Faulty work done at Robins Air Force Base in Houston County is being blamed for a military plane crash that killed 16 service members in 2017, an investigation found.
On July 10, 2017, a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130 Hercules crashed near Itta Bena, Miss., killing the 15 Marines and a U.S. Navy sailor who were on board, AJC.com previously reported. It suffered a catastrophic failure at 20,000 feet, crashed and scattered debris over a wide area of farmland.
A report of the investigation conducted by the Fourth Marine Aircraft Wing was obtained by the Macon Telegraph, and it concluded that the crash was caused by a propeller blade that broke. Corrosion was found on the blade, and a protective anodize coating over the corrosion was deemed as proof that the damage was there when the propeller was overhauled at Robins in 2011.
The blade, which was on the engine closest to the left side of the fuselage, tore into the fuselage and set off a chain reaction, bringing the plane down, the report said.
Nothing the crew could have done would have prevented the crash, according to the report.
The coating is applied as part of the overhauling process, and the corrosion should have been detected and either corrected or the blade condemned, the report said. A crack formed because of the corrosion, causing the blade to break off.
Each of the plane’s four engines has four propeller blades, and 12 of the 16 blades had corrosion that should have been detected during the overhaul, the report said. The propeller work was done in the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, which is Robins’ maintenance area. The base is located about 20 miles south of Macon.
The report mentioned 17 recommendations to prevent a similar occurrence, and Brig. Gen. John Kubinec told the Telegraph those changes have been made.
Those changes include keeping digital maintenance records indefinitely, Kubinec said. Previously, records were only kept for two years before being destroyed.
As a result, Kubinec told the newspaper they likely won’t ever know exactly what was done to the blade or who worked on it. He said he was confident the missed corrosion was an isolated incident. More than 1,300 C-130 propeller blades were inspected for corrosion after the crash, and only two blades with corrosion ones were found.
Robins halted propeller overhaul in Sept. 2017, and it remains halted, the Telegraph reported. It’s expected to restart in early 2019.
The Robins public affairs office told the newspaper this accident is the first time a plane crash has been blamed on work performed at the base.
Zachary Hansen, a Georgia native, covers economic development and commercial real estate for the AJC. He's been with the newspaper since 2018 and enjoys diving into complex stories that affect people's lives.