C-130 crashes at D59

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Crash of 321 at D59


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321 while attempting take-off, seconds before the crash.

Right: 321 while attempting take-off, seconds before the crash.

All the following pictures and info from various sources were sent to me by Michel Martin Onraet.

So there were 5 crashes of C-130 aircrafts at Dome Charlie and D59 (on the way between Dumont d'Urville and Dome C). They were:


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321 after breaking its front skid. The burn of the JATO is visible on the belly of the aircraft.

Left: 321 after breaking its front skid. The burn of the JATO is visible on the belly of the aircraft.


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The nose and collapsed front landing gear of 321.

Right: The nose and collapsed front landing gear of 321.


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Broken propeller.

Left: Broken propeller.


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Another view of the broken propeller.

Right: Another view of the broken propeller.


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321 after crash-landing at D59 in november 1971. Equipment is being taken out and an emergency camp set up.

Left: 321 after crash-landing at D59 in november 1971. Equipment is being taken out and an emergency camp set up.


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View of the aircraft tail under which emergency tents have been setup (photo Ralf Lewis).

Right: View of the aircraft tail under which emergency tents have been setup (photo Ralf Lewis).


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Temporary camp being set-up after the crash.

Left: Temporary camp being set-up after the crash.

The cause of the 321 accident. The 2 JATO (Jet Assisted Take-Off) bottles on the left side of the aircraft didn't blow up. What happened was a problem with the lockup system of the bottles which was deffective. The last full control of the plane wasn't performed by Lockheed as usual but by Aero Corp. The painters there painted by mistake the guiding rails and locks of the bottles. Looking at the conditions of the improperly prepared field, the crew decided to use the JATO to increase the lift and shorten the take-off distance. With the vibrations the bottles slid off their rails and hit the fans of turboprop #2, damaging it and its reducer as well as turbo #1.


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The rescue plane visible in the back.

Right: The rescue plane visible in the back.


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Hole on the side of 321 where the propeller went through. Picture taken by Lennie Bourgeois during the recovery of the crew.

Left: Hole on the side of 321 where the propeller went through. Picture taken by Lennie Bourgeois during the recovery of the crew.


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Two JATO rockets missing on the left flank of the aircraft.

Right: Two JATO rockets missing on the left flank of the aircraft.

The plane which fortunately was only about 50 meters off the ground at that time started a barrel roll due to the loss of power from the left side while #3 and #4 were at full power.

Good reactions from the pilot to straighten the plane without reducing power immediately may have saved crew and passengers from a potentially deadly accident. The pilot LCDR Ed Gabriel was decorated with the Air Medal after the crash of 321.


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Photo of folks in front of the rescue aircrafts.

Left: Photo of folks in front of the rescue aircrafts.

Authors of those images: Alfred Marcel or R. Guillard during IAGP1 (1971-72), Georges Cadioux during IAGP2 (1972-73).




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321 one year later, as seen during the IAGP traverse, already getting covered by snow.

The slow burial of 321

Right: 321 one year later, as seen during the IAGP traverse, already getting covered by snow.


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1977-78, the crashed LC-130 with another LC-130 behind which brought a team of engineers tasked with assessing the damage (photo US Navy).

Left: 1977-78, the crashed LC-130 with another LC-130 behind which brought a team of engineers tasked with assessing the damage (photo US Navy).


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321 a few years later as seen during a traverse. Already only the tail and propellers show up above the snow.

Right: 321 a few years later as seen during a traverse. Already only the tail and propellers show up above the snow.


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15 years later and only the tip of the tail is showing.

Left: 15 years later and only the tip of the tail is showing.


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Summer 1977-1978: examining the LC 130 to assess the possibility of recovery.

Right: Summer 1977-1978: examining the LC 130 to assess the possibility of recovery.


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Gerd Wendler of the University of Alaska Fairbanks admiring the tail a year or two later.

Left: Gerd Wendler of the University of Alaska Fairbanks admiring the tail a year or two later.

During the 1983-84 summer campaign, Mike Savage was with a team of the French Polar Expedition during their yearly traverse up the high plateau. He was tasked by the NSF to setup automatic weather stations (AWS) with Gerd Wendler of UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks).




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View of 321 before excavation began. The tip of the tail is barely visible.

Recovery of 321 at D59

Right: View of 321 before excavation began. The tip of the tail is barely visible.


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Beginning of the digging operation.

Left: Beginning of the digging operation.

Recovery of the 1971 crash at D59 was performed after the aircraft had spent 17 years under 10 meters of snow. An interesting achievement to say the least.


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Jamesway tent and the recovery team on a nice day.

Right: Jamesway tent and the recovery team on a nice day.


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Digging in shorts at D59

Left: Digging in shorts at D59

First problem was to find out where the plane was after 15 years. The C130 at D59 was followed once a year by the americans with a recon flight and by the french during their land traverses up the plateau.


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The team tasked with digging out. Starting at the tail.

Right: The team tasked with digging out. Starting at the tail.


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Trying to enter through the top hatch of 321 to asses damage inside. The vehicles are from the French Polar Expeditions after a long land traverse from Dumont d'Urville.

Left: Trying to enter through the top hatch of 321 to asses damage inside. The vehicles are from the French Polar Expeditions after a long land traverse from Dumont d'Urville.


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First look at the conditions of the inside of the cockpit during the digging of 321. It was accessed throught one of the 3 emergency doors present on the top of the body after digging a trench with a Caterpillar.

Right: First look at the conditions of the inside of the cockpit during the digging of 321. It was accessed throught one of the 3 emergency doors present on the top of the body after digging a trench with a Caterpillar.

Why wait for so long ? In 1971 the plane was declared irretrievable because such a recovery operation was deemed impossible. After the the more recent Dome Charlie crashed C130 was recovered successfully, it was decided to attempt it here as well. The 10 million dollar cost of the operation was minimal compared to the 38 million dollar cost of a replacement C130. Budget problems with the NFS caused a few more years of delay.


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Summer 1977-1978: partial digging of the LC 130 by the French Polar Expeditions so that US experts can enter the cockpit and also evaluate the front landing gear.

Left: Summer 1977-1978: partial digging of the LC 130 by the French Polar Expeditions so that US experts can enter the cockpit and also evaluate the front landing gear.


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During the summer 1977-78, a very dense snow is removed from the nose in order to access the cockpit and assess the damage to the front landing gear.

Right: During the summer 1977-78, a very dense snow is removed from the nose in order to access the cockpit and assess the damage to the front landing gear.


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Removing the snow from the wings.

Left: Removing the snow from the wings.


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The aircraft during the excavation (photo US Navy).

Right: The aircraft during the excavation (photo US Navy).


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Parachuting equipment.

Left: Parachuting equipment.



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321 ready to take off from D59 after completing repairs. In the background the other aircraft which will lead it to McMurdo is already taking off (photo US Navy).

Flight back home

For those who want more information, the NFS (National Science Foundation) possesses in its archive three short films titled:


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The workers present at Williams Field are greeting the crew of 321 after coming back from D59 (photo US Navy).

Left: The workers present at Williams Field are greeting the crew of 321 after coming back from D59 (photo US Navy).




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During the recovery of 321 there was another C-130 crash with 11 on board. Two crew died: LCDR Bruce Bailey, squadron maintenance officer; and AK2 Donald H Beatty, supply officer.

Crash of 131 at D59

Right: During the recovery of 321 there was another C-130 crash with 11 on board. Two crew died: LCDR Bruce Bailey, squadron maintenance officer; and AK2 Donald H Beatty, supply officer.


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131 after the crash.

Left: 131 after the crash.


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Dislocated 131.

Right: Dislocated 131.


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Piece of propeller off the main crash area.

Left: Piece of propeller off the main crash area.


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Another C130 coming to pick up the survivors.

Right: Another C130 coming to pick up the survivors.

Next: 3 years later, the first drilling at Dome C.


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