US Marine Corps has grounded its KC-130T aircraft, which was used for airborne refueling and to supply cargo, troops, equipments, following a crash that killed 15 Marines and one sailor.
The Marine Corps took the action not to fly the KC-130T aircraft in the wake of the mishap on July 10 until further notice," the Corps said in a statement Thursday. The plane is often used for airborne refueling, and can also deliver cargo, troops and equipment, CNN reported Friday.
The transport plane, which was carrying 15 Marines and a Navy corpsman, was moving personnel and equipment from North Carolina to a western base to train before deploying, the Marine Corps said. It has 12 of the aircraft in its fleet.
The crash remains under investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration reported it lost contact with the plane when it was flying at an estimated altitude of 20,000 feet.
Andy Jones, a witness to the crash, said "At first it looked like an acrobatic plane, like a stunt plane, blowing the smoke out the back,"
"Then all of a sudden you realized that the smoke was coming off one of the sides of the wing." he added.
The Lockheed Martin KC-130 is the basic designation for a family of the extended-range tanker version of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft modified for aerial refueling.
The aircraft is also the latest variant operated by the US Marine Corps, with 48 delivered out of 79 ordered. It replaced older KC-130F, KC-130R, and KC-130T variants, while one USMC reserve unit still operates 12 KC-130T aircraft.
The KC-130F made its first test flight in January 1960 as the GV-1 under the old Navy designation system. First entering service in 1962, the KC-130F was designed to undertake aerial refueling missions in support of USMC aircraft. It was developed from the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.