WASHINGTON -- An experienced student pilot who had difficulty with a number of flight manuevers was at the controls of an Arkansas National Guard C-130 that crashed in June, a National Guard crash report said Thursday.
All six airmen aboard the plane were killed in the training flight crash at the Greenville, Miss., airport June 8.
The report, made available at the Pentagon, recited the facts of the crash and did not draw conclusions as to the cause, but the findings hinted at pilot error.
Two student pilots, 2nd Lts. Thomas Leece and Mark Brandt, were getting flight instruction from C-130 instructor Maj. Adries Zwaan on the flight. Leece, the report said, was sitting in the right seat used by the student receiving flying experience at the time of the crash. Typically, two students switch during the training flights so both get an opportunity for flying time.
The report said both Leece and Brandt had 15 hours of flying time in the C-130, a four-engine turboprop cargo plane widely used in the military. They were on their fourth five-hour training flight when the crash occurred at 2:42 p.m. CDT. Leece had 206 hours total flying time in his logbook.
Drawing on comments by Zwaan to other instructors and crew members who had flown with Leece earlier, the report said Leece had difficulty in earlier flights with stalls, landing patterns, maintaining air speed and landing. The night before, Zwaan had taken over the controls from Leece on a night mission, and crew members reported that the 'flight scared them.'
The plane made two instrument approaches to the Greenville airport and then six visual flight rule approaches using a standard landing pattern just before the crash. The plane landed on the sixth approach, turned around on the runway and departed, and crashed about 1.5 miles from the threshhold while approaching for a seventh visual landing.
Witnesses said the plane banked right to get on final approach, appeared to overshoot and then banked hard left. It hit the ground with the left wing banked over about 40 degrees, with the nose down about 30 degrees below level flight. It was traveling about 85 knots or 90 knots at the time of impact, extremely slow for such a large plane.
The report also said Zwaan did not report to his superiors that both Leece and Brandt were having troubles with their flying proficiency, and it noted that he apparently had too little sleep the night before the crash. It also said a required crew briefing before takeoff apparently was skipped.
There was no evidence of any system failure on the aircraft before the crash, the report said.