Black Hills Aviation v United States

Project Info

Black Hills Aviation v United States

On September 10, 1987, a civilian aircraft crashed on the White Sands Missile Test Site in White Sands, NM. The aircraft, referred to as Tanker 07, owned by Black Hills Aviation, crashed while performing a contract air fire suppression support mission on the White Sands Base. The PV-2 aircraft crashed into a mountain in the Red Rio/Oscura area of the missle base. This area was also the testing site for the evaluation of the Army’s Liine of Sight Forward Heavy Missle phase of the Forward Area Air Defense System (FAADS) Project.

A team of aircraft accident investigators, including explosive experts from RTI, conducted an analysis of the crash debris displayed above. The experts found evidence that an airborne external force had affected Tanker 07 prior to the aircraft’s impact to the ground. Particularly, the fuselauge (marker 01) showed signs of to being torn by shrapnel. Markings on a turbine blade in the right jet engine also were indicative of an event occurring on the right side of Tanker 07 just prior to the crash. Additionally, a piece of metal with no match to Tanker 07 was found in the lower right side of the co-pilot's back during the autopsy. 

However, the district court concluded there was no basis that any external force was under the exclusive control of the United States, specifcially no accidental missle firings or any other military activities at the time of Tanker 07's crash.

More information can be found here: US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit - 34 F.3d 968 (10th Cir. 1994)



  • Aviation
  • Fire, Explosion & Blast
  • Visual Media