JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — The deaths of three U.S. servicemen during the aborted landing of a C-130 transport in Kuwait last year stemmed from pilot and crew error, the Air Force said Friday.
After failing to follow procedures and making an improper approach to a runway, the air crew didn't keep an eye on instruments and became disoriented, not realizing how close the plane was to the ground or how far it was from the runway at Al Jaber Air Base southwest of Kuwait City, according to Col. Frank Laras.
"Basically, yes, he flew the plane into the ground," said Laras, who headed the Air Force investigation of the crash.
The plane hit the ground, breaking its landing gear, then flew back into the air and made an emergency landing without landing gear on a foam-covered runway at nearby Kuwait International Airport, Laras said.
The pilot, Capt. Darren A. Haughn, and three other crew members--the co-pilot, 1st Lt. Karrina M. Coleman; the navigator, Capt. Russell A. Hedden III; and the flight engineer, Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey W. Morgan--could face disciplinary action, said Col. Joseph Heimann, a lawyer with the Air Mobility Command. No decision on that has been made, he added.
The flight engineer has been cleared to resume flying, Laras said, but the other three remain grounded, performing other duties at Little Rock Air Force Base, officials said, pending a decision on disciplinary action. Options range from a court-martial to no action, Heimann said.
The plane, assigned to the 61st Airlift Squadron at the air base here, was ferrying 86 military passengers the 23 miles from Kuwait International Airport to Al Jaber before dawn on Dec. 10. Three passengers were killed when shafts that raise and lower the plane's main landing gear broke from the impact with the ground and penetrated the plane's metal skin, according to Laras' report.
Seven other passengers were injured, two of them critically, the report said.
Laras said the errors were the result of a lack of leadership and discipline by the pilot, as well as his failure to follow Air Force directives on landings at Al Jaber.
Laras also said Coleman failed to monitor instruments as required; Hedden failed to assist the pilot in keeping the aircraft clear of terrain; and both "lost situational awareness," as did the pilot.