On Wednesday, October 8, all state air tankers were grounded in California after an S-2T struck a canyon wall while fighting a fire in Yosemite National Park. This is standard protocol for crashes, say the California State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, but it is not yet known when the aircraft will return to service while the fire continues to blaze.
The pilot, whose name has not yet been released, was killed while he was spreading fire retardant along a canyon wall where the fire was spreading. He was an employee of DynCorp., which contracts pilots as well as maintenance services for CalFire.
On impact, several large pieces of debris fell to the ground below where several crews were fighting the fire. Fortunately, no ground crews were injured. Other pieces landed on the highway below that had been closed since the fire started on Tuesday.
The ill-fated twin turbo-prop aircraft was originally built as an anti-submarine aircraft in the 1950s, and underwent a complete overhaul in 2001. It was retrofitted as an air tanker in the 1970s, and was designed to carry 1,200 gallons of fire retardant. CalFire currently operates more than 20 S-2Ts, all of which have had solid safety records to date. CalFire has not experienced a fatal crash with a tanker since 2001, when two tankers suffered a midair collision over a Mendocino County fire.
The Arizona aviation accident attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten extend their sincerest condolences to the family of the fallen pilot, and send their best to CalFire as they continue to battle the Yosemite fire.