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SAC Waived Restrictions For Maneuvers That Killed Seven

June 2, 1987

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ The Strategic Air Command waived its restrictions on aerobatics to allow the sort of maneuvers a KC-135 tanker jet was rehearsing just before it crashed March 13, killing seven crew members, according to a published report.

The waiver was granted in January by SAC headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and applied to crews at Fairchild Air Force Base here and four other bases, according to Air Force documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Details of the documents were disclosed in a copyright story in today’s Spokesman-Review.

All SAC demonstration teams have been grounded pending the results of investigations into the tanker crash.

According to the documents, the waiver allowed the crews to perform low- altitude refueling simulations, fly two aircraft closer than two miles from the path of another plane and fly demonstrations lower than 500 feet.

Since the crash of the Thunderhawks demonstration team at Fairchild, SAC and Fairchild officials have stressed that the air show they were developing involved no maneuvers that were outside the capabilities of the airplanes.

″It’s not acrobatics. It’s not aerobatics. It’s low-level flying maneuvers that look neat from the ground but aren’t tough to do in the sky,″ Gen. John T. Chain Jr., head of SAC, said of the maneuvers when he was in Spokane last month.

Chain said SAC wants to resume the air demonstrations if investigators determine that the maneuvers can be done without causing another accident.

Col. Thomas Harris, Fairchild wing commander, said in April that the maneuvers were ″well within the normal limitations of the aircraft.″

SAC officials contacted Friday and Monday, however, had no comment on the waivers and regulations, the newspaper reported.

Plans for Fairchild’s air demonstration required a four-engine KC-135, designed as a high-altitude, high-speed refueling plane, and a B-52 bomber to perform banks up to 60 degrees at low altitude, according to the documents.

The Fairchild team, formed late last year, was to feature one of the first shows of its kind involving large SAC planes. The team was to make its debut at the base open house last month.