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24-Hour Stand-Down Ordered for Pope Air Force Base

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GOLDSBORO — The military hopes the F-16 fighter crash is the end of a string ofaccidents this week. A cargo jet crashed into a German plane Saturday,killing more than 30 people. Sunday, a stealth fighter plummeted to theground during an air show. Monday night, a fighter jet fell into thePamlico Sound, killing two Marines. Then Tuesday night, two F-16 fighterscollided off the coast of New Jersey.

The military is coming off its safest year in the air. The accident ratehas been getting better for military aircraft but all of a sudden, thebottom's dropped out. The spree of crashes has prompted the Pentagon tomake an unusual move.

With military aircraft falling out of the sky, the defense secretarythinks it's time for a safety review. He's ordered a 24-hour stand-downfor each of the services so everyone can focus on safety.

Cpt. Dan Waters, C-130 pilot at Pope Air Force Base, said he understandsthe need for a stand-down.

Col. Steven Acuff, 43rd Airlift Vice Commander, said training exercisesneeded to be looked at again.

Safety is always on the minds of the troops in the air and on the ground.The fighter and airlift squadrons at Pope Air Force Base routinely set upsafety sessions.

Waters said there is no mission worth risking people's lives.

Acuff said the stand-down would give the military a chance to take a technical time-out.

Even with a big emphasis on safety, there will be accidents from time totime, like this summer's helicopter crash at Fort Bragg and the EC-135'srough landing at Pope.

"It's a lethal business, and these are dangerous machines," said Acuff.

The stand-down is another attempt to help minimize the risk. Training flights will be grounded during the stand-down, however, operational flights like those over Bosnia and Iraq will continue without interruption.

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