A commercial aerial refueling tanker that burned on a Southern California Navy base experienced an engine fire during a takeoff attempt, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.
The NTSB released no other details of how the accident occurred but said it had dispatched a team of investigators to the Naval air station at Point Mugu, where the four-engine jet was destroyed Wednesday.
The three-member crew escaped. The Naval Base Ventura County public affairs office initially said all three had minor injuries, but on Thursday spokesman Vance Vasquez said that only one actually was hurt.
The safety board said the Boeing 707 was registered to Omega Air Inc., a San Antonio, Texas-based contractor that uses converted civilian airplanes to provide aerial refueling services to the military.
A Federal Aviation Administration registry database shows that the aircraft was manufactured in 1969 and listed its engines as being from Pratt & Whitney. The NTSB said representatives from the FAA, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney and the Navy Air Safety Center were participating in the probe.
According to an Omega website, the Boeing 707 was a former Pan American passenger jet that began flying as the world's first commercial aerial refueling tanker in 1999 and was certified in 2001 to refuel every kind of Navy and Marine Corps tactical aircraft.
The website said another company, Omega Aerial Refueling Services Inc. of Alexandria, Va., was created in 2004 to manage the refueling program and lease tankers from Omega Air.
Omega also has another Boeing 707 and a DC-10 that were converted to air tankers. Derivatives of both types of aircraft are also used by the U.S. Air Force in its aerial refueling fleet, where they are designated KC-135 and KC-10, respectively.
In addition to contracting to refuel U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, Omega said it has conducted refueling flights for Australian, British and Canadian aircraft.
Omega Aerial Refueling Services President W. Stewart Orr declined comment when reached by phone Wednesday night.