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Analysis of Arizona A-10 incident

From: (Glenn Campbell, Las Vegas)
Date: Wed, 9 Apr 1997 23:35:41 -0800
Subject: Analysis of Arizona A-10 incident

From: [withheld by request]
Subject: A-10 Update
Date: Wed, 9 Apr 1997 22:17:00

A-10 Update, the wierdness continues: Well, the story on the A-10
continues to change daily, but a compressed summary is this.

Poor weather in Colorado is hindering the search, but the CAP
continues to send up sorties each day. Additionally, the Air Force has
at least one C-130 tasked with the search. Virtually all search
efforts are now focused on Colorado.

Some eyewitness reports place the A-10 in Colorado, and there was
smoke spotted on New York mountain consistent with the flight
path--which is a course directly to Denver.

On Tuesday, the AF announced that a U-2 was involved in the search as
well. Based on the announcment, it sounded like the U-2 was a plane
NASA has rigged with a special high-resolution thermal imager; this
same plane is used to map wildfires and such. Probably looking for a
fire from a "crashed" plane.

The AF has announced that if the craft is found, the search will be
turned over to civilian authorities, most likely the county police

On Wednesday, the AF announced that it was bringing in a criminal
investigation team, but didn't suspect criminal involvement.

The "official" speculation is that the pilot became incapacitated and
the autopilot guided the plane.

Also on Wednesday, it came out that the plane's course changed at
least twice after leaving formation and while enroute to
who-knows-what in Colorado. A reported specifically asked if this was
normal operation under autopilot flight, and the AF spokesman said it
was "unusual."

Commentary: Obviously, the plane isn't still in the air, so it landed
or crashed somewhere. Based on the last reported position, the plane
could have still made it to NV, UT, CO, NM, or AZ with what little
fuel it had left.

Based on additional news reports and witness sightings, the A-10
underwent radical alterations of altitude (a witness in Gila county
was buzzed by the A-10 flying low enough to rattle his pick up
windows, while the plane clearly passed over mountainous terrains at
7,000-8,000 FT just a hundred miles later.) Typically, autopilots
maintain a constant altitude.

The course corrections are also atypical of basic autopilots, which
usually hold a specific heading (though more advanced systems support
specific waypoints, with changes in headings, as a pilot would
normally fly; it's unclear if the A-10 had this, and if it did, why
the pilot would program the autopilot with such waypoints.)

Based on the inputs of witnesses and the AF, it certainly appears as
though the plane was being operated in a human-controlled manner, even
if they say they don't think it was.

We're now a week in to this thing, and still no plane, but lots of
questions and inconsistent answers. Some food for thought:

The A-10 is designed to take off and land on short, basically
unimproved (graded dirt) runways--even a good dirt road is apparently

Colorado (like Arizona and other mountain regions in the west) has a
huge number of abandoned mines. Additionally, there are a number of
underground facilities left over from the cold war--some are still in
use, but a few no doubt are also unused. There's ample room to hide
such a plane given a big-enough man-made cave.

Some of the speculation centers on the four 500lb bombs and terrorist
plots--the speculation seems to be almost avoiding the value of the
plane. (If there's a plot, it seems hard to believe an organization
sophisticated enough to steal this plane would want four comparatively
small bombs--it just seems to reason that a plane that could put those
bombs anywhere in a 800-mile range would be more attractive.)

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