Air Force Lieutenant Colonel to be awarded Distinguished Flying Cross for handling of incident over Kentucky


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WOWK) — U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein will present the Distinguished Flying Cross to Lt. Col. John T. Hourigan, a pilot from the 123rd Airlift Wing, during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base on Saturday, August 10th, 2019.

Hourigan distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while serving as commander of a C-130 Hercules aircraft on July 15th, 2016. He held the rank of major at the time.

The award citation says Maj. Hourigan prevented a catastrophic aircraft mishap using superior aviation skills, expeditious problem-solving and vast knowledge of the airframe, saving five crew members’ lives, himself and a $30 million aircraft.

At low altitude in the Owensboro, Kentucky, area, the aircraft began to vibrate with such ferocity that crew members could not interpret the flight instruments or engine gauges and were unable to communicate normally due to extreme noise. Rapidly losing altitude and airspeed, the aircraft was shaking so violently that crewmembers thought it was coming apart.

Lacking any instrumentation information available during training and simulator profiles, Major Hourigan quickly eliminated all plausible causes for the condition while simultaneously preparing for a forced landing. Without recourse to any codified procedures, he bravely exercised independent judgment and directed a shutdown of an engine based on the throttle variation he felt in his hand. With the aircraft continuing to decelerate and losing altitude, the engine shutdown was accomplished flawlessly 277 feet above the ground.

Major Hourigan then successfully recovered the aircraft and performed an emergency landing, after which the crew discovered the aircraft had suffered a catastrophic propeller failure of the engine for which Major Hourigan had directed a shutdown.

Major Hourigan actively participated in the safety investigation to determine the root cause of the malfunction, resulting in a safety supplement to the C-130 aircraft operating manual. The magnitude of the mechanical malfunction was elevated to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, resulting in modifications to depot- and unit-level Technical Orders affecting the global C-130 fleet.

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