Retardant on windshield when planes collided at Nevada fire

In this photo shown for illustration purposes, an Air Tractor AT-802F firefighting aircraft drops retardant, similar to the single-engine air tankers used to fight the Bishop Fire in Nevada. | Photo courtesy Air Tractor Inc., St. George News

LAS VEGAS (AP) — One of two firefighting planes that collided above Nevada last month, killing both pilots, may have been hit by retardant dropped by the other one shortly before they crashed, according to a preliminary accident report.

The National Transportation Safety Board report says witnesses in a nearby firefighting aircraft stated they heard the pilot of one plane announce over the radio he “had retardant on the windshield and was initiating a go-around” on July 30 about 150 miles (240 km) northeast of Las Vegas.

Video recorded by a witness on the ground showed that plane had been closely trailing the other one at the time they were flying to deploy their third load of retardant on a big wildfire in Lincoln County near Elgin just west of the Utah line, the NTSB report said.

Witnesses on the ground said the plane that apparently had retardant on the windshield started to climb and suddenly began a left turn before colliding with the other plane. Both “then descended rapidly to the ground,” the report said.

The pilots who were killed were flying Air Tractor AT-902A airplanes, small airtankers that can maneuver in canyons and other tight spots inaccessible to bigger tankers.

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