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Low-flying military plane stirs concern in Clarence

A low-flying C-130 Hercules cargo plane from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station triggered complaints to law enforcement on Wednesday night.

A crew from the Air Force Reserve's 914th Airlift Wing was on a low-level training mission when there was an engine malfunction and the plane had to return to the base in Niagara County, said Lt. Col. Andrea E. Pitruzzella.

The plane, which performs low-level missions in combat zones, was on its way back to the air base after the aborted mission when it passed over Clarence. The multi-engine plane was not in any distress due to the malfunction, Pitruzzella said. It landed safely at the base.

"We try to avoid residential areas as much as we can," she said.

The crew had to take the most direct route back to the base because of the malfunction, she said. The flight crew would have been directed at what height to fly by officials at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in order to stay away from air traffic there, Petruzzella said.

The planes are approved to fly as low as 300 feet off the ground, but even flying at 500 to 1,000 feet seems low to people on the ground, she said.

"We try to make it as unintrusive as possible," she said.

Units at the air base are transitioning from using C-130 cargo planes to KC-135 tankers that refuel other aircraft in mid-air.

[Related: Air base personnel embrace challenge of new aircraft]

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