer capable of weather reconnaissance, it retained the mission design series (MDS) designation as a WC-130H. The mishap aircraft, and other WC-130H aircraft assigned to the 146th, sans weather reconnaissance equipment, were intended as an interim aircraft until the wing took delivery of newer, true C-130H airlift aircraft that were planned to arrive in the coming months.[6]


The aircraft was being flown to retirement at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, the US military aircraft storage facility at Davis–Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.[1] The aircraft was in its initial climb out of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, when it went into a left bank before losing altitude and crashing.[7][8] Eyewitnesses have reported that the aircraft appeared unstable after takeoff, and that one engine was shut down during the flight.[8] The aircraft impacted on Augusta Road (part of Georgia State Route 21), then a fire ignited that destroyed the entire airframe, apart from the tail.[1][8] All personnel on board the aircraft were killed, but nobody on the ground was killed or injured as a result of the accident.[8] A video of the accident was recorded by a nearby surveillance camera.[9]

The accident investigation was within the jurisdiction of the active duty United States Air Force (USAF), which assembled an investigation board.[10]


As a precautionary measure, the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, ordered all WC-130 aircraft to remain grounded until the conclusion of the accident investigation. The governor also ordered an assessment of the WC-130 fleet in the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.[11] Additionally, commanders of the active duty USAF were directed to observe a one-day pause in operations, to review and identify potential safety concerns that may lead to mishaps.[12]

A section of highway 21 at the impact site was closed immediately after the accident, and the Air National Guard provided funds to the United States Army Corps of Engineers for repairs and cleanup.[13] Traffic was diverted around the crash site to adjacent road SR 307 through a temporary detour, until the completion of repairs.[14] The closed section of highway 21 was reopened for public use on June 8, 2018.[15]

The aircraft’s wreckage was recovered and moved to a storage facility in Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina by mid-May.[13]


The investigation carried out by the USAF found the root cause of the crash to be pilots error following an engine malfunction.[16]

During the takeoff roll, engine number 1 (the left outboard engine) experienced performance fluctuations which went unnoticed until after takeoff. The engine power dropped from nearly 4000 horsepower to under 300, causing the aircraft to pull to the left, nearly departing the runway. The investigation found that the takeoff should have been aborted but was not. Furthermore, the investigation determined that the flight crew had failed to adequately prepare for emergency actions, and the maintenance technicians failed to properly diagnose and repair the malfunctioning engine before flight.[16]

After the flight crew retracted the landing gear, they identified that the engine No.1 was malfunctioning but did not perform the takeoff continued after engine failure procedure or follow the engine shutdown checklist, nor did they complete the after takeoff checklist. The flaps had been set to 50% for takeoff and were not retracted. The approved method of maneuvering a multi engine aircraft in such a situation is to bank the aircraft so that the malfunctioning engine is on the high-side wing. In this case, the pilot incorrectly applied both left bank and rudder, instead of banking to the right. At an airspeed of 131 knots (151 mph; 243 km/h), these incorrect inputs ultimately led to a left wing stall resulting in a total loss of control. The maximum altitude was at 900 feet (270 m), which was insufficient to regain control of the aircraft.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Accident description, WC-130H Hercules 65-0968". Aviation Safety Network. Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 2018-05-10.
  2. ^ a b WTOC. "David Klugh examines cargo plane crash video from nearby business". Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  3. ^ a b "Military plane crash: Live updates". 2018-05-02. Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  4. ^ "9 Puerto Ricans killed in final flight of 60-year-old C-130". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  5. ^ Copp, Tara (2018-05-02). "Puerto Rico WC-130 crashes in Georgia with 9 on board". Air Force Times. Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  6. ^ Selk, Avi; McMillan, Keith (2018-05-03). "Puerto Rican airmen identified after C-130 crash kills 9 in Georgia". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-05-06.
  7. ^ Kebabjian, Richard. "Accident Details, Lockheed HC-130H [sic] Hercules". planecrashinfo. Retrieved 2018-05-10.
  8. ^ a b c d Bynum, Russ (2018-05-08). "Frantic calls followed C-130 crash". Military Times. Sightline Media Group. Retrieved 2018-05-10.
  9. ^ "Plane crash video shows National Guard C-130 aircraft plunging to ground". CBS News. 2018-05-03. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  10. ^ Robertson, Jarvis (2018-05-05). "Plane crash investigation still in early stages". WTOC. Retrieved 2018-05-10.
  11. ^ Ellis, Ralph; Lynch, Jamiel (May 4, 2018). "Puerto Rico grounds aircraft similar to WC-130 that crashed in Georgia". CNN. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  12. ^ Pawlyk, Oriana (8 May 2018). "Amid Mishap Spike, Air Force Orders One-Day Pause for Safety Review". Military.com. Military Advantage. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  13. ^ a b "WC-130 Aircraft Crash Cleanup Update". us13.campaign-archive.com. Georgia Department of Transportation. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Georgia DOT Issues Revised SR 21 Detour". WJCL. Hearst Television Inc. 6 May 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  15. ^ Nagel, Jill (June 8, 2018). "SR 21 Open To Traffic as Aircraft Crash Cleanup Wraps Up" (Press release). GDOT. District Five Communications. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  16. ^ a b c Millard, John (2018-10-09). "United States Air Force Accident Investigation Board Report" (PDF). USAF Air Mobility Command. Retrieved 2018-11-13.