This is one of the highest profile news releases I ever worked on for the Air Force. A C-5 crashed on my way to work April 3, 2006. It is something I will never forget. Most of all, I was impressed by the professionalism of all the Air Force and local agencies who helped mitigate the damage and clear the wreckage.
P.S. My former name was Phillips.
Seventeen People Recovering After Surviving C-5 Crash
By Tech. Sgt. Melissa Phillips, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del., April 4, 2006 – Seventeen people are in various stages of recovery after surviving a C-5 aircraft crash less than a mile from Dover Air Force Base’s southern perimeter yesterday.
“Our crew did a spectacular job of landing the airplane in its location,” said Air Force Col. Chad T. Manske, 436th Airlift Wing vice commander and current acting commander of the wing. “Thankfully, there were no fatalities or injuries, and by the grace of God the aircraft didn’t explode.”
The C-5B Galaxy broke apart into three major pieces at 6:42 a.m. in a grassy area surrounding the base’s fenced perimeter. The land is classified as proprietary to the base and was purchased years ago to provide a cushion of airspace to protect the civilian population from extremely rare and unlikely incidents such as this, said Manske said.
At approximately 6:21 a.m., the transport plane took off headed for Ramstein Air Base, Germany, carrying supplies destined for people serving in the global war on terror. Officials will release further details after Air Force officers analyze information collected from accident and safety investigation boards.
In incidents like this, the crew is trained to declare an in-flight emergency and would have checked to ensure the plane was still under control. At that point, the crew would assess the cause of the emergency, process their aircraft checklists, determine a location to safely land to mitigate risks and prevent loss of life, and communicate their course of action to everyone aboard the plane, Manske said.
The gigantic plane, which can transport six Greyhound buses end-to-end and looms above the flightline at the height of a six-story building, crashed into the field at 6:42 a.m.
Air Force and local first responders, including medical professionals, firefighters, security forces and civil engineer personnel, immediately responded to the scene.
Officials don’t know why the aircraft, fully laden with fuel for a long trip over the Atlantic Ocean, didn’t blow up on impact.
Base officials won’t speculate on the cause of the accident, but they say they are thankful whatever the reason.
“Our crews are thoroughly and stringently trained on a continued basis to handle events in the aircraft,” said Air Force Col. Ronald A. Rutland, commander of the 512th Airlift Wing, the Reserve wing located at Dover. “At this time we are not sure of everything that occurred during this flight; it’s currently under investigation.
“I consider our crews here at Dover, the 512th and 436th Airlift Wings, as consummate professionals,” Rutland said. “It is with great relief that we had no loss of life in this incident.”
The crew included 709th and 326th Airlift Squadron members from the 512th AW and personnel from the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, from the 436th AW.
This particular aircraft recently underwent an avionics modernization program upgrade to convert the cockpit from 1960s instrument technology to one similar to that used by modern civilian airliners.
Introduced in 1998, the modernization program enhances aircraft reliability and maintainability, and helps maintain structural and system integrity, while reducing operating costs, officials said. “The (modernized) cockpits are needed to operate aircraft in the saturated airspace over the North Atlantic Ocean and Europe,” Manske said. “It also allows us to interface with other military and civilian airplanes more precisely than before.”
Only five C-5 aircraft have been lost since the plane’s inception in 1969. Until now, no Dover planes have been destroyed. “The safety of the aircraft is paramount to our crews or they wouldn’t have flown it that morning,” Manske said. “It’s a great aircraft. It sustained a massive force against its hull during the crash, yet it still protected our crews.”
A board of Air Force officers has convened and is investigating the cause of the accident. In order to protect the integrity of the investigation process, none of the crewmembers will be able to discuss the crash, officials said. The unclassified findings will be released to the public as soon as the board results are released. Officials noted such accident and safety investigations typically take about four months to complete.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the survivors, family members and coworkers impacted by the crash,” Manske said. “We wish all of them a speedy recovery.”
The crewmembers were listed in the following conditions as of mid-afternoon today:
- Capt. Brian Lafreda, 326th AS, fair, at the Christiana Hospital, Christiana, Del.;
- Lt. Col. Robert Moorman, 326th AS, fair, Christiana;
- Lt. Col. Harlan Nelson, 326th AS, fair, Kent General Hospital-Bay Health Medical Center, Dover, Del.;
- Master Sgt. Timothy Feiring, 709th AS, released;
- Master Sgt. Michael Benford, 709th AS, released;
- Tech. Sgt. Vincent Dvorak, 709th AS, fair, Christiana;
- Master Sgt. Brenda Kremer, 709th AS, released;
- Chief Master Sgt. David Burke, 326th AS, released;
- Chief Master Sgt. George Mosley, 709th AS,
- Tech. Sgt. Henry Fortney, 326th AS, released;
- Senior Airman Scott Schaffner, 89th AS, stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, released;
- Tammy Lucas, Lockheed Martin employee, fair, Kent General;
- Staff Sgt. David Abrams, 436th AMXS, released;
- Senior Airman Nicholas Vather, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, fair, Kent General;
- Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Paul Kath, released;
- Hannelore Kath, released; and
- Retired Tech. Sgt. Raul Salamanca, released.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Melissa Phillips is assigned to the 436th Airlift Wing.)
Melissa LeGates is a freelance writer and retired Air Force journalist who specializes in features and B2B writing. She is also an artist and blogs about it at http://coloredpencilenthusiast.wordpress.com/.