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KC-130: A Look at U.S. Plane That Crashed in Pakistan

Aired January 9, 2002 - 13:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: A long hose that trails behind the airplane, and then the helicopters stick a probe into that drove or the jump jets can do the same thing and refuel.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The Pentagon was saying they don't know yet the cause of this. It appeared to have crashed on landing. It was at a base where U.S. military personnel were. In a preliminary sense, it's not believed to have been caused by hostile fire. We don't know that yet.

She also mentioned there have been some maintenance problems with this aircraft. What do you know about that?

SHEPPERD: There are always maintenance problems with airplanes, especially in a wartime environment, where you're rushing people, you have long work schedules, that type of thing. So until the Pentagon tells us about this specific aircraft, it is hard to speculate.

Early reports say that there could have been a fire on board as it was coming in on landing.

No reports yet about deaths.

I want to be really careful about speculating here, because I just rushed into on the studio when I heard about it. Until CENTCOM comes out with an official announcement, we want to be very careful, obviously, about alarming people unnecessarily.

WOODRUFF: So is there anything at all we could say about the history of the KC-130? It's Lockheed built.

SHEPPERD: It's Lockheed built. It's a very, very good and reliable airplane. It's an old airplane that has been around a long time, so you don't have any start-up problems or that type of thing. It's got a very good safety record. The Marines have just done a great job with the airplane.

So there is no reason to believe that there is anything other than the normal pressures of a war time operation, which is -- the other thing we know about wartime operations is it is not the enemy, often, that gets you; it is accidents in the environment. It's terribly dangerous business, easy to forget. WOODRUFF: We have certainly seen that in this conflict. Over the last three months, there have been more casualties as a result of accidents and even friendly fire than there have been as a result of hostile fire.

Gen. Shepperd, we are looking, as can you see, at file footage of this aircraft.

SHEPPERD: You can see what it can do. It can refuel anything from the Navy, with a probe-and-drove system, if you will. And that's the hose that comes out with a basket. You stick a probe from the airplane in there to gulp fuel and stay on station longer for the fighters and the helicopters from the Marines. They are very good at operating this.

It is highly unlikely that enemy fire would have caused this, especially if it happened in Pakistan. Highly unlikely, but you never know.

WOODRUFF: I also was just reading a report that these planes are sometimes used for transport.

SHEPPERD: Yes, they can also be used for transport. In other words, if you are not on a refueling mission, you may be going somewhere else to refuel or do maintenance or carry parts that, type of thing. So, for instance, it could have been en route to another base in Pakistan and had passengers on board.

Hopefully, no one was injured, and hopefully, the airplane maybe is in trouble, but the people aren't.

WOODRUFF: How extensively would you say this kind of craft has been in use for the last three or so months in the Afghan theater there.

SHEPPERD: Every day extensively, especially in the case of the Marines, where you have long sorties, if you will, from the ships going into the area of Afghanistan, around 400 miles. So early on, as we were taking Special Forces and Special Forces helicopters in, the Air Force version of the C-130 would be used, and then as the Marines started, the Marine version would have been used. So it has been used extensively every day.

WOODRUFF: I ask you about that because I think people typically people don't think about helicopters being refueled in flight. They think of aircraft that are flying long trips getting refueled in flight, but helicopters I don't think people have thought of in that sense.

SHEPPERD: Judy, we have helicopters, particularly in the rescue mission, that will go out over the ocean, 700, 800, 900 miles out, refuel six, eight, 10 times way away from shore. So it's a normal procedure for us, something we do all the time.

WOODRUFF: Gen. Don Shepperd, joining us to talk about what we know at this point of the crash on landing of a KC-130, a U.S. military aircraft, in Pakistan, very close to the Afghan border.

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