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‘Pilot error’ cited in investigation as cause of fatal Savannah-area military plane crash

Surveillance camera captures military plane crash near Savannah, Georgia

A surveillance camera from a local business captured the C-130 military cargo plane crashing outside of Savannah, Ga., last year. At least five people were killed in the crash.
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A surveillance camera from a local business captured the C-130 military cargo plane crashing outside of Savannah, Ga., last year. At least five people were killed in the crash.

An investigation into a fatal crash that killed 9 aboard a Puerto Rican Air National Guard aircraft in Garden City May 2 cited “pilot error” as the cause of the crash.

The WC-130H Hercules Military cargo plane crashed around 11:30 a.m. onto Georgia Highway 21 near Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport shortly after takeoff — killing the entire crew.

In an investigation released Friday by the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, problems during takeoff were mentioned.

“While rolling down the runway, during initial takeoff, the left outermost engine ... experienced significant decay in RPMs and torque, which substantially lowered thrust (the force which moves the aircraft through the air), according to a Mobility Command news release.

The lack of thrust went unnoticed by the crew until moments before liftoff, the release said. As a result, the aircraft veered left and nearly departed the runway into the grass before achieving flight.

“Upon initial ascent, the mishap crew failed to properly apply normal and emergency procedures to address the situation, including improper application of left rudder and making a left turn in the direction of the failed engine,” the release said.

The improper use of a left rudder caused the plane’s left wing to stall and the aircraft crashed.

“Ultimately, after an extensive engineering and human factors analysis, it was identified by preponderance of evidence that the cause of the accident was pilot error,” the release said.

No bystanders were injured when the plane crashed. The roadway was closed for a time as the investigation was conducted.

The aircraft crew was assigned to the 156th Airlift wing. The crew was on a mission to deliver the aircraft from the airport to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, the release said.

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