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Misplaced Goggles Case Led to Deadly C-130 Crash in Afghanistan

Maj. Met Berisha, 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron commander, shares his condolences for 6 fallen Airmen during a fallen comrade memorial ceremony Oct. 3, 2015, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Cierra Presentado)
Maj. Met Berisha, 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron commander, shares his condolences for 6 fallen Airmen during a fallen comrade memorial ceremony Oct. 3, 2015, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Cierra Presentado)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Pilot errors involving a misplaced hard shell case for night vision goggles are being blamed for the Oct. 2 crash of an Air Force C-130J air cargo plane during a takeoff from Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan. The crash killed 11 people onboard upon impact, according to a statement issued by the Air Mobility Command.

A report on the crash, released Friday, noted that the C-130J's crew flew a successful mission from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to Jalalabad Airfield. While conducting engine running on-load/offload operations at Jalalabad Airfield, the pilot raised the elevators mounted to the horizontal stabilizer by pulling back on the yoke. This provided additional clearance to assist with offloading tall cargo. After a period of time in which the pilot held the yoke by hand, he placed a hard-shell night vision goggle (NVG) case in front of the yoke to hold the elevator in a raised position.

However, because the pilots were operating in darkened nighttime flying conditions and wearing NVGs, neither pilot recognized and removed the NVG case after loading operations were complete or during takeoff. Once airborne, the aircraft increased in an excessive upward pitch during the takeoff climb. The co-pilot misidentified the flight control problem as a trim malfunction, resulting in improper recovery techniques. The rapid increase in pitch angle resulted in a stall from which the pilots were unable to recover. The aircraft crashed about 28 seconds after liftoff, right of the runway, within the confines of Jalalabad Airfield.

The aircraft struck the ground, a perimeter wall and a guard tower, which resulted in all personnel onboard the aircraft being killed, along with three Afghan Special Reaction Force members assigned to the tower.

The crew consisted of the pilot, copilot, and two loadmasters assigned to the 39th Airlift Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. Also on board were two fly-away security team members assigned to the 66th Security Forces Squadron, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass, and five civilian contractor passengers. Killed on the ground were three members of the Afghan Special Reaction Force.

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