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Incident Name: ferry flight from Prescott AZ to San Bernardino CA
Date: 10/3/2003
Personnel: 2 lives lost
Agency/Organization: Minden Air Corporation under contract to the USFS

Carl Dobeare, pilot, age 54
John Attardo, co-pilot, age 51

Pilot Dolbeare and Co-Pilot Attardo were the flight crew of a Lockheed P2V Neptune airtanker. The aircraft was being repositioned from Prescott, Arizona to San Bernardino, California after completing fire fighting duty in Arizona. Observers on the ground report seeing the plane flying at a low altitude through some clouds. The plane was seen making a steeper than normal 180-degree turn. The wings of the aircraft leveled and the plane was seen flying through 1 cloud, it briefly reappeared, and then entered the cloud layer. About 2 minutes after losing sight of the plane, smoke was observed. The crash was reported to local authorities. About 2 hours after the crash, searchers located the wreckage near Lake Arrowhead. They found the wreckage and surrounding vegetation on fire. Initial responders reported that the area was cloudy and that visibility was limited. The crash occurred about 8 miles from the destination airport.

Photo Credit: Craig M. Happ

Tanker 99 Tanker 99

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Accident Location

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from NTSB, FAA, USFS, AAP, WLF Staff research:
    • Oct. 3, 2003 - Tanker 99
    • 2 killed: Carl Dobeare, John Attardo
    • Owner: Minden Air Corp of Minden, NV
    • Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune
    • crashed near East Highlands, CA,
    • FAA Tail # N299MA
    • NTSB # LAX04FA002
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Factual Report (90 K pdf)
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html) | Probable Cause (212 K pdf)

    The fire tanker airplane was on a cross-country positioning flight and collided with mountainous terrain while maneuvering in a canyon near the destination airport. Witnesses who held pilot certificates were on a mountain top at 7,900 feet and saw a cloud layer as far to the south as they could see. They used visual cues to estimate that the cloud tops were around 5,000 feet mean sea level (msl). They noted that the clouds did not extend all the way up into the mountain canyons; the clouds broke up near the head of some canyons. When they first saw the airplane, they assumed that it came from above the clouds. It was proceeding north up a canyon near the edge of clouds, which were breaking up. They were definitely looking down at the airplane the whole time. They saw the airplane make a 180-degree turn that was steeper than a standard rate turn. The wings leveled and the airplane went through one cloud, reappeared briefly, and then entered the cloud layer. It appeared to be descending when they last saw it. About 2 minutes later, they saw the top of the cloud layer bulge and turn a darker color. The bulge began to subside and they observed several smaller bulges appear. They notified local authorities that they thought a plane was down. Searchers discovered the wreckage at that location and reported that the wreckage and surrounding vegetation were on fire. The initial responders reported that the area was cloudy and the visibility was low. Examination of the ground scars and wreckage debris path disclosed that the airplane collided with the canyon walls in controlled flight on a westerly heading of 260 degrees at an elevation of 3,400 feet msl. The operator had an Automated Flight Following (AFF) system installed on the airplane. It recorded the airplane's location every 2 minutes using a GPS. The data indicated that the airplane departed Prescott and flew direct to the Twentynine Palms VORTAC (very high frequency omni-directional radio range, tactical air navigation). The flight changed course slightly to 260 degrees, which took it to the northeast corner of the wilderness area where the accident occurred. At 1102:57, the data indicated that the airplane was at 11,135 feet msl at 204 knots. The airplane then made three left descending 360-degree turns. The third turn began at 6,010 feet msl. At 1116:57, the last recorded data point indicated that the airplane was at an altitude of 3,809 feet heading 256 degrees at a speed of 128 knots.

    The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows: the pilot's inadequate in-flight planning/decision and continued flight into instrument meteorological conditions that resulted in controlled flight into mountainous terrain.

  • National Transportation Safety Board: Full Narrative (html)
  • For more information on this crash visit the NTSB Query: # LAX04FA002
  • Selections from AAR for the Tanker 99 Crash: Power Point
  • USFS Heroes Memorial Carl Dolbeare | John Attardo
  • USFA Memorial Database: Carl Dobeare | John Attardo

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • Posted on theysaid on 10/3/2003:

We lost a Tanker on their way home from AZ, They crashed on the Berdo, just below Arrowhead. Have heard it was tanker 99, but not confirmed. Here is a news release from one of the local news stations website....

A federal firefighting air tanker crashed Friday in the San Bernardino National Forest, bursting into flames and killing both people aboard, authorities said.

The U.S. Forest Service aircraft was flying to San Bernardino when it went down around 11:30 a.m. PDT, some four miles outside of Redlands, Donn Walker of the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Wreckage was spotted in the foothills at about the 3,500-foot level, said Chip Patterson of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

The plane had been released from a fire in Prescott, Ariz., said Maria Daniels, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service. She said the area where the plane went down, about 70 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, is remote and brushy.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

Last Drop Memorial Tribute to those lost on Tanker 130 and Tanker 99, performed by T-48 at Minden, NV on March 25, 2004

T-48 waterdrop memorial T-48 waterdrop memorial
To those lost on T-130 & T-99 To those lost on T-130 & T-99
T-48 waterdrop memorial T-48 waterdrop memorial
T-48 waterdrop memorial T-48 waterdrop memorial


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Contributors to this article: Mellie


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