The failure of an engine air duct forced the crash landing of a C-130 at the Santa Barbara Airport in August, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The airport’s main runway was shut down for 19 hours after the aircraft, owned by International Air Response, made its emergency landing on Aug. 25.
The five people on board escaped injury, but the plane caught fire and was heavily damaged.
The C-130, an aerial oil-spill dispersant plane, was traveling from Malaysia to its home base at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona at the time of the crash. It had made refueling stops in Hilo, Hawaii, and Santa Maria.
Shortly after departing the Santa Maria Airport at about 10:20 p.m., the aircraft experienced multiple system failures, according to the NTSB report released last week.
“The flight crew heard a loud popping noise, and the passengers heard a loud bang,” the report states. “Simultaneously, the torque gauges provided unusual and fluctuating readings. A crew member in the cargo compartment announced misting hydraulic fluid mixed with smoke.”
Among critical systems affected by the failure of the “bleed air duct” — used to siphon off hot air from the engines for other uses — were the C-130’s hydraulic system, which helps control key components such as the landing gear and flaps.
“A crew member advised that the landing gear should be lowered before there was a total utility system failure,” the report states.
The crew began lowering the landing gear, but the right gear was unable to fully extend.
Realizing the seriousness of the problem, the pilot requested permission to make an emergency landing. The Santa Barbara Airport was chosen because the Santa Maria Airport was fogged in, and would have required an instrument landing, according to the report.
The plane had to fly over the Santa Ynez Mountains before making its approach to Santa Barbara.
“Once they had cleared the terrain and had the airport in sight, they began their descent,” the report states. “(The pilot) advised SBA tower that he would make S-turns to lose altitude as they had no flaps.
“As a result, their approach speed would be fast, and they would likely use the full length of the runway.”
Once the aircraft touched down, the pilot applied reverse thrust to slow it down, the report states. The right wing dipped down because the landing gear had not fully extended, and the pilot struggled to keep the plane on the runway.
“The airplane continued to the right and departed the right side of the runway,” the report states. “The captain intentionally ground looped the airplane as it was continuing toward SBA’s main terminal and parked airplanes.
“The airplane came to a stop about 270-degrees right of the runway heading.”
Two Federal Aviation Administration inspectors inspected the airplane and determined that the bleed air duct on one of the four engines had failed, which blew hot air onto the surrounding electrical wires and hydraulic lines, damaging them.
The failed parts were sent to the NTSB metallurgical laboratory in Washington, D.C., for further examination.
The investigation is ongoing, and a final report is not expected for several months.
The damaged aircraft remains parked near a hanger on the north side of the airport. It’s unknown if it will be repaired.