2010 Alaska C-17 crash

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2010 Alaska C-17 crash
00-0173, nicknamed Spirit of the Aleutians, moments before hitting the ground.
Date 28 July 2010 (2010-07-28)
Summary Stall, Pilot error
Site Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, U.S.
61°15′53″N 149°45′52″W / 61.26472°N 149.76444°W / 61.26472; -149.76444Coordinates: 61°15′53″N 149°45′52″W / 61.26472°N 149.76444°W / 61.26472; -149.76444
Passengers 0
Crew 4
Fatalities 4 (all)
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
Operator United States Air Force
Registration 00-0173

On July 28, 2010, a U.S. Air Force transport plane crashed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, resulting in the death of all four crew members aboard. The aircraft involved was a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III (tail number 00-0173) and the crash was the first fatal C-17 flight mishap. The crew were practicing for Elmendorf's Arctic Thunder Air Show, which took place three days later.


Video of the incident

The aircraft was a four-engined C-17 Globemaster III built by Boeing.[1] It belonged to the 3rd Wing (3 WG) and operated jointly with the 176th Wing (176 WG) at Elmendorf AFB, located near downtown Anchorage.[2] The aircraft had Air Force serial number "00-0173" and was named Spirit of the Aleutians.[3]

The U.S. Air Force has 199 C-17s in service with the active Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard, with the type being based at Elmendorf since June 2007. At the time of the crash, the base had eight of the aircraft, operated jointly by an active duty Air Force organization, the 3rd Wing's 517th Airlift Squadron; and an Alaska Air National Guard unit, the 176th Wing's 249th Airlift Squadron.[4] The mishap was the first fatal crash of a C-17.[1]


The wreckage of the C-17 at the crash site
Another view of the crash site
Close-up of the crashed C-17's tail
Another C-17 served as a memorial site to the lost airmen during the Arctic Thunder Air Show

At the time of the crash, the crew had been conducting a local training flight in preparation for the upcoming Arctic Thunder Air Show, to be held at the Elmendorf base from July 31 to August 1. The C-17 is commonly featured in US air shows, highlighting its short takeoff and landing capability. The plane had flown earlier that day with a different crew.[1]

Accident and aftermath[edit]

On July 28, 2010, at approximately 6:22 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time (UTC-8), the C-17 took off from Runway 06 at Elmendorf Air Force Base to practice maneuvers for the upcoming Arctic Thunder Air Show. After the initial climb followed by a left turn, the pilot executed an aggressive right turn. As the aircraft banked, the stall warning system activated to alert the crew of an impending stall. Instead of implementing stall recovery procedures, the pilot continued the turn as planned, and the aircraft entered a stall from which recovery was not possible.[5] The plane crashed and exploded in a fireball about two miles from the airfield.

Anchorage Fire Department Captain Bryan Grella described how a fireball extended to around 750 feet (230 m) into the air, an estimated 2 miles (3.2 km) from Anchorage.[2] Debris from the crash was spread along 200 feet (61 m) of the Alaska Railroad tracks which carry passenger and freight trains daily through the base area, north to Wasilla, although no trains were scheduled to be passing through at the time of the crash.[1]

The crash killed all four crew members aboard: Majors Michael Freyholtz and Aaron Malone, pilots assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 249th Airlift Squadron; Captain Jeffrey Hill, a pilot assigned to Elmendorf's active-duty Air Force's 517th Airlift Squadron; and Senior Master Sergeant Thomas E. Cicardo, a loadmaster of the Alaska Air National Guard's 249th Airlift Squadron.[2]

Track repairs to the nearby railroad caused freight services to be suspended, and passenger services to be diverted by bus. The air show went ahead as planned as a tribute to the four dead airmen.[1]

Investigation and reactions[edit]

The investigation report into the crash was released on December 13, 2010. It blamed pilot error, stating that the pilot's overconfidence in executing an aggressive right-turn maneuver led to a low-altitude stall and subsequent crash, despite the warnings correctly provided by the aircraft's stall-warning system, to which neither the pilot nor any other crew member responded effectively.[6]

As noted by several aviation commentators, the crash presented significant similarities with the 1994 crash of a B-52 bomber at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. On both occasions, the local USAF unit's chain of command apparently failed to prevent the pilots involved from developing deliberately unsafe flying practices for aerial displays of large aircraft.[7][8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Arctic Thunder to continue after 4 died". Anchorage Daily News. 1 August 2010. Archived from the original on 2 August 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Officials Release The Identities of the Four Killed in C-17 Crash in Alaska". Q13 Fox (KCPQ). 30 July 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  3. ^ "The Spirit of the Aleutians, the newest C-17 Globemaster III to join the fleet at Elmendorf Air Force Base". Visualintel.net. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  4. ^ Executive Summary, Aircraft Accident Investigation, C-17A, T/N 00-0173, Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, AK, 28 July 2010
  5. ^ USAF Aircraft Accident Investigation Board Report for Incident of 28 July 2010 Archived 4 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine., retrieved 20 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Pilot error blamed in July C-17 crash". Anchorage Daily News. 13 December 2010. Archived from the original on 13 December 2010. Retrieved 13 December 2010. 
  7. ^ Stephen Trimble (17 December 2010). "C-17 crash report exposes cracks in USAF safety culture". Flightglobal. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  8. ^ Bill Sweetman (13 December 2010). "Pilot Error in C-17 Crash". Aviation Week. The McGraw-Hill Companies. Archived from the original on 21 March 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  9. ^ Rob Stapleton (17 December 2010). "Report cites oversight and pilot error for Alaska C-17 crash". Examiner.com. Clarity Digital Group. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 

External links[edit]

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