A Boeing 737 firebombing aircraft which crashed in Western Australia’s south earlier this year hit a ridge line while dropping retardant, a preliminary investigation has revealed.
The Large Air Tanker, a civilian aircraft that was converted for firefighting and 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, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed it was the first time a 737 had been “lost” in Australia.
Both pilots escaped with minor injuries before most of the huge plane was destroyed by fire, with Premier Mark McGowan describing their survival as a “miracle”.
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.”
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