On May 18, 2018, Airmen from the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard perform a dignified arrival at Muniz ANGB, Carolina, Puerto Rico for eight of the nine members of the air crew aboard a WC-130H, referred to as ‘Rican 68’ that crashed outside of Savannah, Ga. on May 2, 2018. ANG photo by SSgt Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea
By MS. ALLISON BROWN, HQ AMC Occupational Safety
On May 2, 2018, a WC-130H from the 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all nine personnel on board. The mission was to fly the aircraft to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona (known as the “Boneyard”).
The aircraft had been in Savannah, Georgia for nearly a month for prescheduled fuel cell maintenance and unscheduled work on the #1 engine. During takeoff roll, the #1 engine speed fluctuated and did not provide normal flight RPM when the throttle levers were advanced for takeoff. Eight seconds before aircraft rotation, engine #1 RPM and torque dropped significantly. This loss of power initially went unrecognized by the crew. Moments before takeoff, the pilot applied rudder input to keep the aircraft on the runway’s centerline. As the aircraft rotated, it veered left and nearly departed the runway onto the grass. Approximately 15 seconds into flight, engine #1 regained partial power. As the landing gear retracted, the RPM and torque from the #1 engine dropped again, and the pilot called for #1 engine shutdown. The pilot banked left into the inoperative engine, rather than continuing acceleration to three-engine climb speed, while the crew successfully shut down the engine. As the aircraft attempted to climb and turn left, the crew did not retract the flaps to reduce drag and the aircraft never achieved three-engine climb speed. The banked turn into the failed engine was well below the minimum air speed needed for proper control of the aircraft. The left wing lost lift and stalled, and the aircraft departed controlled flight and impacted the ground less than two minutes after takeoff onto Georgia State Highway 21.
The Accident Investigation Board determined: