Commander promises full investigation of Vance training jet crash

Thursday, September 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ENID, Okla. (AP) -- An Air Force commander said investigators "will not leave any stone unturned" in finding out what caused a training jet to crash a mile north of a runway at Vance Air Force Base Wednesday, killing a Navy training pilot.

"Finding out why this happened is the most important thing for us," said Col. Doug Raaberg, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing.

The pilot's name was not released Wednesday as officials tried to notify the pilot's relatives, officials said. The pilot was practicing touch-and-go takeoffs and landings in a T-37 before the crash, officials said. The plane was coming in for a landing when the crash occurred, leaving a pile of twisted, crumpled metal resting in a plowed field.

Raaberg said the Air Force Accident Investigation Board began looking into the accident Wednesday and that the Air Force Safety Investigation Board will investigate later.

It is important to determine whether the accident was caused by mechanical failure or by pilot error, Raaberg said.

Details of the accident have not been released, but Vance spokesman Sgt. Jose Ruiz said a civilian and a member of the Air Force witnessed the crash and were interviewed by investigators shortly after the 8:20 a.m. accident.

Skies were mostly sunny at the time of the crash, according to the National Weather Service, The pilot had completed three months of a four-month training program in the T-37, Raaberg said.

A T-37 is a twin-engine jet used for training undergraduate pilots, undergraduate navigators and tactical navigator students.

It is the standard U.S. Air Force jet trainer.

A T-37 training jet crashed at Vance in January 1997 when its landing gear collapsed. Two pilots walked away with no injuries.

On Oct. 7, 1984, a T-38 aircraft crashed just south of Vance's main runway, killing a flight instructor and a student pilot.

The 71st Flying Training Wing produces about 350 pilots a year for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, Air National Guard, the Air Force Reserves and allied countries, officials said.

Vance is located on the southern edge of Enid, which is about 80 miles north-northwest of Oklahoma City.