By Public Affairs Office, 126th Air Refueling Wing
/ Published February 05, 2012
Scott AFB, Ill. -- Thirty years ago this March, a KC-135A Stratotanker assigned to the 126th Air Refueling Wing exploded while on a routine training mission near K.I. Sawyer AFB in northern Michigan. All 27 people aboard the aircraft were killed, including four aircrew members assigned to the 126th Air Refueling Wing and 23 members of the 928th Tactical Airlift Group, Air Force Reserves. The accident occurred on Friday, March 19, 1982.
Included below is an article from the May 1982 'Wing Tips,' Volume XXV, No. 5 and biographies from the four aircrew members. Let us not forget these brave men who lost their lives serving their state and nation.
Maj. William S. Dixon, Jr. was born Dec. 25, 1946, in Detroit, Mich. He attended Central High School in Detroit and received an ROTC scholarship to the University of Michigan where he obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science.
Commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the Air Force in 1968, Maj. Dixon obtained a Master's Degree in Political Science from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
Maj. Dixon served on active duty for eight years, flying KC-135 tankers in Vietnam and Thailand. A fully qualified instructor pilot, Maj. Dixon entered the Air National Guard in 1976.
He was employed as a captain for Republic Airlines in 1976 and had more than 5,700 military and civilian flying hours to his credit.
Maj. Dixon's service while a member of the Illinois Air National Guard was considered exemplary.
Capt. Kenneth L. Herrick was born in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 19, 1946. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in 1970.
Capt. Herrick served on active duty as a navigator from 1971 until 1978 at Wurtsmith AFB, Mich. and Eielson AFB, Ala. He joined the Illinois Air National Guard in 1979 and returned to the University of Illinois to study for a Doctorate in Aeronautical Engineering. He had more than 2,300 flying hours to his credit.
Capt. Herrick's service while a member of the Illinois Air National Guard was considered exemplary.
Capt. Robert J. Nicosia was born in Detroit, Mich., on Nov. 12, 1948. He entered the Air Force as a 2nd Lt. in 1973 and served as a KC-135 pilot, co-pilot, and instructor pilot until 1978 at Rickenbacker AFB, Ohio.
Capt. Nicosia held Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Central Michigan University. He worked for American Airlines as a flight engineer for several years and entered the Illinois Air National Guard in 1980. He was recently employed as a design engineer in civilian life and had logged more than 2,600 military and civilian flying hours during his career.
Capt. Nicosia's service while a member of the Illinois Air National Guard was considered exemplary.
Master Sgt. Richard A. Crome was born on May 14, 1942 in Evanston, Ill. He was a graduate of Amundsen High School and joined the Illinois Air National Guard in 1971.
Master Sgt. Crome was an instructor boom operator with the 108th Air Refueling Squadron where he was employed fulltime as an Air Guard Technician. For two years prior to joining the Illinois Air National Guard, Master Sgt. Crome served in the Air Force as a boom operator at Holloman AFB, N.M. He had flown more than 3,900 hours in his career.
Master Sgt. Crome's service while in the Illinois Air National Guard was considered exemplary.
Wing Tips Article
Wing mourns 27 deaths from KC-135 crash
Reprinted from May 1982 'Wing Tips,' Volume XXV, No. 5
An Illinois Air National Guard KC-135A Stratotanker assigned to the 126th Air Refueling Wing (AREFW) crashed Friday, March 19, at approximately 9:11 p.m., killing all 27 people aboard. The four crew members were assigned to the 126th AREFW, while the 23 passengers were members of the 928th Tactical Airlift Group (TAG).
The downed aircraft was on a routine mission performing transition training at K.I. Sawyer AFB in northern Michigan. While in the vicinity of K.I. Sawyer AFB, the tanker crew learned that the 23 Air Force reservists had earlier been aboard a C-130 transport of the 928th TAG that developed engine trouble on a flight to O'Hare Field from McChord AFB, Washington. The C-130 landed at K.I. Sawyer, and the KC-135 crew agreed to pick up the Reservists so that they could arrive at their home base that evening.
The KC-135 crashed near Greenwood, Ill., in McHenry County, about 50 miles northwest of Chicago. The last body was recovered on Sunday, March 21. There were no injuries to people on the ground as a result of the crash and no serious damage to property. The cause of the crash is undetermined.
Col. Edward Nimmo heads a 21-member 8th Air Force Safety Investigation Board seeking the reasons for the first fatal crash of an Illinois Air National Guard refueling aircraft. The team includes pilots, aircraft engineers, and medical and weather experts. Col. Nimmo is vice commander of the 384th Air Refueling Wing located at McConnell AFB, Kan.
**As a note: It was later determined by the accidentinvestigation team that the most probable cause for the crash was "an overpressurization under the cargo floor" and "[T]his area of the aircraft houses many fuel and potential ignition sources. An explosion caused by the ignition of accumulated combustible vapors could occur in any one area under the floor and rapidly propagate to the adjacent fuel area." The report added that "there was strong evidence to support the existence of explosive overpressures in the forward, aft and upper deck fuel tank areas."