On June 24, 1994 at about 2 p.m., a B-52 bomber took off from Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington State to practice for an airshow. The call sign of the aircraft was “Czar 52”. The pilot in command was Lt. Colonel Arthur A. Holland, the chief of 92nd Bomb Wing Standardization and Evaluation Branch, a 24 year air force veteran and an instructor pilot. No one really wanted to fly with him since they knew of his reputation as a “hot stick”. He was known pushing the aircraft to its absolute limits and violating regulation and tech order limits.
About 15 minutes later, while attempting to circle the runway’s control tower in a steep turn and making a 90 degree wing over maneuver, it crashed at 170 m.p.h., missing the nuclear weapons bunkers and a crowded airmen’s school. All four of them perished in the accident. Understanding the human factor and CRM elements of the accident will give the insight regarding the factors that contributed to the disaster.
The Lt. Colonel was allowed to continue flights at air shows even if he has the reputation of a daredevil and a “cowboy” attitude. There were a number of incidents where he clearly violated regulations and limits in air show performances. Junior crewmembers also said that Holland had mentioned about its plan about rolling a B-52 in flight something that has never been done before. Holland’s superior even put him in charge of evaluating all B-52 pilots at the base. Also 13 commanders allowed him to continue to fly regardless of his hazardous flying. The air force leaders have become permissive of Holland’s behavior not imposing disciplinary actions to correct his arrogant behavior.
Even if he had a record of unsafe piloting behavior there were still many fellow crew members that look the other way in the previous incidents involving the Lt. Col. They were not yet alarmed of the danger of this actions. They tolerated and ignored all the incidents that happened. It indicated worse assertiveness on the part of many of his fellow pilots by choosing to overlook his attitudes. Since he would escape from a lot of danger they believed that it will always be like that and is not life threatening.
The authority given to him in the hierarchical structure of the air force proved to be impediment in grounding him. It was difficult for them to ground him knowing that he is a veteran and an instructor pilot. One of his co-pilots recognized the potential danger and has attempted repeatedly to have Holland grounded but the senior leadership in the 92nd Bomb Wing ignored and did not recognize what he observed, so the request was denied and dismissed.
The personality traits of Holland should have been monitored long before to avoid the fatal accident. The leadership has been weak and irresponsible in imposing disciplinary measures for their pilots. Earlier they should have been strict in their rules and regulations. They have misguided and allowed him to have many opportunities to participate in air shows. The air force should have responded and studied the case much earlier to avoid the worst things to happen.
One of the earliest incident happened in one Fairchild AFB show where the pilot was known to exceed bank and pitch limits. He also has flown directly over the airshow crowd putting many people at risk. The air force has not taken the incident seriously. In the fifth incident the Lt. Col. outdoes the previous years climb by pitching the B-52 up 80 degrees nose high which is almost completely vertical.
He had planned to do risky airshow performance and to exceed his previous records. Being egoistic and getting proud of his accomplishments was the problem. Despite all of these, the air force becomes lax in their rules and regulations regarding behavior and assertiveness of their pilots. Much earlier they should have grounded him and stop him from participating in airshows knowing his reputation and records. This case clearly showed that over confidence and too much assertiveness is bad for those involve in flying aircrafts. The accident will give lesson to those with similar motives and attitude toward airshows. It serves as a lesson for many air force personnel on the importance of following rules and correcting unnecessary attitude and behavior.
“The Crash of “Czar 52” 24 June 1994 at Fairchild AFB, Washington” (2008)
Check-Six.Com . Retrieved September 20, 2008, from http://www.check-six.com
“Human Factors Still The Current Challenge Of The Aviation Industry” (2008) CulturAiles Human Factors In Air Safety. Retrieved September 20, 2008 from http://www.culturailes.net