This video taken 26 years ago today shows why low level airdrop can be extremely dangerous

Airdrops from military cargo planes are not always performed at high altitude, as the one showed in the spectacular video posted a few days ago.

LAPES (Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System) enables cargo aircraft to quickly deploy large cargo without the need to land and take off, which would expose the plane to enemy fire. The technique is also used to deliver those heavy loads that could not be delivered from high altitude with a direct parachute descent.

However, since LAPS involves a drop sequence at low altitude it implies a heightened risk as there is little margin for pilot error.

As the following video shows.

It was taken on Jul. 1, 1987, 26 years today, when a U.S. C-130E crashed while performing a LAPES demo at the Sicily Drop Zone, on Ft. Bragg during a Capabilities exercise (CAPEX).

Pilot pulled up too late and after deploying M551 Sheridan tank, hit treeline, burned, killing three on board, one soldier on the ground, and injuring two crew.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Dangerous yes — but commonly done as many military missions are done (as you know of course). I read the mishap report of this tragic event and the pilot most definitely was flying far outside of parameters, showboating, and I recall something about his previous flight where either he should have been reprimanded and was not or some of that crew refused to fly with him on the mission where he killed his crew. Harshly said perhaps but he was the pilot-in-command and that is the standard, is it not? There is a nicely done monument to the aircraft and crew as they died in the line of duty at the Pope Air Force Base Air park within Fort Bragg in North Carolina (USA).

  2. I once happened to be on an RAF base whilst an attack exercise took place, many moons ago.

    The opfor (guess who..) arrived in land rovers. The land rovers arrived in herky birds. It was one hell of a show, and I guess very effective when done with intent.

  3. How strange The Aviationist would show this video all these years later. I was on the drop zone taking pictures when this incident occured. It was a airshow for the public. People were running and screaming. I was a nineteen year old paratrooper in 1st SOCOM and couldn’t beleive what I was seeing.

  4. I was in the audience when this crash occurred, probably pretty close to where the camera was that shot this footage. It was surreal.

  5. I too was there. My team had just finished our portion of the demo when we looked over our shoulder to see what made the most terrible sound only to see billowing clouds of black smoke and a huge fireball. This is what happens when showboating pilot takes a fighter pilot approach to flying an otherwise amazing cargo plane–tragedy.

Comments are closed.