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Air Tanker Crash Kills Two Pilots

An air tanker, Lockheed P2V, dropping retardant on a remote wildfire in Utah crashed killing both men on board. It appears that a wing tip hit the ground in a rocky canyon leaving a field of debris; the fragments that remained revealed few clues about the cause of the accident. The same day, another plane made an emergency landing when its left-side landing gear failed to deploy; no one was injured.

Investigators recently recovered a cockpit voice recorder and a black box that monitors engine performance and other mechanical systems. The black box was damaged and may not provide useful data, but the voice recorder was intact. Authorities will be looking into all potential causes of the accident, including weather, mechanical failure and pilot error. A complete investigation could take months.

The P2V planes, owned by Neptune Aviation Services, were built in 1962 and had been modified to fight fires. Although the P2-V planes are 50 years old, Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell said the tankers are safe. The Forest Service acknowledges the need for modernizing the fleet and has been working on plans for the next generation air tankers, but no decision has been reached. A contract was canceled last summer in a dispute over safety regulations that are still unresolved. This latest crash has renewed calls for the federal government to speed up efforts to modernize the nation’s firefighting aircraft fleet.

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