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Arizona A-10 and Pilot Still Missing [news]

From: (Glenn Campbell, Las Vegas)
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 1997 18:35:25 -0800
Subject: Arizona A-10 and Pilot Still Missing [news]


.c The Associated Press


PHOENIX (AP) - Guided by tips from sky-gazing citizens, officials hunted by
air and land in Colorado for an $8.8 million Air Force jet that was never
supposed to leave southern Arizona.

Several sightings Wednesday near Montrose, Colo., reinforced the idea that
the missing A-10 Thunderbolt flew into Colorado, Air Force officials said
Sunday. The plane disappeared that afternoon going from its Tucson base to a
training run in southwestern Arizona.

Radar data released by Davis-Monthan Air Force Base showed an unidentified
plane's steady path northeast before fading near Telluride, Colo., south of
Montrose. Hundreds of residents called with credible tips that indicated the
plane was the A-10, said Col. Barry Barksdale, commander of the 355th Fighter
Wing at Davis-Monthan.

The National Guard, Air Force, Civil Air Patrol and local sheriffs in
southwestern Colorado were to continue the search today.

Air Force officials had no explanation why the aircraft and pilot - Capt.
David Button - apparently headed in the wrong direction. Barksdale said
Button could have become incapacitated from something like a blackout or
heart attack and engaged the plane's autopilot.

Button also could have ejected, though officials said the ejection seat would
have sent out a homing beacon device. Even if Button did eject, history shows
it would not be impossible for the plane to land safely on its own.

The Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, has a display on a 1970 accident in
which a plane ejected its pilot after entering a spin, recovered unpiloted
and made a belly landing in a snow-covered field near Big Sandy, Mont.

``It's something that's one in a million,'' said base Staff Sgt. Rian Clawson

He also refuted various theories, including that someone sabotaged the plane
to get its four 500-pound bombs, which were unlikely to explode on impact.

``Anything you can think of has probably been looked at,'' Clawson said.
``But the evidence so far doesn't indicate any of these wild hypotheses, like
he was trying to steal it, or he went off to Telluride to go skiing.''

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