Following the unfortunate crash of a C-130 aerial water tanker aircraft in Australia, a friend brought to my attention a 2002 C-130 tanker crash in the US. As can also be seen in this video, the wings fold upward and separate from the fuselage, which then rolls over and crashes.
The NTSB investigated the crash and determined that the accident was caused by a structural failure that occurred at the wing-to-fuselage attach point, with the right wing failing just before the left. The investigation disclosed "evidence of fatigue cracks in the right wing's lower surface skin panel, with origins beneath the forward doubler. The origin points were determined to be in rivet holes which join the external doubler and the internal stringers to the lower skin panel. These cracks, which grew together to about a 12-inch (30 cm) length, were found to have propagated past the area where they would have been covered by the doubler and into the stringers beneath the doubler and across the lap joint between the middle skin panel and the forward skin panel."
This and another crash in the same year subsequently led to a fleet grounding, partially following concerns over training and maintenance.
Besides the incident referred to above, this got me thinking. The substantial and rapid change in weight when the tanker performs the drop must result in (temporary) large forces/moments on the wing/fuselage-joint. According to the summarised NTSB-report, the aircraft in the video carried some 3000 gallons of retardant (some 7000kgs at 9lbs/gallon), but does not specify volume flow. A more recent Modular Airbore FireFighting System that fits into a C-130 can disperse something under 3000 gallons in 5 seconds, yielding 600 gallons/sec - equivalent to 5400lbs or 2450kg/sec. Various comments on the YouTube-video (such as this and this) also point in that direction -- but unfortunately don't include sources. As such, I'm wondering:
- to what extent these changes in weight indeed introduce forces/moments that (might) go beyond the design specifications of the aircraft?
- what (technical or operational) measures are/were normally taken to prevent such problems (structural reinforcement during the conversion, limiting 'offloading speed', no dropping during climbing/manoeuvering, etc.)?