By Jesse Wood
Nov. 14, 2012. This afternoon, the Air Mobility Command released the results of an investigation into the C-130 Hercules plane flown by the 145th Aircraft Wing with the N.C. Air National Guard and crashed while battling summer wildfires in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
One of the four killed was Boone-native Maj. Ryan S. David, 35, who joined the guard six months before his death following a 10-year-stint in the active-duty Air Force and had a newborn son.
“The investigation determined the MAFFS C-130 cockpit crew’s inadequate assessment of operational conditions resulted in the aircraft flying into a microburst and impacting the ground,” stated a release from the U.S. Air Force.
“The report describes a microburst as a severe, localized wind gust, blasting down from a thunderstorm, typically covering an area less than 2.5 miles in diameter and lasting less than five minutes,” the release continued. “The investigation also determined factors that substantially contributed to the mishap included the failure of the Lead Plane and Air Attack aircrews to communicate critical operational information, as well as conflicting operational guidance concerning thunderstorm avoidance.”
This flight was among three crews and other C-130s that flew from Charlotte to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., to assist in fighting the intense summer wildfires in the Rocky Mountain region.
Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville, N.C.; Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, 36, of Belmont, N.C. and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, 50, of Charlotte, also died in the plane crash, and two others were seriously injured.
MAFFS stands for Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, and the units fit inside a four-engine turboprop aircraft Lockheed C-130 that requires no structural modification and are able to take off at a moment’s notice.
The units are able to drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or a slurry retardant from an altitude of about 150 feet in less than five seconds, according to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet, and the retardant covers an area one-quarter of a mile long and 60 feet wide. After the plane discharges its load and returns to an air tanker base, it can be refilled and airborne again in less than 20 minutes.
After the plane crash took place, President Barack Obama offered thoughts and prayers to the crew and their families in a statement: “The men and women battling these terrible fires across the West put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans.”
David attended and played football at the University of Nebraska. He was a veteran of multiple deployments all across the globe. His family recalls him as a happy, humble, family-oriented individual.
In a statement shortly after Ryan’s death, his wife Jenny said, “Ryan was my best friend, my husband, and loving father to our son. I am so proud of him for all that he has done, especially for helping other Americans in their time of need, combating wildfires in the Midwest. He did what he was so very passionate about, and that was to serve his country in uniform. He had an infectious smile, and always inspired those with whom he interacted. He will be remembered as a perfect gentleman, his entire family loves him so very much. I will miss him terribly. We were a good team and equal partners.”
- Ethan Woodhouse contributed to this article.