This week’s crash of an Omega Boeing KC-707 air refueling tanker at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu, Calif, is a big loss to the aerospace industry research and development community.
Although frequently chartered to the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and international customers such as the Royal Australian Air Force for standard air refueling during exercises, training and deployments, the Omega fleet also plays a key role in supporting research, development, test and evaluation work across the U.S. Together with a sole surviving 707 sistership, and a single KDC-10 tanker – a DC-10-40 equipped with two Flight Refueling hose and drogue wing pods, the fleet provides a rare capability. The KC-707 is fitted with two Sergeant Fletcher baskets on the aft centerline, although only one assembly can be used at one time.
The Omega tanker was left to burn itself out close to the beach. Credit: ABC
The classic jetliner community is also mourning the loss of a rare active 707 (as opposed to the relatively ubiquitous KC-135). According to the FAA, the aircraft written off in the May 18 aborted take-off accident was the older of Omega’s two 707s – a 1969-built -321 model. In an ironic twist it turns out that nine months after its March delivery to Pan Am that year, the same 707 was almost written off in an aborted take-off at Sydney Kingsford-Smith airport, Australia on Dec 1, 1969.
Flashback 42 years - the same 707 survived an aborted take-off in Australia. Credit. John Burgess
On that occasion, the aircraft (N892PA) was substantially damaged after an overrun caused by bird strikes and a related engine failure, but there were no fatalities to the 11 crew and 125 passengers. Thankfully the current crew of the 707, now registered N707AR, also survived the May 18 accident. According to images of the scene, the aircraft left scorch marks across parts of the ground and a taxiway as it ran off the south side of Point Mugu’s 11,102-ft long main 3/21 runway. The 707 came to a rest close to the overrun area and the beach which borders the west side of the Point Mugu facility.
According to sources, the combined Navy, NTSB and FAA investigation team is focusing on an engine failure and fire as the suspected cause of the accident which occurred at around 17.25 Pacific time.