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C130 crash at Jackson Hole Wyoming


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I came throw Jackson Hole a while back and couldn't remember the details of what caused the crash and did any of the crew survive. I'm sure some of you do.

This was on a presidential support mission, night takeoff. New AC and a green CP. Unfortunately it was all crew error. They turned and flew into the mountains. Really a sad story no one survived.

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As I recall, it was a "Let's hurry up and get the hell out of here!" type of mishap/crew fatality. Other contributing factors started well before the said mission. The crew was "pressed" into the flight after the Presidential Sppt. Mission was pushed back a day, and inadequate flight planning was apparent. There was a AMC/HQ restriction into flying in/out of Jackson Hole at night; an FAA Advisory Circular also stated that flying into that field required special pilot cert. (although the USAF does not have to adhere to, it is still viable info.).

The crew took off, made the departure turn and impacted a mountain at +/- 10,000 MSL. Sad story......


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this crash was personally sad for me as i was at the time a presidential crewchief with my acft at jackson hole. I knew agent aldo frascoia very well and it was a great lose. i remember seeing 1662 on the ramp as we took off for andrews 2 hours before the crash, but didn't find out about it until reaching andrews. as fate would have it i transfered to dyess 6 months later and became a flying crewchief/dcc on c-130's.

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  • 4 months later...

Unfortunately, the USAF has used the Jackson Hole mishap to impose some fairly restrictive departure procedures.

After the crash, they took approach plates to Dyess and asked all the pilots if they knew what the trouble-T was. Most did not and of those that did know, many of them still didn't know there was additional information in the front of the book regarding departure procedures.

Advanced Instrument School uses this vignette to illustrate how haphazard the C-130 community was back in those days. But I eagerly pointed out that normal ops back then was to get out a chart for the terminal area and figure out how to get into/out of the local area. A study of the area surrounding Jackson Hole would've presented several options for departing safely - even if you couldn't meet the published climb gradients (which the mighty C-130 often has difficulty meeting).

I knew the AC on that plane. There were a LOT of contributing factors, but the bottom line is they screwed up.

Jackson Hole and the Ron Brown crash were "watershed" events for USAF instrument flying resulting in some fairly draconian knee-jerk reactions that plague us to this day.

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I started at AIS right after this accident and took over as the TERPS and Departure Procedure Instructor.

The official reasons for the crash were crew error but I believe it was a failure of Air Force training Air Force wide.

US HERK stated: “Advanced Instrument School uses this vignette to illustrate how haphazard the C-130 community was back in those days.â€

I can’t speak for the current AIS group as I have been gone for a while but when I was there the intent was not to talk bad about the Herk community at all. I was very vocal in the issues I had about how the Air Force taught departure procedures as a whole. Having been a T-37 IP both at UPT and PIT I understood very well exactly how it was taught. The basics were that we had to meet the climb gradient but other things didn’t apply to us. There was no climb gradient posted on the Jackson Hole DP so no problem, just take off, maintain at least 200’/NM and they were good to go. (At least that is what most IPs had been teaching at UPT for years.) Well, obviously that was not the case here. Had the crew flown the published DP they could have maintained 200/NM and been just fine but very few instructors at the time were teaching that. Yes, there were a lot of other contributing factors to the accident but when it comes down to it I believe the Air Force as a whole failed this crew and the accident would not have happened had the training been properly training its pilots all along.

We rewrote the AFIs and went to each of the UPT bases to teach the instructors the proper way to teach DPs. I don’t know how it is in the USAF now but I hope it is understood a little better today though I gather some of the requirements may have gone overboard.

This wasn’t truly pilot error in my opinion but a failure of the Air Force across the board. It happened in the 130 community but really every USAF weapon system at the time was training the same way it just happened to be a Herk that got the attention of the nation.

I was researching this accident for an FAA paper when I came across this forum. My deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of this crew. While officially it was crew error all of us that were in the training business failed this crew and for that I am sorry.

JC Findley

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"Havoc - 58" was their call sign. The crew was a mix of 39th and 40th crew dogs flying a "blue tail" (40th aircraft) 74-1662 that had just returned from depot and had only flown one off station before the mishap. I was in the 40th at the time, Ricky Merrit (FE) was a good friend, and the IL "Jay" Smith a neighbor and friend as well. The AC, Maj Kevin Earnist (also known as "BooBoo") was the commanders Exec in the 39th and was not a new AC by any stretch. I was tasked with the NOK following the AIB results to brief the widow of the UL. Spent a few days in briefings prior to our taking the report to the familys. I do have the "civil" release of the AIB, its to the point, has the CVR transcript as well.


Bert "Fleagle"

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Hey Bert!

I remember when you called me that morning before we headed into the squadron to get the official notification.

Billy Ogsten had been over my house the previous week showing off his yellow pickup he was customizing. I remember MSgt Simpson was torn up for years putting him on that trip as a good deal for working so hard as a crew chief.

And of course the time I spent with Ricky Merritt in Survival School, BFE, LRAFB and LAO training. About two weeks prior Ricky and Johnny Cantu and I were at Pope together.

That Memorial Service was the toughest thing I ever did in my life.

Talk to you again soon Bert.


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The only challenge I see for the current AIS instructors (I went as a very old guy last spring) is they spout this stuff largely out of ignorance - they're 4th generation monkeys.

Not a knock on them at all - it is what it is.

They do "teach" departures more in depth than they used to. It's probably better. Still hamstrings us needlessly in my mind.

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IMHO the "fix" of having FE's learn TERPS was not as good as other ways to deal with what happened. I still believe having a cockpit discussion about the obstacles, their height, position from runway heading, and distance from the end of runway would have been better. The climb gradient criteria cut the Herk's ability to do it's job. The FE's have charts for terrain clearance on three and four engines. I always knew it was my ass too so keeping up with terrain, obstacles, and things to avoid was in my best interest. Am I correct in my thinking? Maybe, maybe not but I'm now retired so I wasn't all wrong. It's sad to lose people, especially when it could have been avoided.

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  • 3 months later...

Ladies & Gents:

I found this site while doing some research for a class I'm developing. I'm not a Herk guy, but sometimes I feel like one. I became involved with the C-130 community in many ways and grew to respect your culture and the job y'all do day-in and day-out. You are unsung heroes for the most part ... I was a tanker guy, so I understand the genre! :)

I was a pilot member of the safety board for the Jackson Hole accident. At the time, I was assigned to the Flight Standards Agency, and I was in charge of all USAF flight directives. Later, my last assignment was at AIS, where I was perhaps the original "monkey" to use US Herk's characterization. (Or maybe it was JC) :D My last act in a green bag was to defend the C-130 crew who crashed in Kuwait against charges of negligent homicide.

Many of you knew those on the crew at Jackson Hole. Over the years, I have spoke to quite a few of you. Even though I did not know them personally, through your eyes, your comments, and even your tears, I feel I have come to know them and what fine Americans they were. I think of them every day, and I pray the things we learned from them will make future crews safer. I may not get everything right, but I can assure you everything I have done and continue to do is to honor their memory.

Many times, as US Herk was trying to say (I think), information which has been passed through several layers may suffer distortions from the original message. That doesn't mean those delivering the message are bad people; it just means they don't have first-hand knowledge. In the same way, some of the posts here are not accurate.

Any of you who might have heard me teach back in the day knows two things about me: I'm sincere and I know what I'm talking about. So, I'm posting here with an invitation to those who may be interested ... if you want to hear the truth and get the facts ... feel free to get in touch with me directly anytime - 24/7/365.

I have corresponded briefly with a gentleman in the Jackson Hole area. A memorial has been established and you can learn more about it at the following link:


I plan to visit this summer to pay my respects.

The Jackson Hole accident is also covered in a book titled "Aircraft Accident Analysis: Final Reports." The authors are James Walters and Robert Sumwalt III. It's not a bad recap.

I hope to hear from some of you. Until then, best wishes and fly safe!


[email protected]

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4th Generation Monkeys is not necessarily a derogative term. It's a well-established social-reaction to established procedures. The term '4th generation monkey' comes from how the behavior is described.

If you take 4 monkeys, put them in a room, and place some bananas in the center, they will naturally go toward the food. When they do this, you spray them down with a fire hose. As you do this over and over, you teach them that if they go to the bananas, they'll get hosed. They learn this and if one of the monkeys tries to go toward the food, eventually the other monkeys will beat him to keep from getting the fire hose sprayed on them.

After that conditioning, you replace a single monkey. As he hasn't ever received the fire hose, he doesn't know not to go near the bananas. Once he does, the other monkeys beat him until he learns not to go for the bananas or he gets beaten.

Once this conditioning occurs, you change out yet another original monkey. The process for the first replacement monkey repeats itself, to include the replacement monkey beating the second replacement monkey - even though he's never been fire hosed - he just knows not to go near the bananas.

And so you can replace each of the original monkeys, in turn, and the same process happens, so that by the time you get to the 4th generation monkey, he will still be beaten and none of those doing the beating will have ever received the fire hose treatment.

The behavior will continue long after the water supply to the fire hose is removed, the hose thrown away, and the people manning it die. The behavior continues w/o reason.

And so it is with the military. We do much because "that's how we've always done it". I'm a big fan of asking the WHY behind the WHAT, but I seem to be in the minority most days. It doesn't mean that I'm trying to buck the system necessarily, simply that I want to understand why I'm doing what I'm doing so I may do it better. But the military favors conformity over uniqueness and despite lip service to the contrary, really doesn't know how to integrate "out of the box" thinking.

So, my remarks that the current AIS instructors are 4th generation monkeys means nothing more than they've been taught that Jackson Hole was bad and the Herk guys at Dyess (at least, maybe most USAF pilots) didn't know what a Trouble-T was or how to find out about it. My point is simply that that alone does not make them unsafe, which is the message they send (we must know Trouble-Ts in order to not crash planes). More often than not, there are plenty of ways to depart an airport safely - even if you can't meet a single parameter on the Trouble-T departure procedure. Much of it is common sense, but we tend to legislate ourselves into corners and remove decision making from crews because they might make mistakes.

Not a dig, just an observation after 18+ years of flying. It is what it is.

KJ - thanks for your service, thanks for your time at AIS and AFFSA - that's a hugely important job that is often on the receiving end of quite a bit of ire by line Aicrew (myself included). Education is important - it's one of the best tools we have to prevent accidents. But what most of us dislike is the knee-jerk over-reactions that tend to occur because someone in authority feels the need to do something. I always say, good people execute good procedures poorly at times. Often, they're executed poorly enough that they're unrecoverable. This should not reflect poorly on the crews OR the procedures!

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US Herk,

Now, I get it!

I actually used to open my classes (and still do) with that very illustration (using gorillas instead of monkeys). Perhaps one of the AIS generations after me is still using it!

Yes, asking why is important. I often ask why, but hardly ever get an answer. I guarantee you my asking why at the SIB did not go over well.

Part of the problem with the "knee jerk" reactions is politics always creeps in -- particularly when dealing with staff officers. Guys flying the line are usually pragmatic; those flying the desk are usually out-of-touch.

With regard to the Trouble-T discussion ...

Those investigating the mishap visited Dyess and found most did not know what a trouble-T was. After the SIB, I conducted an AF-wide investigation and found MOST Air Force pilots did not have a clue about it. Conventional wisdom would be to beat them all for not knowing something, but my conclusion was if this many good guys don't know this, then it must be because we are not teaching them.

I agree with your assessment that the trouble-T procedure is just one of probably many safe ways to leave an airport. I would say an experienced pilot who understands the trouble-T could come up with another alternative if required. A pilot who (for whatever reason) doesn't even know what a trouble-T is probably should not be one to start coloring outside the lines. In other words, pick the right tool for the job ... but you need to understand all the tools in the toolbox.


Edited by K-J
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As a Herk pilot at the time of Jackson Hole, albeit just a Co-Pilot, I could've gotten out of Jackson Hole w/out knowing a thing about the Trouble-T. I would've done what I did at EVERY airfield - looked at a terminal area chart, figured out the terrain, figured out the best way out of the terrain, and come up with a climb gradient from that. If I couldn't meet that, I'd find a good place to spiral up. It's not hard.

The knee-jerk to Jackson Hole was compounded by the Ron Brown crash shortly after. USAF pilots obviously don't know anything about flying instruments was the conclusion. Yes, there are politics involved - particularly with the Ron Brown crash. And I agree with your assessment of pragmatic operators and out of touch desk jockeys.

At AIS, the departure classes was taught by a friend of mine - we went to college together and were commissioned together. He was a C5 guy by trade originally. And as we discussed and debated things - particularly using the weather mins (as all other aircraft operators are allowed to) or climbing in VMC to an MEA, his response was surprising to me; "We're just worried you'll see what you hit." As if the obstacles are a solid wall that if I can't meet the climb gradient, I'm going to hit.

Maybe in the C5 world where the bulk of them never fly VFR and the missions are overwhelmingly trash-haul, they don't understand flying looking outside because they just don't do it. It's as foreign to them as acrobatics in a C5 are. It's unthinkable. But low-level flight is part of the Herk DNA. It's all about the training.

Risk mitigation isn't about avoiding risk alone; which is the standard answer when someone doesn't understand something. Sometimes, the things we do are riskier and the only way to mitigate it is to do it. For example, in AFSOC we fly at 100' for specific things. We mitigate that by having a training requirement to do it frequently.

Similarly, I can plan a mission into/out-of an airfield w/o any regard for weather because of specific equipment and specific training. Is a Cat II ILS more dangerous than a CAT I? Not if you have the equipment and training. Departures from unfamiliar fields are the same thing. I can't meet most climb gradients, so I have to be able to think & plan my way out of fields. I have some extra toys on my plane that help sometimes, but not always. I'm trained to know when. I practice it. That's how we mitigate risk.

The continual sacrifice of capability on the altar of safety has got to stop or we'll one day wake up and decide it's even safer if we don't fly at all.

That's why 20 years is enough. ;)

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20 years? Congrats on making it that long if you're a free thinker! I only made it to 17 years 2 months 8 days, but who's counting?

CT-43 crash in Croatia ... yep, I worked that one, too.

You and I could probably have an interesting debate over a few adult beverages.


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  • 4 months later...

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My first post/question but first thank you to all of the C-130 enthusiasts who support the herk community with this outstanding website.

I am giving a presentation on this accident and was looking for a little more information including: pictures of the accident, the name of the crew chief on the Acft, and finally a link to the Air Force's investigation report. The only available website only goes back to 2000. I have the book "Aircraft Accident Analysis" by Walters and Sumwalt with some excellent pictures but can not find them on the web.

Thank you.

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