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Investigation points to pilot error as cause of deadly Savannah crash

PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (WSAV) - Officials have released the results of its investigation into the WC-130 Hercules crash in Port Wentworth that claimed the lives of all nine airmen on board.

The crash occurred May 2 on Highway 21. 156th Airlift Wing Aviators from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard were on a mission to deliver the aircraft from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport to its retirement at a U.S. Air Force base in Arizona.

The Air Force’s Air Mobility Command released on Nov. 9 that as a result of their investigation, authorities found that “the cause of the accident was pilot error.”

The report says one engine failed during takeoff, and "the mishap crew failed to properly apply normal and emergency procedures to address the situation."

The pilot was previously identified as Maj. José R. Román Rosado. He lived in Manati, Puerto Rico and served for 18 years. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

His co-pilot was identified as 1st Lt. David Albandoz. Albandoz lived in Puerto Rico and Madison, Alabama. Albandoz is survived by his wife and daughter.

Read more details of the report:

While rolling down the runway, during initial takeoff, the left outermost engine, also referred to as the number one engine, experienced significant decay in RPMs and torque which substantially lowered thrust (the force which moves the aircraft through the air).

The thrust deficiency went unrecognized by the crew until moments before liftoff when the aircraft veered left and nearly departed the runway into the grass before achieving flight. Upon initial ascent, the mishap crew failed to properly apply normal and emergency procedures to address the situation, including improper application of left rudder and making a left turn in the direction of the failed engine.

The improper application of a left rudder resulted in a left-wing stall. The aircraft descended and impacted the terrain on Georgia State Highway 21. No bystanders were harmed by the crash.

Ultimately, after an extensive engineering and human factors analysis it was identified by a preponderance of the evidence the cause of the accident was pilot error. Failure to follow procedures and checklists placed the aircraft in a dangerous flight position and vulnerable to an errant rudder input. The subsequent application of left rudder by the pilot resulted in the loss of aircraft control and ultimate aircraft mishap.

Substantial contributing factors to the mishap include the crew’s failure to adequately prepare for emergency actions, discontinue the takeoff, properly execute appropriate after-takeoff and engine shutdown checklists and procedures; and ground maintenance before the mission failed to properly diagnose and repair the malfunction with engine one which reoccurred during takeoff on the mishap flight.

The investigation team was led by Brig. Gen. John C. Millard, Deputy Director, AMC Strategic Plans, Requirements, and Programs.

The full report is available here.


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