A delayed recovery caused a tethered aerostat radar system (TARS) to break away and crash during high winds Feb. 14 in Marfa, Texas, according to an accident investigation board report released by Air Combat Command May 29, 2012.
The aerostat was assigned to and operated by ACC at the Marfa TARS site, as part of an intraservice support agreement.
The AIB president found the cause of the mishap to be the mishap flight director’s late decision to recover the aerostat despite receiving a six-hour weather forecast predicting high wind gusts.
According to the report, turbulence and winds on the mishap aerostat during rapid retrieval efforts caused a 40˚ left roll and a 60˚ nose-low pitch over. This coupled with the severe cable tension caused the aerostat to nosedive and impact private property approximately 100 yards northeast of the Marfa TARS site.
Additionally, the board president found the mishap flight directors’ lack of training on weather data interpretation and weather equipment use as well as an erroneous surface wind warning cancellation substantially contributed to the mishap.
The total loss is estimated at $8.8 million. There were no injuries or significant damage to government or private property. Less than one gallon of diesel fuel spilled, and the mishap crew disposed of it immediately.
To download the full report, click here.
Source: Air Combat Command