The NTSB has released its preliminary report on the air tanker crash in Utah that killed two pilots on a firefighting mission earlier this month, although the report leaves many questions surrounding the ill-fated P2V flight unanswered.
According to the NTSB, the crash airplane, using the call sign Tanker 11, was following its lead airplane into a shallow valley – one that spanned 0.4 miles wide and 350 feet deep – while executing its second retardant drop of the day directly before the crash.
To position itself over the drop area, the lead aircraft made a shallow right-hand turn to final and descended to 150 feet above the valley. Tanker 11 followed suit, but struck rising terrain located approximately 700 feet left of the lead aircraft’s flight path.
According to the NTSB, the weather at the time of the crash was VFR.
Although the accident’s cause is still unknown, it has triggered renewed calls for an overhauling of the nation’s aging firefighting aircraft fleet. On Wednesday, President Obama signed a bill allowing the U.S. Forest Service to speed up the process of procuring new, next generation air tankers.