Air Force suspends Monday's combat training flights
September 20, 1997
Web posted at: 12:12 p.m. EDT (1612 GMT)
ALZADA, Montana (CNN) -- Hours after the sixth military plane in a week crashed, the U.S. Air Force ordered that a one-day
suspension of its combat training flights take place Monday, four days earlier than planned.
An Air Force B-1B bomber went down in Montana Friday
afternoon, killing all four crew members. The crash 25 miles
(40 km) north of Alzada started a grass fire and left a
trench up to a half-mile long in the prairie.
B A C K G R O U N D:
Seven Americans have died and nine more are feared dead from
six military plane crashes in the last week. Despite the rash
of incidents, the military has lost fewer aircraft in 1997
than in any recent year. The latest crash -- of an Air
Force B-1B bomber -- was Friday.
A L S O :
The most recent U.S. military crashes
Almost immediately afterward, the Air Force ordered that next
Friday's suspension of training flights be moved up. Monday's
stand down affects only combat planes. Transport and cargo
planes will suspend flights Friday, as previously scheduled.
The Air Force also canceled scheduled appearances of B-1
bombers in weekend air shows.
Seven Americans have died in U.S. military crashes around the
world since September 13, and nine more are feared dead. Four
of the crashes have involved Air Force or Air National Guard
"We need to determine why these incidents happened and how to
prevent more mishaps," said Gen. Richard Hawley, head of the
Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton,
Earlier in the week, Defense Secretary William Cohen ordered
all military services to ground their training flights for 24
hours. The stand downs were to begin next Friday, and were to
be staggered so officials could evaluate the crashes and
review safety procedures.
The Navy, Marine Corps and Army have given local commanders
the discretion to determine when they will halt their
training flights next week.
The order does not affect ongoing military operations, such
as patrolling no-fly zones in Bosnia and Iraq.
Cause of latest crash unclear
The bomber from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force
Base, South Dakota, about 100 miles (160 km) southeast of the
crash site, was on a training mission over the Powder River
Military Operating Area. An Ellsworth spokesman said there
were no bombs on board.
An antelope hunter about a half-mile from the crash site said
the plane was flying low with no indication of trouble before
it went down at 2:25 p.m.
"It came around us and went behind the ridge, and then we saw
smoke and never saw it come back out," said Brian Parker of
Killed in the crash were Col. Anthony Beat, the pilot; Maj.
Clay Culver, assistant operations officer; Maj. Kirk
Cakerice, the copilot; and Capt. Gary Everett, a weapons
The last time a B-1 crashed was in 1992, when a bomber went
down near Abilene, Texas, killing four crew members.
The B-1B Lancer, the type flown by Ellsworth's 28th Bomb
Wing, is a long-range, heavy bomber that entered Air Force
service in 1985. It can carry up to 84 conventional 500-pound
bombs, or an undisclosed number of nuclear weapons, and fly
faster than 900 mph. It costs more than $200 million.
Despite this week's rash of accidents, the U.S. military has
lost fewer aircraft in crashes this year than in any recent
year -- 55, with less than two weeks remaining in the
government's fiscal year. It lost 67 last year, 69 in 1995
and 86 in 1994, according to Pentagon statistics.
President Clinton said in a statement Friday he "continues to
have the highest confidence in the United States Air Force
and all of our military services."