Report on midair collision kept secret
The Air Force won't release the findings of an investigation of a December midair accident between a C-17 Globemaster cargo jet, piloted by the commander of Hickam Air Force Base, and a Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135 jet tanker.
Lt. Col. Doug Smith, spokes-man for Pacific Air Forces, said the investigation of the Dec. 22 collision was for "internal Air Force use only." He would say only that the incident occurred at 10:45 p.m. about 200 miles from Oahu, when the C-17, on loan from Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma for training, was being refueled on the last leg of a trip from the mainland.
At the time, the Air Force identified the C-17 pilot as Col. William Changose, Hickam base commander. The 174-foot cargo jet sustained only "minor damage" and was used for training missions that weekend.
Although Changose was not grounded after the incident, "he later chose not to fly until after the investigation was completed," said Maj. Paul Wright, Hickam spokesman. Since the investigation has been completed, Changose is back in the cockpit, Wright said.
The Hawaii Air Guard KC-135 tanker sustained "minor" structural damage to its tail and refueling boom, which can extend from 28 inches to 47 feet from the rear of the tanker. The tanker was grounded until the Air Force safety investigation board completed its findings.
Besides Changose, none of the other crew members of the C-17 or KC-135 was identified. Wright said no one in the incident was disciplined.
The Hawaii Air Guard KC-135 tanker was carrying about 30 passengers, many of them C-17 crew members from Hawaii.
Changose was due to fly today but chose to be a passenger when the first of eight C-17s belonging to a new composite Air Force and Hawaiian Air National Guard unit will land at Hickam. The $200 million aircraft -- dubbed "Spirit of Hawaii Ke Aloha" -- is part of a $190 million construction project. Sixty percent of the unit will be members of the Air Force's 15th Airlift Wing and the remainder will belong to the Hawaii Air Guard's 154th Wing. The Air Force plans to spend an additional $18 million to build a combat landing strip at the Big Island's Kona Airport.
The establishment of a C-17 squadron is part of a military buildup here that includes the formation of a billion-dollar Stryker combat brigade at Schofield Barracks centering around 300 of the eight-wheeled armored vehicles. One C-17 can transport three Strykers and small squad of soldiers.