C-17s have survived missile attacks in Iraq and pilot mishaps in Aghanistan without casualty in recent years, including a surface-to-air hit in Baghdad in 2003 and a 2009 incident at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan where a C-17 landed on its belly - with its landing gears disabled.
Four airmen were killed early Wednesday evening when a large military cargo plane crashed at Elmendorf Air Force base in Anchorage, officials said on early Thursday.
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft went down at the end of the runway around 6.14 p.m. local time and was witnessed by many local residents. Large plumes of black smoke were initially seen rising from the scene.
Bob Hall, a spokesman for the base, said the Air Force cargo aircraft, which was carrying four Airmen, was assigned to the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base. “At the time of the accident, it was on a local training mission,” he said.
Colonel John McMullen, 3rd Wing commander, confirmed there were no survivors in the accident. “Our deepest sympathy and sincerest condolences go out to the family and friends of those Airmen killed in this crash,” he said.
“Yesterday, we lost four members of our Arctic Warrior family and it’s a loss felt across our entire joint installation. Right now our immediate focus is on providing all possible support to the loved ones of our fallen aviators,” McMullen added.
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said he and his wife Sandy were saddened to learn of the plane crash. “Alaskans are very connected to the military and our thoughts and prayers are with Alaska’s Air Force Family,” he said.
U.S. Senator Mark Begich and former mayor of Anchorage Mark Begich said his thoughts and prayers were with the extended National Guard family. “The service members of our National Guard sacrifice daily to defend our nation and make our state safe,” he said.
Begich said every Alaskan is deeply saddened by Wednesday’s accident. “I urge all Alaskans to include these brave Guardsmen and their families in their prayers,” he added.
The names of the Airmen who died are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and McMullen said a board of officers will investigate the cause of the crash.
McMullen and Brigadier General Charles Foster, 176th Wing commander from the Alaska Air National Guard, will hold a news conference at 8 a.m. local time to provide more information about the accident.
The C-17 Globemaster III is a large four-engined jet which can be used to transport troops or cargo. Since it entered service with the US Air Force in 1993, the C-17 has had a mostly stellar safety record, with no fatal accidents reported. Five countries and NATO operate the aircraft, of which over 200 have been built.