Col. Newberry: KC-135 crew fought for 11 minutes to save plane



Posted on March 13, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 13 at 6:41 PM

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Officials at Fairchild responded Thursday after the release of a 1500 page U.S. Air Force report, which detailed the cause of a deadly KC-135 crash in Kyrgyzstan last year.

MORE: Air Force official: Deadly KC-135 crash could have been prevented

Col. Brian M. Newberry, the Commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, said during a press conference Thursday morning the crash that killed the Fairchild Airmen in May 2013 was a result of mechanical issues the crew was not ready for.

“They were an absolutely qualified crew, but they were a young crew, and they were ill prepared to handle that,” said Col. Newberry.

Capt. Mark T. Voss, 27, Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney, 27, and Tech Sgt. Herman Mackey III, 30, died near Chon-Aryk, Kyrgyzstan May 3, 2013.  The airmen were assigned to the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

The U.S. Navy report released earlier Thursday morning blamed the crash on flight control malfunctions that led to an aircraft motion known as a “Dutch roll.”  The KC-135 eventually lost its tail section and the aircraft entered a dive and exploded.  Parts of the plane were scattered across a wide area near the village of Chaldovar.

WATCH: 'Dutch roll' that led to deadly KC-135 crash explained

Col. Newberry said a lack of training and simulators could not prepare the airmen for the “Dutch roll” scenario.

“I see this as an accident that was caused by a mechanical error,” said Col. Newberry.

Col. Newberry said he has some experience with the “Dutch roll.” He said it is an uncommon situation for crews to face.

“It can be very difficult for an aircraft to move beyond the Dutch roll once it gets into that,” said Col. Newberry.

An Air Force official also suggested that while several factors contributed to the crash, the crew could have prevented it if they had taken proper action.  The Air Force investigation suggested the crew’s training for such a situation had been insufficient.

Col. Newberry said the Fairchild airmen fought for 11 minutes and did the best they could. 

In response to the report's findings, Air Force officials announced Thursday safety improvements were already underway.  Those included changes to training regarding Dutch Roll recognition and recovery.  Maintenance tracking of flight control malfunctions had also been increased.

Col. Newberry said the base will use the lessons learned from the crash to better prepare crews.

Fairchild AFB leaders plan to unveil a small monument in honor of Voss, Pinckney, and Mackey at the base on May 3.