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Air Force Print News story: Wings-level landing might have saved C-5 crash survivors

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  • Dave Bell
    Air Force Link story. You can view the original story at http://www.af.milhttp://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123018580. Wings-level landing might have
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2006
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      Air Force Link story. You can view the original story at

      Wings-level landing might have saved C-5 crash survivors
      By Louis A. Arana-Barradas
      Air Force Print News

      SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) -- A veteran C-5 Galaxy pilot said all 17 people
      survived the April 3 plane crash at Dover Air Force Base, Del., mainly
      because the pilot did his job.

      Col. Udo McGregor said the "100 percent reason" everyone aboard survived
      the crash was because the pilot did a wings-level landing.

      "The survivors are survivors because he ;put it on the ground wings level,"
      said the colonel, commander of the 439th Operations Group at Westover Air
      Reserve Base, Mass.

      The transport took off from Dover at about 6:20 a.m. bound for Spain and
      Southwest Asia. On board were Airmen and several passengers. Base officials
      said the aircrew noticed a problem with the aircraft soon after takeoff and
      the pilot turned the aircraft around to land back at the base.

      But at 6:42 a.m. the aircraft crashed into a grassy field and broke up into
      several pieces. Base officials think the aircraft might have struck a
      utility pole, which cut off the aircraft's six-story tail section. It had a
      quarter million pounds of fuel, but miraculously did not catch fire.

      Colonel McGregor, a command pilot with more than 10,600 flying hours --
      more than 7,000 of those in the Galaxy -- said there are others reasons why
      the accident cost the Air Force only a transport aircraft.

      One is that the aircraft -- almost as long as a football field -- has many
      crumple zones.

      "If you watch car commercials on TV and watch them do the crash testing --
      the more metal you have -- the larger the piece of equipment -- the more
      the chance you have of survival," he said.

      And the cargo plane has so much cargo space below its wings that a
      wings-level landing gives those on board "a pretty good chance of
      surviving," he said.

      "It's an incredibly safe airplane," said the colonel from Savannah, Ga.
      "Very, very few accidents for the millions and millions of flying hours
      that it's accomplished."

      The colonel has flown all over the world in the C-5. He knows the transport
      inside and out. The emergency that the Dover crew faced -- a heavy weight,
      three-engine emergency return -- is a "pretty standard" procedure for which
      Galaxy pilots are well prepared, he said.

      "In this particular case, the experience level of the crew would suggest
      they've done it hundreds of times -- practiced it hundreds of times in a
      simulator," he said.

      Colonel McGregor has had to deal with similar in-flight emergencies during
      his 15 years at the helm of the heavy jet. More than once he has had to
      land a heavily-loaded Galaxy with only three engines. But with about a
      million parts, many mechanical things can go wrong with the aging aircraft,
      which entered the Air Force inventory in the June 1970. After so many hours
      in the air, the aircraft is bound to experience one or two emergencies, he

      "That's just part of flying something for an extensive amount of time that
      has this many moving parts," the colonel said. "It's a very complicated

      The colonel remembers a flight into Osan Air Base, South Korea, when the
      air conditioning turbine on his C-5 malfunctioned and filled the entire
      aircraft with smoke. The aircrew made ;an emergency landing and did an
      emergency evacuation of 73 passengers -- who exited down the slide from the
      passenger compartment on the back of the aircraft.

      At Dover, the aircrew also used the inflatable slide to evacuate the

      Colonel McGregor said the aircraft has a great safety record. And the
      upgrades through which it is going -- like getting new avionics and engines
      -- will extend its life "a significant number of years."

      "I would say more than 20 years is probably a reasonable guess," he said.
      And with the upgrades, "it's probably even more than that."

      The colonel said two boards will now convene to find out the cause of the
      accident. The first, a safety investigation board, will try to determine
      what the issues or problems were. They have 30 to 45 days to come up with

      Then, an accident investigation board will convene to "find the magic BB,
      the causal effect -- the things or things that caused or created the
      accident," the colonel said.

      The accident investigation board will probably have to have some kind of
      resolution to the commander of Air Mobility Command by the end of May.

      "So it's a fairly rapid process," he said.
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