On Wednesday A Boeing 707 crashed at Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, California while attempting to take off. The incident took place at about 5:25pm when the Boeing 707-300C veered off Runway 2-1 and burst into flames. The 3 crew members escaped the burning wreckage with minor injuries. The aircraft belonging to Omega Air is a civilian aerial refueling tanker contracted by the US Navy to support flight operations to US Marines corps and US Navy aviation units. News media accounts of the crash indicate that the aircraft, fully laden with more than 150,000 pounds of fuel, burst into flames during the accident. It was later reported that it took approximately 4 hours for various fire fighting units to bring the ensuing fire under control. It was determined that the aircraft was departing from runway 2-1, the 11,102 ft (3,384 m) long runway which is double the length of the airfield’s second runway 9/27 which intersects it at midpoint.
According to the company’s website Omega Air has been certified to refuel every type of tactical aircraft in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps using the drogue and hose mechanism as early as 2001. In 2004 the company registered as Omega Aerial Refueling Services, Inc in the state of Virginia and has since operated 2 converted Boeing 707-300C and later, one converted DC-10-40 for its aerial refueling operation. As of 2009 the company had also delivered services to the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Air Force as Foreign Military sales contract. On march 10th 2011Omega Aerial Refueling Services, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia, was awarded a $31.5 million to “for contractor owned and operated aircraft in support of the Commercial Air Services (CAS) Program. The CAS Program provides aerial refueling services for Navy, other Department of Defense and government agencies, and Foreign Military Sales aircraft”.
The first aircraft to be operated as a tanker by Omega Air is a Boeing 707-321B manufactured in 1969, now registered as N707AR with serial number 20029. The aircraft flies 4 Pratt & Whitney JT3B-3D turbofans and is owned by Omega air Inc 9023 Wetmore Road Building 92 San Antonio, Texas. According to the firm’s website, this former Pan Am aircraft became the first civilian owned aircraft to operate as a tanker in 1999. It was certified for operation with the US Navy in 2001.
Omega Air also operates Boeing 707-368C serial number 21368 using 4 JT3D-3B engines registered N707MQ owned by trustee Wilmington Trust co of Wilmington, Delaware. The aircraft manufactured in 1977 was acquired by Omega Air in 2006 from the Royal Saudi Air Force where it had operated as a diplomatic transport. One of these two aircraft is likely to have been involved in Wednesday crash.
Last addition to the Omega Air tanker fleet was DC10-40 serial number 46974 with current registration N974VV. The aircraft, manufactured in 1979 was acquired from Japan Air Lines in 2006 and converted into a KDC-10 type of tanker. With its three Pratt & Whitney JT9D-59A turbofans engine, refueling boom and 2 Cobham-supplied hose and drogue refueling kits, this aircraft is very close to KDC-10 capabilities.
Another aircraft, a Boeing 707-327C serial 19530/635 that was registered N707ME prior to 2010 was closely associated to Omega Air. In 2007, a business venture involving Pratt & Whitney, Omega Air and seven-Q-Seven was formed to provide the Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 turbofan as a replacement for the JT3D-3B. The JT8D-219 engine which already powered the MD-80 is more powerful and more fuel efficient than the older JT3D-3B engine. With Pratt & Whitney supplying the engines, Seven-Q-Seven providing the engine pylons and Air Omega the ‘707RE’, a Supplemental Type Certificate Number ST02287LA was issued by the FAA on July 20th 2010. As a result this engine was later adopted for retrofit on the US Air Force E8 Joint-STARS.