Local News

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

Posted September 18, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

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

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

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

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

Col. Steven Acuff, 43rd Airlift Vice Commander, said training exercises needed 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 up safety 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 to time, like this summer's helicopter crash at Fort Bragg and the EC-135's rough 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.