WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2006 – Air Force officials have convened a Safety Investigation Board to determine the cause of a ground collision between a Kyrgyz TU-154 passenger plane and a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker at Manas International Airport, Kyrgyzstan around 8 p.m. Sept. 26. "Our primary concern was for the safety of the passengers and crew of both aircraft," Air Force Col. Joel "Scott" Reese, commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, said. "I'm thankful there were no injuries."
The three-member crew of the KC-135 had just returned from an aerial refueling mission and was taxiing from the runway when the TU-154's wing collided with the KC-135's wing. The wing of the KC-135 caught fire as a result of the collision. The TU-154 continued its take off and made an immediate emergency landing. The passengers of the TU-154 were evacuated without injury.
"Fire and emergency crews from Manas International Airport along with our firefighters extinguished the fire on the KC-135," Reese said. "We're grateful for the relationship we have with our partners here at the airport. Our joint training paid off immensely in the successful response to this emergency."
This is the first accident between U.S. and Kyrgyz aircraft. Air Force officials are cooperating with local airport and aviation authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident, officials said.
The KC-135 aircraft and crew are deployed to Manas from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. The 376th AEW at Manas has been supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan since the base opened in December 2001. The wing's mission is air mobility, with both KC-135s and C-17 Globemaster IIIs moving people, cargo and fuel into and out of Afghanistan.