In case you'd not seen this.
Doug Herlihy's coverage (of PearBlossom) is at http://www.iprr.org/COMPS/T82story.htm
Who's who in the C-130 Fire-fighting Planes Acquisition Scandal? (see at bottom of this)
Hidden Fatigue Cracks Suspected in C-130 Crash
MICHAEL A. DORNHEIM/LOS ANGELES
A 10-12-in. fatigue crack has been found in the center wing box of the firefighting Lockheed C-130A that crashed June 17, along the line where the right wing separated from the body. Other smaller fatigue cracks were also found along the parting line on the lower wing skin.
The chordwise length of the wing box at that point is 80 in., meaning the crack itself covered 12-15% of the skin. Laboratory analysis of the crack confirms that it is due to fatigue (see photographs).
Last week the FAA was drafting an emergency airworthiness directive to C-130A operators based on the NTSB's discoveries. A preliminary idea is to ground the aircraft pending X-ray inspection.
The paint color of the outer surface around the crack is different from the rest of the wing box, and NTSB investigators suspect the crack was covered by the outer fringe of a 6 X 12-in.-chordwise 0.072-in.-thick doubler patch. The skin is 0.16-0.17 in. thick. There were no fastener holes or strong adhesive spanning the crack, so it appears the doubler was reinforcing structure immediately outboard of the crack. The doubler overhangs the fracture by 1-1.5 in. With this doubler in place, it would have been difficult or impossible to visually detect the growing crack, and there is a chance the extra stiffness of the doubler was actually causing the crack at its periphery.
X-ray inspection of the wing also shows cracks at areas away from fastener holes.
The completed NTSB investigation of a prior 1994 C-130A firefighter crash near Pearblossom, Calif., may be reexamined as a result of the recent crash near Walker, Calif. The NTSB concluded the 1994 accident, in which the right wing came off, was caused by the explosion of leaking fuel. An independent 1997 investigation of the Pearblossom accident by retired NTSB investigator Douglas R. Herlihy concluded that it was caused by structural failure from flying too fast in turbulent conditions, and not a fuel explosion (www.iprr.org/COMPS/T82story.htm ).
The Pearblossom wreckage was located in somewhat difficult terrain, and not much was recovered by the NTSB. Herlihy and crew revisited the site and examined more than 200 pieces, not finding any sign of explosion or overpressure. Some of the NTSB's case was based on eyewitnesses who saw the wing "explode." Eyewitnesses said the same thing about the Walker crash, but a videotape of the crash shows the wing folds up first, then a fire starts a second later. In both crashes the aircraft shed upper wing skin in flight.
At Walker, the right wing broke off along a relatively straight line at approximately wing station 53 right (WS53R). Wing station is the length along the wingspan in inches, with the fuselage centerline being WS0. The fuselage intersects the wing at WS61, so the break point was about 8 in. inside the fuselage.
From studying the videotape, the right wing was the first to fail as the aircraft was pulling up from a firebombing run (AW&ST June 24, p. 56). About 0.3 sec. later, the left wing started to fold, and a fire started at the right wing root about 0.9 sec. after that wing started to fold.
The left wing broke at about the same spot--WS53L, along where the doublers are. NTSB investigator-in-charge George Petterson plans to carefully examine this failure point in mid-September. He also wants to recover the Pearblossom left wing lower skin for closer examination. The right wing that came off at Pearblossom was melted by fire and the left wing remained with the fuselage, but may have cracks. "We found cracks in the Walker wreckage where Lockheed wasn't even looking," Petterson said. Lockheed's lifetime studies of the lower wing skin concentrated around the WS61 fuselage joint and not in the WS53-59 area, where the wing failed in a fatigue test and in the Walker crash.
The C-130 wing has three main sections--the center wing box with 36.7-ft. span including the inboard engines, and the left and right outer wings, each with an outboard engine. The center box is continuous through the fuselage.
THERE WERE THREE doublers along the outboard side of the WS53R crack area, and this appears to have been a standard item on the C-130A, though the NTSB had not been able to determine as of late last week exactly what it was for. The aircraft went through a structural rehabilitation at Aero Corp. in Lake City, Fla., but the details are vague. "Every day I get different information on the rehab," Petterson said. "There are no records so far, just memories." Aero Corp. is now called Timco.
However, Lockheed's original fatigue tests of the C-130A wing circa 1956-58 show a failure similar to that of the Walker accident. At 13,203 cycles, the lower wing skin ripped open from the front to rear spar while at only 62.5% of limit load. The location was at about WS59R--just 6 in. outboard of where the Walker wing came apart, and in an area that also would have been covered by or very close to the doublers on C-130As.
Besides the rip, inspection of the test wing showed a large number of fatigue cracks around WS61 left and right, concentrated at the front and rear spars. Lockheed concluded in 1978 that the C-130A fleet should be inspected at 12,000 flight hours with recurrent inspections every 2,500 hr. It is not clear how to convert fatigue cycles into flight hours on aircraft that have had such a wide spectrum of use--but firefighting is about the worst duty imaginable (AW&ST Aug. 5, p. 51). Lockheed recommended that the wing be preloaded by jacking to spread cracks apart and make them more detectable. Paint may make it hard to find small cracks. The Walker aircraft, originally Air Force tail No. 56-538, was delivered to the service around 1957 and had 21,863 hr.
In the C-130A static test, the wing failed at 89% of ultimate load and was reinforced but not retested. But the failure location was not at the center box--it was the upper skin of the outer wing, 21 in. from the wing attach point.
The fatigue tests also highlighted the importance of appropriate materials. The prototype C-130A fuselage was made of 7075-T6 alloy aluminum. The T6 temper gives high strength, but the fuselage cyclic tests quickly showed it is susceptible to fatigue, leading to hundreds of failures, three of which would have been catastrophic. Lockheed changed the fuselage skin to fatigue-tolerant 2024-T3 aluminum and redesigned the structure to reduce stress.
But they did not change the wing center box alloy, which was 7075-T6. The C-130B and original C-130E center boxes remained 7075-T6, but poor results in the C-130E fatigue test, in which the center box lower skin suffered the most damage, caused a change of material to more fatigue-tolerant 7075-T7531, as well as a redesign to reduce stress by 20%. The wing center section continues to be a life-limiting part for newer C-130s.
A program was started to "rehabilitate" C-130A center and outer wings during depot maintenance, on an as-needed basis. Laboratory tests of the Walker wreckage show the center box is made of 7075-T6.
FAA orders inspections of tanker wing cracks
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Aviation Administration
ordered wing inspections on all C-130A air tankers Thursday after
investigators determined that cracks in the wings caused the crash of a
Wyoming-based tanker fighting a wildfire in California this summer.
The FAA also directed owners to inspect the wings of the P2V, another
tanker commonly used in firefighting, because it said cracking is common.
The wings of the C-130A snapped off and the plane was engulfed in flames
as it dropped retardant on a blaze on June 17. Pilot Steven Wass, 42, of
Gardnerville, Nev.; co-pilot Craig Labare, 36, of Loomis, Calif.; and flight
engineer Michael Davis, 59, of Bakersfield, Calif., were killed in the
The FAA directive was issued “since an unsafe condition has been
identified that is likely to exist or develop on other Lockheed C-130A
airplanes.” The administration directed owners to inspect all C-130As for
cracks within four days and conduct regular follow-up inspections.
“The Forest Service has some very serious decisions to make” as to
whether an inspection regimen can be developed that would allow the C-130A
to be used safely, said William Broadwell, executive director of the Aerial
Firefighting Industry Association.
The FAA set regular intervals for inspections, beginning Oct. 1, of the
P2V, also manufactured by Lockheed.
The National Transportation Safety Board has not released a final report
on the investigation, although it said Tuesday that cracked wings caused the
crash of the C-130A as well as the crash of a P4Y-2 in Colorado in July.
That crash killed two.
Both planes were converted military aircraft operated by Hawkins and
Powers Aviation, a Greybull, Wyo., company that contracts with the Forest
Service to provide firefighting tankers.
“The cause of such fatigue cracking has been attributed to the age,
time-in-service and flight cycles of the airplane,” the FAA’s C-130A
directive said. “Such fatigue cracking, if not detected and corrected, could
result in structural failure of the wings and consequent loss of control of
The C-130A was 46 years old and had 21,863 hours of flight time. The
P4Y-2 was 57 years old but had just 8,200 flight hours.
Another C-130A crashed in 1994 in Pearblossom, Calif., killing three
people aboard. The NTSB attributed that crash to a fuel leak that ignited,
although Broadwell said that finding is under review.
This year the Forest Service contracted to use six C-130As and 14 P2Vs,
but the agency has stopped using both planes in its firefighting operations.
They remain grounded pending the outcome of the NTSB investigation.
There are 16 operational C-130As registered in the United States, said
FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto said. All of them are former military aircraft
that have been modified for other uses, primarily firefighting or aerial
The Forest Service does not own its own air tankers; instead, it leases
the planes from private contractors. This year, the Forest Service signed
contracts to lease 45 tankers.
The average age of the 32 tankers with manufacturing dates on file with
the FAA is 47. The oldest rolled off the assembly line in 1943, while the
newest is 36 years old.
But Broadwell stressed that any plane can be flown safely, regardless of
its age, as long as it has been rigorously inspected and maintained.
Who's Who in the C-130 Scandal
by John Titus
[Editor's note: Consult flow chart for connections of components in this labyrinth of fraud.]
An estimated 42 former military planes, both Air Force C-130's and Navy P-3 Orions, were diverted into a long train of covert operations under cover of firefighting. Early attempts to obtain A-10 "Wart Hog" jet fighters were shut down by the Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General (OIG), but broker Roy Reagan did manage to obtain six Bell UH-1E "Huey" helicopters from a Naval museum.
In fact, all these military aircraft were exchanged for obsolete planes nominally destined for museums.
After leaving the Air Force, Reagan used a network of contacts to successfully broker former military aircraft on the open market. One C-130 obtained by Reagan in 1986 was sold to Detrich Reinhardt and Peter Turkelson, both of whom have been identified as CIA operatives by Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA). Weldon investigated the affair following the crash of this C-130 in Angola while on a CIA mission. Robert Weldon, the congressman's nephew, died in the crash. Reinhardt had previously owned St. Lucia Airlines, which was used by Oliver North to smuggle missiles to Iran during the embargo.
As his payoff, Reagan received in excess of $1 million, including several C-130's which he later resold.
Reagan and Forest Service official Fred Fuchs have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Tucson, Arizona, for conspiracy and theft of government property.
Reagan has hired attorney Stuart Gerson to represent him. It was Gerson, as acting attorney general in the late Bush and early Clinton administrations, who ordered the tanks into the tragic siege of the Branch Davidian ranch in Waco, Texas.
As former director of the Forest Service aviation program, Fuchs (and Reagan, according to the indictment) met with and misled Department of Defense and General Services Administration officials as to who would ultimately retain title to the aircraft in question. Government officials believed that the planes would remain under Forest Service control, and that they would only be used for forest and rangeland fire management. As his payoff, Fuchs received flight-time upgrades to his pilot's license from the very contractors he negotiated on behalf of. He also received a vintage "Steerman" bi-plane aircraft.
James P. Ross
Ross, a business partner of Reagan's, is named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case by the U.S. Attorney in Arizona. Ross delivered C-130 aircraft to one of the firefighting contractors, Hemet Valley Aviation of Hemet, California, and is identified in a 1983 Federal Aviation Administration document as the inspector of the C-123 cargo plane that was later shot down on a supply mission to CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua. (Eugene Hasenfus survived this crash and named the CIA agents he worked for, thus destroying the government lies that they did not run the Contras.) The same C-123 had also been used by CIA pilot Barry Seal in his cocaine-running operations.
Jack Chisum was a vice president of T&G Aviation of Chandler, Arizona. He is believed by an investigator to have been set up and turned in to authorities by Evergreen Aviation and Southern Air Transport for "muscling in on the [Middle East] C-130 action." It was Jack who provided the investigator with the outline of the C-130 mission to Kuwait, in which T&G Forest Service contracted C-130's went on missions in Kuwait at the close of the Gulf War. T&G was allegedly hauling oil-field equipment for Bechtel Corporation, but Evergreen and Southern Air claimed the company was illegally hauling whiskey into the Arab nations.
Whatever their cargo was, T&G was contracting for Bechtel through a company called MARTECH. The aircraft on the Kuwait mission were ordered to return to the U.S., and were flown to Evergreen's air complex at Marana, Arizona.
Jack Chisum was a long-time friend of Gary Eitel. Their association dated back to a time when they both flew for the Forest Service in the 1970s. It was Chisum who explained the details of rogue CIA missions involving the ex-military workhorses. And, sadly, many secrets have died with Chisum, who was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking down an Arizona highway. Gary Eitel has never been satisfied with the results of the accident investigation, and believes that Chisum may have been targeted, hit and silenced.
Eitel has spearheaded the investigation into the illegal uses of the former military aircraft. After military service, Eitel flew for the Forest Service, the Department of Defense, and private companies in Alaska. He is a decorated Vietnam combat pilot, and became a law enforcement officer and later an attorney in Texas.
In 1976, he was recruited to fly CIA missions in Angola, and other missions involving Lear Jets that were operated out of southern Oregon.
As early as 1989, while Eitel was employed at Evergreen Aviation, he observed that card-carrying CIA personnel were on Evergreen property acting as Evergreen employees.
According to documents filed in Federal Court, it was Eitel who tipped government officials off to both the corruption in the Forest Service aircraft exchange program, and another scandal charging that Evergreen Aviation defrauded the U.S. Postal Service by over-billing that agency an estimated $52.6 million on a two-year contract. Court filings state "Evergreen exploited its CIA contracts by offering the CIA [services] over and beyond the primary CIA contract and, allegedly, on no charge to the CIA on the pretense Evergreen would be able to over-bill the Forest Service, Air Force, and United States Postal Services contract." In 1993, Gary Eitel testified before Congress concerning his knowledge of the C-130 scandal. (See July/August '94, "The Sky Pirates: Aerial Heavy Hauling," p. 1; January/February '95, "Cloak, Dagger and Cockpit -- An Evergreen Update," p. 17; July/August '95, "CIA Airlines Never Die," p. 4; and July-October '96, "Steal a C-130 -- Go to Jail" [an update], p. 7.)
Eitel has federal prosecutor status on behalf of the government in both of these cases. Until December 1996, the government held back and let him pursue the C-130 case alone. It was only after the recent indictments of Reagan and Fuchs by a U.S. Attorney in Arizona, that the Department of Justice entered the lawsuit to save face, and possibly manipulate it.
As the result of his investigation and lawsuits, Eitel has received a number of threats, and, considering the mysterious deaths of Jack Chisum and another Evergreen Aviation pilot, Dean Moss (see March/April '94 issue, "Evergreen Pilot Murdered on Weapons Flight," p. 1; May/June '95, "Air Force Investigates Evergreen," p. 4 [and sidebar, p. 5]; and update, May/June '96, p. 3), these threats are taken seriously.
In the 1980s, Joseph P. Russoniello was a U.S. Attorney in California. Presumably, a U.S. Attorney is a tough prosecutor who represents the best interests of the public; but Russoniello went soft when it came to a drug case involving the CIA.
Between 1981 and 1984, the DEA had compiled sufficient evidence to crack the biggest cocaine ring in California at that time. Police had nabbed several "frogmen" swimming onto a beachhead carrying at least four-hundred pounds of cocaine. Ultimately, 35 people were arrested, along with guns, drugs, catalogs for automatic weapons and silencers, and $36,800 in cash. Federal prosecutors declared that the money was evidence from the drug operation, and would be used for the trail. While this appeared to be a clean bust, the authorities were about to have a rug pulled out from under them.
The drug ring's alleged leader, Julio Zavala, claimed that the cash was not drug money, but was money earmarked to purchase weapons for the CIA's illegal Contra war in Nicaragua. Zavala requested that the money seized by the cops be returned to the Contras. According to Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News, Russoniello decided not to keep the cash as evidence, and did not want it forfeited to the government, which is the standard procedure in drug cases. The drug money was then returned to the Contras. In a 1996 Senate hearing, Senator Arlen Spector and investigator Jack Blum openly discussed Russoniello's capitulation to Contra drug-runners. Blum stated that Russoniello had angrily shouted at investigators and Senator John Kerry, who was chairing the committee investigating intelligence-community links to the drug trade. Russoniello accused them of being "subversive for wanting to go into it."
Some may say that Joseph Russoniello (now an attorney for companies that allegedly obtained government aircraft illegally) went from prosecuting criminals to representing criminals. Others may say that from the "frogman" cocaine case to the current aircraft scandal, Joseph P. Russoniello has always represented the best interests of the CIA.
It should be noted that documents filed in federal court indicate that Russoniello believed he had an agreement with the Justice Department that his clients would not be the target of any grand jury indictment, and that the government would not intervene in Gary Eitel's whistle-blower case. Has Rusoniello cut another deal with the devil?
Evergreen International Airlines
Originally based in McMinnville, Oregon, Evergreen expanded from a small helicopter company in the 1960s to a major international airline with secretive government contracts.
In 1975, after a series of revealing hearings led by Senator Frank Church, the CIA was pressured to sell off its lucrative business front companies. The result of this program was the privatization of those former government assets into corporate hands. It was Evergreen that was chosen to take over the CIA's airbase at Marana, Arizona, which led to decades of privileged treatment regarding Evergreen's government contracts. Top CIA aviation officers, including the legendary George Doole, worked for Evergreen. Prior to working for Evergreen, Doole had managed all of the CIA's proprietary airlines.
In the last few years, Evergreen has faced industry criticism and hard financial times. In 1994, the company defaulted on $125 million in junk bonds and found its books open to public scrutiny, not a comfortable situation for a CIA contract airline.
In late December 1996, Evergreen announced that an unnamed financial institution would help Evergreen buy back all $125 million of the defaulted junk bonds. The company, which is saddled with a tremendous amount of debt, is considered the recipient of a back-door government bailout.
Pacific Harbor Capital / PacifiCorp
To understand the complexity of this aircraft-laundering operation,
consider this exchange:
This operation was obviously intended to "wash away" Forest Service ownership and to help "sheep-dip" sophisticated military aircraft, some of which were equipped with electronic surveillance gear. [Sheep-dip is spook-speak for concealing the source, purpose or nature of something so that it can be used in ways that would otherwise be impossible.]
PacifiCorp, a Northwest financial giant, is the parent company of Pacific Harbor Capital, and according to the 25 October 1993 issue of the Seattle Post Intelligencer, PacifiCorp is also linked to the CIA. And not surprisingly, the 1975 Senate hearings led by Frank Church identified the holding company for all the CIA airlines as "The Pacific Corporation."
Independent Firefighting Contractors
This company appears to be a major hub of the conspiracy to obtain government aircraft. Roy Reagan maintained an office at Aero Union and his associate, John Ford, is a key attorney is handling aircraft sales for him. Joseph Russoniello is the corporation's top legal talent.
Hemet Valley Aviation
C-130 aircraft were delivered to Hemet Valley Aviation by James P. Ross, who inspected and certified aircraft linked to Oliver North's and Barry Seals' gun- and drug-running operation for the Contras.
Hemet Valley sold two C-130s to Michael Zincka Leasing in 1989. The registration numbers of these aircraft identify them as "C-130-A Modified versions" that were equipped with sophisticated electronic reconnaissance gear.
Zincka Leasing put them to work for French Securite' Civile, the French CIA, for two years.
Reagan, Fuchs, and the other companies cited in this article are attempting to dump on T&G Aviation. While Woody Grantham and Jack Chisum contracted out for the missions in Kuwait, they had State Department approval for that work.
However, the Forest Service mandate for the use of the aircraft stated that they could only be used stateside for fire-suppression use.
T&G's Jack Chisum had related much of this information to Eitel before
his death; Eitel is pitted against the former acting Attorney General of the
United States Stuart (Waco) Gerson and former California U.S. Attorney
Joseph Russoniello (who returned CIA drug money to the Contras.)
Hawkins and Powers
This company leased one of the Forest Service C-130's to British Aerospace Corporation, and another to Multitrade International, a company linked to a previous C-130 sale.
In the late 1970s, a number of military C-130's were flown in from the Australian Air Force, destined for use by private American air contractors. The company that brought them over was Southern Cross (owned by Multitrade). Most of the planes were brought under the control of the law firm Ford & Vlahos. Mr. Ford in this case is John Ford, a powerful attorney who is listed as an assistant secretary for T&G Aviation, as well as attorney for Pacific Gas & Electric (a California energy corporation), and attorney for Pacific Harbor Capital (a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, another financial giant that is linked to the CIA). At least one of these former Australian C-130's was involved in the Mena, Arkansas, CIA gun-and-drug operation. Another, tail number N69-P, was being operated on Roy Reagan's certificate (a sort of operating license), on contract for the U.S. military's Nuclear Defense Agency. This same aircraft was later busted by the DEA in Miami, Florida, on a cocaine smuggling mission.
The plane was then sold to a U.S. Customs agent and flown to T&G Aviation to be refitted, and then went on to work in Africa.
TBM, of Tulare, California, was one of the first companies to deal with Roy Reagan. They gave two of their Forest Service C-130's to Reagan in a complex series of aircraft sales. TBM owns about 70% of Butler Aviation of Redmond, Oregon.
In 1994, after the tragic deaths of 14 firefighters in a Colorado wildfire, the owner of Butler Aviation, Cal Butler, wrote the governor of Colorado a revealing and disturbing letter.
Butler, who pioneered early techniques using aircraft to fight forest fires, told Governor Roy Romer that the loss of lives could have been avoided had airtankers been available to drop fire-retardant material. This was at a time when Forest Service aircraft were being used, illegally, in Europe and Latin America.
Butler, the only apparent co-conspirator with a conscience, maintains the skeletonized hulk of one Forest Service C-130, stripped of its electronics and running gear, at his facility at Redmond, Oregon.
This criminal conspiracy is evolving on a day-by-day basis, and parallel court cases are being pursued in both Oregon and Arizona. Here is the short list of what we do know:
- According to private and congressional investigators, the CIA has been
using some of the Forest Service aircraft.
Sources close to the case have told the Free Press that a veil of national security has been wrapped around the trial, and that U.S. Attorney Claire Lefkowitz, who has been very candid with reporters in the past, will provide no further comments!