A preliminary report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has outlined the events leading up to the crash of a Boeing 737 air tanker in Western Australia’s Fitzgerald River National Park earlier this year.
The modified Coulson Aviation-operated 737-300, N619SW (c/n 28035), was on an aerial firefighting mission when it crashed into a ridgeline on February 6, 2023. The report details that the air tanker, with two pilots on board, had departed from Busselton Airport to assist fire control efforts near Hopetoun, about 372 miles southeast of Perth.
“Arriving at the fire ground, the 737 crew was briefed by a bird-dog aircraft that the tasking was to tag and extend an existing retardant line,” said Angus Mitchell, ATSB chief commissioner. “The retardant line was to extend downslope, with the bird-dog briefing the 737 crew that their target altitude (above sea level) was 500 feet descending to 400 feet.”