About six scheduled training flights were canceled Friday, as the two units stationed at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base took part in a 24-hour "stand-down" ordered in the wake of the recent rash of Air Force plane crashes.
Earlier this month, six Air Force planes crashed on training missions in a seven-day period around the world, leading Defense Secretary William S. Cohen to order all Air Force units to cancel such missions for a day to review safety procedures.
Neil Nolf, the Niagara Falls base's public affairs officer, said Gen. Walter Kross, head of the St. Louis-based Air Mobility Command, which governs both Niagara Falls units, chose Friday as stand-down day. Other commands were grounded on other days this week.
Affected were the 914th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve, and the 107th Air Refueling Wing of the New York Air National Guard. Their commanders said each had three training flights scheduled Friday.
Instead, airmen gathered at the base for safety conferences, while planes were inspected on the flight line.
Col. Bruce Davis, operations group commander for the 914th, said the unit hasn't had an accident since 1961, having logged more than 120,000 hours of safe flying since then.
The 914th flies C-130 Hercules transport, which normally carry five-person crews on training missions.
Davis, who has been in command at Niagara Falls only two months, said he is highly impressed with the quality of personnel here. "These are extraordinary fliers, very conservative," he said. "Our maintenance team is extraordinary."
He said of the stand-down, "It's a time to refocus and make sure we're doing it right."
Col. James Kwiatkowski, vice commander of the 107th, agreed. "Safety is paramount and we're always emphasizing safety issues," he said. "I think (the stand-down) is a very prudent thing."
The 107th has an unblemished safety record as well, but Kwiatkowski said he realizes the rash of accidents puts the Air Force on the hot seat. "I think it's incumbent on leadership to do something. We have a responsibility to the American public," he commented.
However, Kwiatkowski said "real-world" missions were not affected by the 24-hour hold.
Friday night, one of the KC-135 tankers flown by the 107th was to take off for Iceland with six persons aboard, to staff an Air Force refueling station. Another tanker and 10 members of the unit already are in that country.
Flights by the 914th in and out of Bosnia also are unaffected by the stand-down. Two planes and three crews, totaling about 50 men, are patrolling Bosnia from Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, in support of United Nations peacekeeping efforts.
The 914th has a total strength of about 1,200 personnel, and the 107th musters about 1,000, Nolf said. In addition, there are 750 to 800 full-time civilian employees on the base.