Alexander City, AL Air Force Learjet Crash, Apr 1995



Alexander City, Ala. (AP) -- The pilot of an Air Force jet that exploded and crashed in a residential neighborhood had reported "fuel management" problems and asked for permission to dump part of his fuel load, a Defense Department official said.
All eight people on board the Air Force version of a Learjet, including an assistant Air Force secretary and a two-star general, were killed when the plane smashed into woods behind homes along a quiet road.
The C-21 jet was traveling from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to Randolph AFB in San Antonio, Texas. The crew reported fuel problems and was diverted to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, about 50 miles from Alexander City, a senior Defense Department official in Washington said Tuesday.
After that, it is possible that further problems occurred and they decided to try for the closer Alexander City airport, said the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity. He did not elaborate, but said the pilot asked for permission to dump part of the plane's fuel load.
The Defense Department official said an investigation must be completed to determine exactly what caused Monday's crash. NBC News reported that the fuel in the plane's tanks got out of balance and the crew was unable to level it.
The smell of jet fuel still drifted on the breeze Tuesday at the crash site. Small pieces of debris tagged with yellow and orange flags were strewn down a short hill into a hollow bisected b a dry creek bed, and the earth was scorched and blackened.
The plane's cockpit voice and flight data recorders were recovered from the wreckage.
Witnesses said the eight-passenger jet exploded in the air and crashed about two miles short of the Alexander City airport.
Robbie Brewer was fixing dinner when a thunderous noise began to shake her house. Seconds later, an explosion rocked the quiet neighborhood.
"It sounded just like it hit my house -- with the noise and the shaking," said Mrs. Brewer, 80.
"It shook just like that, like it was going to crumble up," she said, shaking her hand vigorously. "My whole house was shaking like an earthquake."
Minnie Blair was walking her 7-month-old grandson when the jet roared into view. "It was making an awful noise," she said. "I told my grandson, 'Bud, this thing is going to hit us.'"
"He must have been a really good pilot to have kept it away from the houses," she said.
The victims were:
CLARK J. FIESTER, one of four assistant secretaries of the Air Force.
Maj. Gen. GLENN A PROFITT II, director of plans and operations for the Air Education and Training Command at Randolph.
Col. JACK CLARK II, Clark J. Fister's assistant.
Maj. HUBERT B. FISHER, who was assigned to the Pentagon.
Aircraft Commander 1st Lt. PAUL BOWERS.
Instructor Pilot Capt. PAUL CARLEY.
Air Force Maj. JAMES K. HORNE, a passenger.
Army Sgt. PEDRO MERCADO, a passenger.
President Clinton called it "a tragic loss for the U.S. Air Force and the nation."
FIESTER was on his way to visit Brooks and Kelly Air Force bases, both at San Antonio, and give a briefing at the Human Systems Center at Brooks.

Logansport Pharos-Tribune Indiana 1995-04-19