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30 Years Already- 2 C-130's Crash Outside Edmonton

Bruce Monkhouse

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It's been 30 years since nine Canadian Forces members and a United States exchange pilot were killed in a tragic mid-air collision involving two C-130 Hercules transport planes, and Bernie Sheppard is still asking himself, "what if?"
"In essence, you can see after the fact why it happened," said Sheppard, 75, a former Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) member of 48 years. "In the accident report, (the crash) was attributed to the fact that no authority was given, sufficient briefing was not held and the fact that there was an American pilot flying one of the Hercs.

"If they had the proper briefing that American pilot would have asked how they do a bomb burst. The Canadian pilot was banking while the other plane was supposed to count so many seconds and then bank, but instead he banked too soon and came right up underneath the other Herc."
After spending five years deployed in Europe just five minutes from the Eastern border of the Soviet Union, Sheppard returned to Edmonton in 1980.

He recalls the events on March 29, 1985, when two Lockheed CC-130 Hercules transport planes collided in mid-air and crashed at CFB Edmonton, formerly known as CFB Namao - a 2,800-hectare base which served as the major search-and-rescue centre for Western Canada, with close to 85,000 take offs and landings annually and housing close to 2,300 military personnel and 800 civilian workers.
The planes, Trucker Lead and Trucker Two, were flying in a three-ship formation during a ceremonial flypast marking the 61st anniversary of the RCAF.

After spending the entire day at the base where he worked as a supply technician, then Master Warrant Officer Sheppard and his wife were out for a night on the town, taking in a movie at a nearby theatre.
It wasn't until after the couple came out when Sheppard knew something was wrong.
"We heard sirens...my wife asked 'what's all that noise?' And then sure enough we got into the car and heard on the radio that the accident happened," said Sheppard.
At the time of the crash, witnesses said the two four-engine cargo planes were about 300 yards above the ground. It is believed the wingtips of the two aircraft touched, which caused the planes to plummet to the ground; with one crashing into a long, wooden warehouse building that housed an old Second World War Lancaster plane, and the other landing between two fuel storage tanks holding thousands of litres of aviation fuel.
Upon hitting the ground, the planes erupted into a huge fireball, shooting flames up to 300 metres into the air. All five crew members from each plane were killed.
When Sheppard arrived on base the next day, the crash sites were cordoned off by military police, but the feeling of tragedy was palpable.

"The smell was still in the air," said Sheppard. "I remember just rationalizing it. Because it was the Cold War and Americans were losing aircraft all the time in Vietnam, you were in a mindset of the Cold War. It was a steady diet of that, we were sort of conditioned to it. We sort of accepted it but we were glad we weren't involved... I tried to imagine, but you can't imagine when a family loses somebody in an accident situation like that."
While Sheppard only knew those who died that day by name he vividly remembers one younger member who specifically asked Sheppard to get him onto one of the Hercules planes for the fly-past.
"I remember getting him on the aircraft and he died in the crash. There's those things when you think back whether I could have or should have done things differently, but you don't think about that until afterwards."

Sheppard has since retired from the air force - capping off his near half a century of service on July 15, 2005. He has been working with the Alberta Aviation Museum for the past 22 years, where he now locates missing parts for some of the airplanes at the museum.
Sheppard still thinks back to the that tragic day, wishing things could have been gone another way.
"After the fact, when you realize could we have prevented that? I think yes," said Sheppard.


The first C-130 Hercules plane was designed in 1951 by Lockheed Martin's chief engineer, Hall Hibbard. It was built for the United States Air Force, who were looking for an aircraft capable of hauling large bulky equipment, including artillery pieces and tanks, over long distances. It had to land in tight spaces, slow to 125 knots for paratroop drops, and fly, if need be, with one engine.
The first prototype, the YC-130 Hercules, made its maiden flight on August, 23, 1954 at the Lockheed Air Terminal.

The original C-130 Hercules was equipped with 23 cockpit windows allowing for clear visibility on steep approaches. It could reach speeds 579 km/h, and boasted a large, easily accessible cargo area that could carry 40,000 pounds.
On October 28, 1960, the first CC-130E Hercules entered service in Canada and was delivered to No. 435 Squadron at CFB Namao. The CC-130 Hercules is a four-engine fixed-wing turboprop aircraft that can carry up to 78 combat troops.
It had a maximum range of 7,222 kilometres (4,488 miles) and a cruising speed of 556 km/h. It can carry more than 17,000 kilograms (about 38,000 pounds) of fuel and is capable to conduct air-to-air refuelling missions.

The Hercules can transfer 450 to 900 kilograms (about 1,000 to 2,000 pounds or 450 to 900 litres) of fuel per minute, and refuels the CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft in less than five minutes.
In June 2006, the Canadian Government announced it would purchase 17 CF-130J Hercules aircrafts to replace its aging fleet. The CC-130J Hercules is a four-engine, fixed-wing turboprop aircraft that can carry up to 92 combat troops or 128 non-combat passengers.

In 2006, the surviving CC-130 fleet totalled 32 aircraft, 19 of which were the older CC-130E models which were bought between 1964-1967. At the time, Former Canadian Forces Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier noted that one CC-130E aircraft had to be retired because it had put in over 50,000 flying hours, and that each of Canada's E models had logged over 40,000 flying hours.
By May 11, 2012, all 17 CC-130Js were delivered and some were quickly deployed shortly after. Two of the new CC-130Js were deployed on Operation ATHENA, Canada's contribution to the allied mission in Afghanistan.

The planes drew criticism in 2013 after it was revealed some of them contained counterfeit Chinese parts in the cockpit.
All 17 CC-130Js will be based at 8 Wing Trenton in Ontario.


- June 4, 1998 - British Flight Lieut. Gary Dunlop died and German pilot Lt.-Col. Andreas Schick was injured after ejecting from a German F-4 Phantom fighter jet moments before it crashed in Labrador.

- July 30, 1994 - Capt. Henry Munro, 40, of Dartmouth, N.S. died near Windsor, N.S. after ejecting from a Canadian Forces T-33 Silver Star, a two-seat single-engine jet, moments before it crashed.

- July 1993 - Five CFB Edmonton airmen were killed when a Hercules C-130 crashed while practising a cargo drop at CFB Wainwright. Killed were: Capt. Michael G. Allen, 29; Capt. Vincent L. Schurman, 32, of Ponoka; Master Warrant Officer Joseph Sylvio Castonguay, 40, of Quebec City; Sgt. Alain Michaud, 38, of Sherbrooke, Que.; and Master Cpl. Ronald J. McWilliam, 40, of Edmonton.

- Oct. 30, 1991 - Five of 18 military personnel aboard a C-130 Hercules were killed when it crashed 20 km short of the runway at Alert, Ellesmere Island. Killed were: pilot Capt. John Couch of St. Albert; Master Cpl. Roland Pitre of Edmonton; Capt. Judy Trepanier of Ottawa; Warrant Officer Robert Grimsley of Ottawa; and Master Warrant Officer J.T. Jardine of Trenton, Ont.

- January 1989 - Nine of 18 military personnel died of injuries sustained when the C-130 Hercules they were travelling in crashed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Three of the men killed were stationed at CFB Edmonton: Navy Lieut. Richard Michael Moore, 37; Master Cpl. Joseph Paul-Emile Claude Castonguay, 36; and Master Cpl. Louis Mark Papineau-Couture, 40.

- March 29, 1985 - Eight members of 435 Squadron Edmonton and two from CFB 429 Squadron Winnipeg were killed after two Hercules transport aircraft crashed in midair over CFB Edmonton.

- November 1982 - Six Canadian airmen and an American exchange pilot died when a Hercules plunged to the ground near CFB Edmonton. Capt. Terry Harper, Capt. Richard Lovell, Capt. Mike Krampitz, Sgt. Don Buchan and Sgt. Jean Gionet of Edmonton's 435 Squadron were killed, as well as Capt. Mike Smith and Master Cpl. Layton Smith of Trenton.
I lived in St Albert when that crash happened...a family friend was a Air Nav that was supposed to be flying in one of those planes was on a SAR instead.

A close friend of mine was the Base Hosp WO at the time and lead the medical teams out for the recovery.  Not a pleasant duty for anyone. 
George Wallace said:
A close friend of mine was the Base Hosp WO at the time and lead the medical teams out for the recovery.  Not a pleasant duty for anyone. 

I'd imagine...2 friends of mine from 1 Fd Amb were doing the DZ coverage for the LAPES crash in '93 - both tried getting people out of the aircraft and IIRC, were successful in extricating one pers.  Needless to say, neither really like talking about it.

George Wallace said:
A close friend of mine was the Base Hosp WO at the time and lead the medical teams out for the recovery.  Not a pleasant duty for anyone.

Can't remember who was there then, Sandercock?  A friend of mine was a Med A Sgt there.  I went to Edmonton as the Hosp AO the following year, first posting after commissioning.  On opening the locked file cabinet in my office, one of the first things I found was our copies of the medical portion of the investigations for the 1982 and 1985 crashes, very disturbing.  When the 1989 Alaska crash occurred I was in Ottawa, but knew some of the Edmonton crew as well as the CAR medic who was lost.

"On October 28, 1960, the first CC-130E Hercules entered service in Canada and was delivered to No. 435 Squadron at CFB Namao".

It was actually four C-130B's.  They were taken on strength with the RCAF on the 5th of October 1960.  R.C.A.F. Station Namao, not C.F.B. Namao

The 20 Echo models were taken on strength with the RCAF on the 17th of December 1964.

I arrived, with most of the rest of 427 Squadron, a few days later for RV85. We flew over the crash site on our way out to Wainwrong the next morning.

Bulldozers were busy clearing the debris by then, and it was obvious how much worse it could have been as there was very little distance between the burnt area of the crash site and the fuel farm.

Number Two struck Lead's tail with his cockpit, causing Lead's tail section to break off and the remainder of the machine to plummet nose-first into the ground. Two's cockpit sheared off, and that aircraft fell more-or-less tail-first.