Officials Opt to Continue With Air Show

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

Air Force officials have decided to continue with the Arctic Thunder air show this weekend despite the crash of a C-17 aircraft shortly after takeoff yesterday, claiming the lives of four servicemen.

“We do this to both honor the loss of our four Airmen and also to pay respect to all service members who make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms,” said Col. Jack McMullen, 3rd Wing commander. “We hope our friends and neighbors throughout Alaska will come out and join us.”

The investigation into yesterday evening’s fiery crash at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage is now in its beginning stages. Meanwhile, notification of the next of kin of the four airmen killed continues.

This morning Colonel Jack McMullen, the Air Force’s 3rd Wing commander updated the press on the investigation.

“Emergency crews have worked through the night to secure the site. That work is going to continue today. We’ve got an interim safety team that’s standing up that’s going to be out there secure data, to secure information and to preserve the site. We’ve got another safety team that’s going to come in that should be in within the next 24 hours which will start an official safety investigation to try to determine the cause of the accident.”

According to McMullen, next-of-kin are still being notified and the names will not likely be released until tomorrow. He added that friends are already with local family members.

Brigadier General Chuck Foster of the 176th Wing of the Alaska Air National Guard said that concern goes beyond family members.

“Also those squadron mates. Of course we tell them what we know when we know it and help them work through the grieving process especially in the air national guard, but certainly true in the active duty air force. We work together for years and we’ve become quite close. And we

bring the resources, chaplains, counselors, also to that squadron.

The C-17 crew consisted of three members of the Alaska Air National Guard and one on-duty Air Force person. Neither officer knew who was at the controls of the plane when it crashed moments after take-off a little after 6 o’clock Wednesday evening.

The plane was part of the 3rd Wing and was about to perform a training demonstration for this weekend’s scheduled air show. McMullen said the plane had been flown earlier that day, but not by that crew. He did not know how many Wednesday flights the plane had done.

The large, four engine cargo plane has a good safety record and often appears in air shows such as the one scheduled for this weekend. As of this morning, the McMullen said the fate of the popular annual air show remains uncertain.

“What’s best for the wing, what’s best for the community is kind of what we’re looking at to try and do the right thing. Obviously this is a huge tragedy. But at some point we’re going to need to get up. We’re going to need to press on and move forward. And so that’s what we’re thinking through as we go through this.”

Photo by Pat Yack: Colonel Jack McMullen looks on during a press conference early Thursday morning at the gate of Elmendorf Air Force Base.

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