Green Ramp disaster

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Green Ramp disaster
Wreckage of the C-141 Starlifter
destroyed by the accident.
Accident summary
Date March 23, 1994
Summary Mid-air collision
Site Pope AFB,
North Carolina, U.S.
Total injuries (non-fatal) over 100
Total fatalities 24 (on ground)
First aircraft
Type F-16D
Operator U.S. Air Force
Registration 88-0171
Crew 2
Survivors 2
Second aircraft
Type C-130E
Operator U.S. Air Force
Registration 68-10942
Third aircraft
Type C-141B
Operator U. S. Air Force
Registration 66-0173

The Green Ramp disaster was a 1994 mid-air collision and subsequent ground collision at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. It killed twenty-four members of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division preparing for an airborne operation.[1][2][3] It was the worst peacetime loss of life suffered by the Division since the end of World War II.

Crash[edit]

The "Green Ramp" is the large north-south parking ramp at the west end of Pope AFB's east-west runway, used by the U.S. Army to stage joint operations with the Air Force. Several buildings sit along its western edge, including Building 900, the building housing the Air Force operations group. A personnel shed ("pax shed", a large open-bay building) sat next to Building 900, which the Army used to prepare troops for parachute drops. A large grassy area, where troops could stage before drops, lay between the two buildings. Behind the area, several concrete mock-ups of the backs of Air Force cargo aircraft had been constructed, where troops could rehearse their drop procedures.

On the day of the accident, about 500 paratroopers from adjacent Fort Bragg were in the pax shed, the concrete mock-ups or resting in the grassy area. The personnel came from three division units, the First Brigade Combat Team, 504th Infantry Regiment, and 505th Infantry Regiment. While the jumpers prepared to board several C-130 and C-141 aircraft parked on Green Ramp, the sky was filled with F-16, A-10, and C-130 aircraft conducting training.[4]

Mid-air collision[edit]

Shortly after 14:00 hours on Wednesday, March 23, 1994, a twin-seat F-16D (AF Ser. No. 88-0171, c/n 1D-25, of the 74th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Operations Group) with two pilots on board was conducting a simulated flameout (SFO) approach when it collided with a C-130E, (AF Ser. No. 68-10942, c/n 4322, of the 2nd Airlift Squadron, 317th Group). Both aircraft were members of the 23rd Wing, which was a tenant wing at Pope AFB at the time. The aircraft were on short final approach to runway 23 at an altitude of about 300 feet (90 m) above ground level. The nose of the F-16 severed the C-130's right elevator. On impact, the F-16 pilot applied full afterburner to try to recover the aircraft, but the aircraft began to disintegrate, showering debris on the runway and a road which ran around it. Both F-16 crewmembers ejected, but their aircraft, still on full afterburner, continued on an arc towards Green Ramp. At the same time, the C-130 crew took their aircraft away from the airfield and checked to ensure it could safely land. While the C-130 crew knew they were most likely struck by the F-16, they had no idea how it happened or the extent of the damage. After performing their checks, the crew returned to Pope and landed on the debris-littered runway.

Ground collision[edit]

Diagram of the Green Ramp area
and the path of the fireball

By the time the C-130 landed, the F-16 had hit Green Ramp heading west. The aircraft struck the ground in an empty parking place between two Air Force C-130s with crews on board preparing the aircraft for departure. When the F-16 hit the ground, its momentum carried the wreckage westward through the right wing of a C-141B (AF Ser. No. 66-0173 of the 438th Airlift Wing, McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey) parked on the ramp. The C-141 crew was also preparing the aircraft for joint Army-Air Force operations, however, no Army troops besides the jumpmaster team had yet boarded the plane. The wreckage of the F-16 punctured the fuel tanks in the C-141's right wing, causing a large fireball which combined with the F-16 wreckage and continued on a path taking it between Building 900 and the Pax Shed, directly into the area where the mass of Army paratroopers were sitting and standing. Twenty-three men died and over 80 were injured;[5] one severely burned paratrooper died over nine months later on 3 January 1995.

Paratroopers at the scene pulled troopers from the flames and the exploding 20mm ammunition from the F-16.[5] Military and civilian vehicles were commandeered to ferry the injured to Womack Army Medical Center before first responder vehicles arrived. Also, vehicles and medics from the Army Delta Force, which is adjacent to Green ramp, arrived early and provided assistance.

Aftermath[edit]

USAF firefighters drag hoses in front of the C-141 Starlifter destroyed during the disaster.

President Clinton visited the site two days after the incident and met with the injured at Womack at Fort Bragg.[6] Several of the more severely burned victims were taken to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas.[2] Two months after the accident, only one paratrooper remained critical, while the others were either in satisfactory condition or convalescing at home.

A subsequent U.S. Air Force investigation placed most of the blame for the accident on the military and civilian air traffic controllers working Pope air traffic that day.[7] One of the enlisted controllers was later subject to Article 15 action. A later investigation, however, stated that pilot error by the F-16 pilots also contributed to the mishap, but no disciplinary action was taken against the pilots. The ramifications of the Air Force decision, since abandoned, of operating dissimilar aircraft (in this case C-130s and F-16s) at the same air base were not examined by the two accident investigation boards.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dalesio, Emery P. (March 24, 1994). "16 killed when F-16, C-130 collide at Pope". Wilmington Morning Star. Associated Press. p. 1A. 
  2. ^ a b Thompson, Estes (March 25, 1994). "Crash death toll is at 20". Wilmington Morning Star. Associated Press. p. 1B. 
  3. ^ Brooks, Drew (May 23, 2014). "Survivors mark 20-year anniversary of Pope Air Force Base Green Ramp crash". Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ Quillin, Martha, "'It did not defeat us': Fort Bragg remembers deadly Green Ramp disaster", The News & Observer, (reprinted in the Stars and Stripes), 24 March 2014
  5. ^ a b "Some at crash were hit by ammo from fighter jet". Wilmington Morning Star. Associated Press. March 26, 1994. p. 3B. 
  6. ^ "Clinton meets with victims". Wilmington Morning Star. Associated Press. March 26, 1994. p. 1A. 
  7. ^ Schafer, Susanne M. (January 18, 1997). "Air Force to dig deeper into crash at N.C. base". Wilmington Morning Star. Associated Press. p. 3B. 
  8. ^ Diehl, Silent Knights.[page needed]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°10′05″N 79°01′30″W / 35.168°N 79.025°W / 35.168; -79.025