Spokane, WA Air Force Bomber Crash, Mar 1987


Spokane, Wash. (AP) -- An Air Force tanker plane practicing maneuvers for an air demonstration with a B-52 crashed and burst into flames, killing six people, including one on the ground, and leaving one person missing, officials said.
The dead included five peple aboard the plane and a person in a car struck by the tanker, said Capt. Brad Peck, Fairchild Air Force Base public information officer. One person aboard the plane was reported missing.
No names were released pending notification of relatives.
The airplane normally operates with a crew of four, Airman 1st Class Teresa Tracy, a spokeswoman at the base, said she did not know why six were aboard.
The tanker was practicing maneuvers for the act with a B-52 and that the pair were flying low over the runway when the tanker crashed, Peck said.
Kathleen Binford, who was shopping at the base exchange, said she saw the plane dive to the ground and burst into flames after it had taken off and appeared to be turning.
Witnesses near the air base, just southwest of Spokane, reported a large column of black smoke rising from the crash site, next to the runway at the base.
Fairchild, part of the Strategic Air Command, has been preparing a bomber-tanker air act. The act, by its 92nd Bomb Wing, was tentatively titled the Thunderhawks and was intended to be SAC's answer to the acrobatic Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels.
The team was scheduled to make its debut May 17 in Spokane.
The tanker and a B-52 were flying low over the runway, practicing maneuvers for the aerial act, when the tanker crashed at 1:20 p.m., Peck said.
After the fire had been extinguished, a skeleton of the tanker's fuselage was strewn along a 1,500-foot path next to a runway, a large wing section lying intact among widely scattered pieces of camouflage-green metal.
The tanker, a Boeing-built KC-135, entered service in the late 1950s and about 650 are in service, nearly all of them in the U.S. Air Force, said Boeing spokeswoman Carolyn Russell in Wichita, Kan.
The airplane normally carries a crew of four. It can carry up to 29,000 gallons of fuel, but it was not immediately known whether the plane that crashed was carrying that much.

Daily News-Record Harrisonburg Virginia 1987-03-13

List of Casualties:
Captain CHRISTOPHER L. CHAPMAN, age 28, pilot, Tacoma, Washington.
Lieutenant Colonel MICHAEL W. CORNETT, age 42, pilot, Cortez, Colorado.
Staff Sergeant RODNEY SCOTT ERKS, age 28, refueling-boom operator, Lennox, South Dakota.
Senior Master Sergeant PAUL W. HAMILTON, age 41, refueling-boom operator, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Captain FRANK B. JOHNSON, age 40, pilot, Spokane, Washington.
Captain JAMES W. LITZINGER, age 32, navigator, Verona, Pennsylvania.
First Lieutenant MARK L. MYERS, age 24, navigator, Canal Fulton, Ohio.