Firefighting C-130 Flew For CIA

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The NTSB and FAA have discovered that last year's crash of a firefighting C-130, which claimed the lives of all on board, may be complicated by a void in the aging aircraft's maintenance history. According to the Associated Press, the tanker was a former Air Force transport aircraft also used to fly missions for the CIA. For this reason, portions of the aircraft's maintenance records remain unavailable to NTSB investigators. The ambiguity leaves investigators unsure of just how long the C-130A had flown -- and are charting that statistic somewhere between 3,000 to more than 20,000 hours in service. "Apparently this ... airplane at one point in time was set up along with a few others for electronic surveillance -- as in CIA activity -- somewhere in the world,'' said George Petterson, an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. Last year, the FAA grounded and ordered inspections of the entire civilian C-130 fleet. Specifically, the agency ordered wing inspections on all C-130A air tankers after initial findings determined that cracks in the wing structure caused the crash of the tanker. The FAA's directive claimed that "an unsafe condition has been identified that is likely to exist or develop on other Lockheed C-130A airplanes."