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Incident Name:  dropping on the 300-acre Humburg Fire on the Lassen NF, CA
Date:  8/2/1973
Personnel: Harry B Owens, pilot
Age: 47
Agency/Organization: an Aero-Union Corp, Chico CA pilot under contract with the US Forest Service
Position: aerial firefighter

Summary: Three large airtankers were dropping on a small fire on the Lassen National Forest about 12 miles south of Chester CA under direction of a twin-engine US Forest Service "lead" plane, a Cessna 310; it was was guiding the tankers in for their retardant drops. The lead plane and Harry Owens' WW II converted TBM airtanker, Tanker E-28, collided. Conditions were smoky but visibility was about a mile. Pilot Harry Owens lost his life in the crash of the air tanker. The lead plane landed safely.

Photo of a TBM for airplane type, Credit: From Tom Janney's collection.


Photo Note from Tom: N9394H. This TBM was the first TBM ever tanked, owned by Hollywood flying legend Paul Mantz. Used as a test bed during the mid 50's Firescope program, this aircraft was lost in the incident that killed Bill Dreuhl in 1960.

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IA fire on the Lassen NF, collision about 12 mi S of Chester CA

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, AAP and research by the WLF Staff:
    • 8/2/1972, 1515 hrs, E28
    • 1 killed, Harry B Owens
    • Operator: Aero Union Corp, Chico California
    • Type: GRUMMAN TBM-3E
    • Location: 12 mi S of Chester, CA
    • FAA Registration # N9083Z
    • NTSB # OAK74AP006
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html)

    Type of Accident: Collision with aircraft: both in flight during the swath run phase of retardant delivery.

    Probable Cause: Personnel - Miscellaneous-personnel: Pilot of other aircraft;

    Factor(s) Weather - Obstructions to vision - smoke;

    Remarks - 2nd air tanker in 3 ship trail formation led by spotter (lead plane). Drop run brief transmit to tankers prior to run.

  • For more information consult the NTSB online lookup Utility Use NTSB Identification: OAK74AP006
  • Warbird Registry: TBM- 3E Avenger 53492

    Bureau #: 53492

    Construction #: 3554

    Civil Registration(s): N9083Z

    Model: TBM-3

    Name: None

    Status: Crashed

    Last info: 1973

    History: Riverside Aircraft Co, Riverside, CA, 1962-1964.

    - Registered as N9083Z.

    - Flew as tanker #E-63.

    Aero Union Corp, Chico, CA, 1966-1972.

    - Flew as tanker #E-28.

    - Damaged during wheels up landing (repaired, Red Bluff, CA, Nov. 7, 1967.)

    - Crashed and destroyed after colliding with USFS Cessna 310 during fire bombing run, near Chester, CA, Aug. 2, 1973.


  • California Death Index: Harry B Owens

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Media Articles and Reports

Harry Owens named as fallen:

Harry Owens Harry Owens


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Photos, Videos, & Tributes


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Contributors to this article: Tom Janney, John Miller, Mellie

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