News, Safety events and incidents

ATSB finds Boeing 737 crashed into ridge while fighting WA fire

ATSB WA fire

A preliminary investigation by the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB) has revealed that a Boeing 737 firebombing aircraft, which crashed in Western Australia’s south earlier this year, hit a ridge line while dropping retardant on a bushfire.

The Large Air Tanker, operated by Coulson Aviation, had been helping crews fight a bushfire in the Fitzgerald River National Park when it crashed on February 6.

At the time, ATSB confirmed it was the first time a 737 had been “lost” in Australia undertaking firefighting operations.

Both pilots escaped with minor injuries before most of the huge plane was destroyed by fire.

Investigators from the ATSB found the pilots attempted to pitch the plane up from the low-altitude drop before its engines could accelerate, seconds before it hit the ridge line.

“Flight recorder data shows the throttles were advanced and the engines had accelerated just before the aircraft struck a ridge line with the stick shaker activating,” ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said.

“The aircraft then cleared a small line of foliage, before impacting the ground a second time and sliding to rest.

“Fortunately, and remarkably, both pilots were able to exit the aircraft through a cockpit window, and suffered only minor injuries.”

Western Australia Transport Minister Rita Saffioti told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that she had not been fully briefed on the preliminary report, but acknowledged the “inherent risks” involved in aerial firefighting.

She said the Government would “continue to work with the federal government in relation to the safety of our skies.”

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