A WC-130H Hercules hurricane hunter aircraft from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard’s 156th Airlift Wing has crashed near the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Savannah, Georgia at around 11:30 AM, EST on May 2, 2018.
According to a statement for U.S. National Guard, the aircraft was performing a training mission and all five people on board the aircraft were killed in the incident. The statement added that personnel are on the scene responding and a board of officers will investigate the accident.
According to media reports, the crash happened at the intersection of Ga. 21 and Crossgate Road. The WC-130H Weatherbird aircraft belonged to 198th Airlift Squadron (198 AS), a flying squadron of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard (PR ANG) 156th Airlift Wing (156 AW) stationed at Muñiz Air National Guard Base, in Carolina, Puerto Rico.
The Lockheed WC-130 is a high-wing, medium-range aircraft used for weather reconnaissance missions by the United States Air Force (USAF).
The aircraft is a modified version of the C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft configured with specialized weather instrumentation including a dropsonde deployment/receiver system and crewed by a meteorologist for penetration of tropical cyclones and winter storms to obtain data on movement, size and intensity.
The WC-130 provides vital tropical cyclone forecasting information and is the primary weather data collector for the National Hurricane Center, supplemented by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) WP-3D Orion. They penetrate tropical cyclones and hurricanes at altitudes ranging from 500 to 10,000 feet (150 to 3,050 m) above the ocean surface depending upon the intensity of the storm.
The most important function of these reconnaissance aircraft is to collect high-density, high-accuracy weather data from within the storm’s environment. This includes penetration of the center or hurricane eye of the storm. This vital information is instantly relayed by satellite to the National Hurricane Center to aid in the accurate forecasting of hurricane movement and intensity.
Since 1965, the Air Force and Air Force Reserve have operated a total of 50 WC-130s in five variants. Compared to its predecessors, the WC-130H was equipped with the more powerful Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines rated at 4,910 horsepower and had wing-mounted fuel tanks that provided an additional 2,720 gallons (10,300 L) of fuel, extending the WC-130H’s radius of action at maximum cruise speed (230 KIAS, 350 KTAS) to 2,250 nautical miles.
The WC-130J Weatherbird, the successor of WC-130H, is the current weather data collection platform for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.