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Study Says Executive Aircraft Safe

By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 1996 – A DoD review of Air Force and Marine Corps executive air support finds the department operates its executive support air fleet safely and reliably.

In a study conducted at White House request, the Pentagonappointed panel found presidential airlift support for Air Force One and Marine One "virtually flawless." However, the panel did make several recommendations to enhance operations.

The recommendations include tasking each service to maintain an executive airlift plan that will address modernization and review mission requirements. The panel also suggests the White House review the use of nondedicated executive aircraft for the president's travel and recommends the Air Force realign the Presidential Pilot Office within the 89th Airlift Wing, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Defense Secretary William Perry directed the Navy and Air Force secretaries to act on these recommendations and report back to him within 60 days.

"There is a distinction between the planes and crews that fly the president and the other aircraft that provide logistical support," said Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon. "The regulations say that pilots have to be highly qualified ... but there is no definition of what highly qualified means." He said the panel will ask the services to further define the experience and training necessary to fly executive missions.

Bacon said the military's executive missions involve more than transporting the president and official party members. The military also provides logistical support missions, such as air-to-air refueling, communications and equipment transport. Flights also carry Cabinet officials, U.S. Supreme Court justices and members of Congress on official government business.

The three-month safety study, chaired by retired Navy Vice Adm. Donald D. Engen, follows two separate accidents involving presidential support helicopters last September in Orlando, Fla. All passengers and crew members escaped injury. Engen is former head of the Federal Aviation Administration and current director of the National Air and Space Museum.

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