(Reuters) - A Lockheed C-130 Hercules tanker fighting bushfires in Australia’s alpine region crashed after losing contact with ground control on Thursday, authorities said. Modified versions of the aircraft are used around the world to dump large quantities of flame retardant or water on wildfires.
- Originally designed as a military troop and cargo transport aircraft, the four-engine turboprop can be modified to act as a “water bomber” to douse wildfires.
- The aircraft typically carries a crew of two to six when equipped to fight fires.
- It can carry 15,000 liters (3,960 gallons) of water or fire retardant, which can be released in one large drop within seconds or several smaller drops.
- The aircraft can be refilled in 12 minutes and has a cruise speed of more than 500km/h (311mph).
- It is able to take off and land on short, unsurfaced runways.
- A U.S. Air Force C-130 tanker crashed in 2012 while battling a South Dakota wildfire, killing four of its six crew. The accident led to the temporary grounding of the other eight such planes. It was the first crash in the 40-year history of the joint Defense Department-Forest Service program. It was later determined to be weather-related.
- A privately owned, former U.S. Air Force C-130 tanker crashed in 2002 while fighting wildfires in California, killing all three crew on board. The accident was caught on video camera, showing that the wings folded upward, breaking off the plane before the fuselage rolled and hit the ground upside down.
- There are more than 40 variants of the Hercules operating in more than 60 countries.
- Australia was the second country to begin using the C-130 after it entered service in the United States in 1956.
Reporting By Jane Wardell; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Richard Pullin