Strategic Air Command:

KC-135A Crash and the Need for SAC Air Show Regulations

NSIAD-88-172: Published: Jul 19, 1988. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the crash of a Strategic Air Command (SAC) KC-135A aircraft while it was practicing for an air show to determine: (1) the rationale for the SAC Air Show Program; (2) how well SAC developed and managed the program; and (3) the thoroughness of the Air Force's investigation of the crash.

GAO found that: (1) SAC officials believed that the flight crew erred in placing the aircraft in a position from which it could not recover when it encountered turbulence; (2) although SAC did not issue written orders to include the KC-135A aircraft in the program, it verbally approved its inclusion in a later SAC demonstration; (3) SAC oversight of the 92nd Bombardment Wing's (BMW) development of the flight profile was less thorough than for other aircraft; (4) the 92nd BMW established its own flight parameters for the KC-135A, rather than using SAC guidelines; (5) the 92nd BMW did not have a simulation of the integrated B-52H/KC135A profile before the flight; and (6) neither SAC nor the 92nd BMW appear to have followed command and control requirements in developing the integrated profile. GAO also found that: (1) SAC had no air show regulations; (2) although SAC believes that its guidance was adequate, it admits that it did not document the planning, direction, and oversight of the B-52H/KC-135A profile development as thoroughly as it did for the other show aircraft; and (3) the Air Force's accident report was thorough and complete and reflected an objective and accurate investigation.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force and SAC have suspended the air show program. If it is started again, criteria would be established.

    Recommendation: If a decision is made to continue the program, the Secretary of the Air Force should direct the Commander-in-Chief, SAC, to: (1) establish official regulations for the air show program; (2) ensure that all participating units in its command are aware of the regulations and their specific responsibilities; and (3) ensure, through documentation, that its procedures are followed and that units are maintaining an adequate margin of safety for air show maneuvers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force


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