The U.S. Marine Corps has grounded its fleet of Lockheed Martin KC-130T tankers until further notice, just weeks after one of the plane crashed in Mississippi, killing 15 Marines and one Navy sailor.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the Marine Corps took the prudent action not to fly our KC-130T aircraft in the wake of the mishap on July 10 until further notice,” USMC spokeswoman Lt. Stephanie Leguizamon was quoted as saying by Defense News.
All 12 KC-130T aircraft operated by the Marine Corps Reserve are subject to the grounding. All the 12 tankers are assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452 (VMGR-452). The order does not affect the USMC KC-130J, a newer model of the plane or C-130 variants operated by Navy and Air Force.
The grounding was ordered by Brig. Gen. Bradley James, the commander of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. Shortly after the July 10 crash, James said at a news conference that something had occurred to the KC-130 aircraft in mid-flight. “Indications are, something went wrong at cruise altitude,” James said at a news conference on July 12.
On July 10, a KC-130 air tanker carrying Marines to Arizona for training slammed into a soybean field in Mississippi in the deadliest crash involving a Marine aircraft since 2005. Witnesses described seeing the plane spiraling toward the ground before exploding in a fireball.
Six of the Marines and the sailor were based out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Nine Marines were based in New York.
The Pentagon’s investigation into the crash is ongoing.
Separately, the C-130T aircraft, known colloquially as “Fat Albert,” that flies with the Navy’s Blue Angels precision air team will not fly at a Wisconsin air show this weekend.
“Unfortunately, Fat Albert was unable to join us for the show in Oshkosh this weekend,” said Lt. Joe Hontz, a spokesman for the Blue Angels.
“During the course of the ongoing Marine Corps KC-130T investigation, an airframe similar to Fat Albert, we determined it may be prudent to allow time for the investigation to provide more information on possible causal factors prior to resuming flight,” Hontz said in a statement. “There is no timeframe for Fat Albert’s return.”