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Rough Landing for Defense Chiefs

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

KIEV, UKRAINE, Jan. 5, 1996 – Flying in a sleet storm, landing in a snowbank, blowing up a missile silo -- it was a day to remember for the American, Ukrainian and Russian defense chiefs traveling aboard a Ukrainian military aircraft.

U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Shmarov and Russian Federation Defense Minister Gen. Pavel Grachev were flying to a former Soviet missile base to blow up an SS-19 missile silo as part of a joint nuclear threat reduction program.

Severe weather delayed the ministers' flight to Pervomaysk, about 150 miles south of Kiev, for nearly three hours. On the ground in Pervomaysk, sleet and freezing rain formed a glaze on reporters, photographers and other visitors waiting outdoors for their arrival.

Upon landing, the Ukrainian military aircraft carrying the defense ministers apparently missed the runway, then bounced back on, sliding across the pavement sideways and hitting a snow bank with one wing. Perry said the landing was "exciting" and "a little scary."

"The pilot went into a full throttle back on reverse on the engine because that was about the only way of stopping it," Perry said. "He did it in such a way that, although the plane was rocking a little bit, it did not turn over, which would have been unfortunate for everyone."

Perry said the pilot was very skilled, getting the plane back on the runway and stopping safely. A second plane carried the group back to Kiev.

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