Losses and Aviation Safety


VMGR-452 is the only USMC unit still using the KC-130T

More details have emerged on the crash of a U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) KC-130T into a soybean field in Mississippi on Jul. 10.

The aircraft, BuNo. 16500, suffered an emergency at cruise altitude, said Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commander of the Fourth Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, to The New York Times.

“Indications are something went wrong at cruise altitude,” he said. “There is a large debris pattern.”

He added that there were two debris fields, one half a mile north of Highway 82 and a half a mile south of Highway 82.

The KC-130 crashed between the towns of Itta Bena and Moorhead and was bringing Marines from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point in North Carolina to Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro in California.

Six of the people killed were members of the Second Marine Raider Battalion, based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and one was a Navy medical corpsman assigned to that battalion. The other nine belonged to the Marine Reserve squadron at Stewart, General James said.

However General James did not specify what he meant by “cruise altitude.” Actually as a propeller-driven craft, the KC-130 can’t fly as high as jet planes of similar size: it can go above 30,000 feet with a relatively light load, but it generally cruises below that level.

The aircraft belonged to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 452, a Reserve unit based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., about 60 miles north of New York City.

The plane was built in 1993 and took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in 2003 invasion, and later it ferried troops and equipment into and out of the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, assignments that meant using rutted runways in dusty locales, according to records and photographs taken of it over the years.

According to federal aviation records, the plane was damaged in 2004, when a wind storm tipped it sideways onto one wing, while it was on the ground in Fort Worth. In 2010, a storm piled so much snow on the plane that it tipped back, its nose in the air, Alan Stinar, a former marine mechanic who worked on this and other KC-130’s said to The New York Times.

The KC-130 family, consisting of four-engine turboprops, is a variant of C-130 airlifter, a venerable mainstay of the U.S. military. The KC-130T is designed for aerial refueling of other aircraft but can also be used to carry people and gear.

KC-130Ts were built between 1983 and 1995, and they are being phased out in favor of the newer KC-130J model. The squadron at Stewart is the only Marine unit still using the KC-130T.

Photo credit: Maj. Paul Greenberg and Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves, 2d MAW Combat Camera / U.S. Marine Corps

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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