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U.S. Command Jet Disabled by Snow Geese

December 23, 1987|Associated Press

OMAHA — One of four U.S. Air Force planes designed to be used by the President in the event of a nuclear war was damaged when it hit a flock of migrating snow geese just after takeoff, a military spokesman said today.

The E-4B, a modified 747, was about 1,200 feet off the ground when it encountered the geese Monday night, said Master Sgt. Mark Webber.

The geese were sucked into two of the engines, forcing the plane to land about 10 minutes after it had taken off from Offut Air Force Base.

The plane was on a routine training flight, Webber said, and none of the nine crew members were injured.

The pilots of the E-4B could not see the birds in the dark, Webber said.

The E-4Bs would serve as the National Emergency Airborne Command Post, one of three national military command centers that would be used by the President, the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the event of a nuclear war.

The plane allows the President to direct the government as he would from the White House.

Webber said the military attempts to plan flights across the country on routes that will avoid migratory birds, but that it is not always possible. Snow geese weigh an average of 6 pounds, are about 20 inches tall and have a wingspan of about 58 inches. They usually migrate at night.

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