Narrative from the crash report:
At approximately 1915 CDT, on 15 October 1973, C-130E S/N 62-1845 crashed on the north side of Sugar Loaf Mountain, 20 miles south of Fort Smith, Arkansas. The aircraft exploded on impact and was destroyed by fire. All seven persons aboard were fatalities.
|C-130H, similar to the one that crashed while on a training mission with the 62nd Tactical Airlift Squadron. (USAF Photo)||
The purpose of this flight was to accomplish RTU (Replacement Training Unit) tactical training for the student crew members. The scheduled mission profile was as follows: Two, two -ship formations, spaced at five minute intervals, flying a one hour low level night route at an altitude of 1000 feet AGL (above ground level) to the Arrowhead Drop Zone (DZ) at Fort Chaffee, AR, to drop a 15 pound TBH (Training Bundle Heavy). After the drop, the aircraft were to change leads with their wingmen and fly a 33 minute low level route from Arrowhead DZ to the All American DZ to drop a TBH....
||This photo shows Midland Peak of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and graphically illustrates why state aeronautical charts warn of rapidly rising terrain. The crash site is still accessible, but all wreckage was removed soon after the crash.|
The two flights were Feet 27 with Feet 21 (the accident airplane) as his wingman, and Feet 31 with Feet 33 as his wingman. Feet 27 (the mission commander) and Feet 33 were delayed for maintenance. The decision was made to have Feet 21 join with Feet 31 and fly the mission.....
The flight progressed normally until reaching the fourth
turning point, a road bridge near Hindsville, AR. The turning point
was not acquired visually and the turn south was made using doppler and
timing. In attempting to visually identify this point, Feet 31 overshot
the turning point and the crew found themselves slightly west of their
desired track. A heading to intercept was flown, but resulted only
in their paralleling the track rather than correcting to it. Upon
reaching the pre-initial point, the position of the formation was determined
to be west of track, and the decision was made to intercept the track into
the initial point.
|The area around the crash site is leased by the Sebastian County Sheriffs Department and is posted. Make sure you have permission before entering private property!|
(Information from this time up to just after Feet 21's impact with the mountain has been redacted from the official report.)
....of the clouds and almost simultaneously observed
a bright orange or red flash to their right rear. Unable to raise
Feet 21 after calling on all frequencies, Feet 31 reversed course and contacted
Fort Smith Approach Control. Returning to the vicinity of the previously
observed flash, Feet 31 observed several fires marking the crash site of
Feet 21 on the northern slope of Sugar Loaf Mountain.
|The site of the crash, near where the tail section came to rest.|