Darker Shades of Blue:
A Case Study of Failed Leadership
Major Tony Kern
United States Air Force
Copyright 1995, Anthony T. Kern
This document may not be reproduced without the written
consent of the author.
When leadership fails and a command climate breaks down, tragic things
can happen. This is the story of failed leadership and a command climate
which had degenerated into an unhealthy state of apathy and non-compliance--a
state which contributed to the tragic crash of a B-52 at Fairchild Air
Force Base, on the 24th of June, 1994, killing all aboard.
I have three purposes with this case study. First, I hope to integrate
the various elements of the story into a historically accurate and readable
case study for all interested parties, to provide a clearer picture of
what actually occurred at Fairchild Air Force Base in the years and months
leading up to the tragedy. Secondly, I wish to analyze leadership and
the command climate at the wing, operations group, and squadron levels.
This analysis will identify possible errors and provide lessons learned,
for use in academic environments. Finally, I wish to show the positive
side of this episode, for there were many who did the right thing, and
acted in a timely and proactive manner. Their actions might well have
averted the disaster in a more rational command climate. Their story should
All testimony contained in this report are taken from the AFR 110-14
Aircraft Accident Investigation Board transcripts, obtained through
the Freedom of Information Act, or through personal interviews conducted
by the author. I analyzed transcripts from 49 individual testimonies,
and conducted 11 personal interviews. I wish to make it perfectly clear,
that no data was taken from the Air Force Safety Mishap Investigation,
so the issue of privilege was not a factor in preparing this
report. In fact, I intentionally did not read or receive a briefing on
the results of the safety board for the express purpose of avoiding even
the appearance of a conflict.
Placing blame on individuals was not my intention and is not the purpose
of this monograph. However, my interpretation of events found potentially
significant errors in leadership, disregard for regulations, and breeches
of air discipline at multiple levels. As an officer and aviator, I found
many of these events personally and professionally appalling. Occasionally,
my interpretation of events reflects this mood. Although I have attempted
to avoid bias, I make no apologies for my discoveries. Any errors of omission
or commission are strictly those of the author. I write this as my contribution
to promoting the Air Force values of integrity, fairness, discipline,
and teamwork-- all found to be tragically lacking in this example.
Because it is envisioned that this case study may be used in academic
settings, the format includes certain features that will lend themselves
to effective instruction. Key concepts and terms appear in boldface, and
are discussed in summary at the end of the monograph. Additionally, hypothetical
questions are posed to spur thought and facilitate discussion. The companion
"Instructor Guide" is designed for use to a generic Air Force
audience and may be modified in any manner to suit effective instruction.
I have documented this case study through the extensive use of informational
endnotes and traditional citation endnotes. However, to preclude breaking
up the narrative with endless citations (I could have literally footnoted
almost every line of the monograph), I have often placed a single citation
at the end of a group of testimony or statements which came from the same
source, in an effort to improve on the readability of the document. I
beg the academic purists' indulgence in this matter.
As a final note, I have copyrighted this case study not to inhibit its
use or dispersion among military personnel,--but to prevent portions of
the study being quoted out of context to cast negative light on the Air
Force or its personnel. This foreword provides blanket approval for military
personnel to duplicate this case study in total (cover to cover). I
must emphasize again that I do not wish individual segments to be isolated
and taken out of context.
"What's the deal with this guy?" Captain Bill Kramer
asked, indicating a car conspicuously parked in the center of the red-curbed
"No Parking" zone adjacent to the wing headquarters building.
It was a short walk from the HQ building, commonly referred to as The
White House, to the parking lot where they had left their own vehicles
while attending the briefing on the upcoming airshow. As they passed the
illegally-parked car and then the various "reserved" spaces
for the wing and operations group commanders, Lt Col Winslow turned to
Captain Kramer, and replied, "That's Bud's car. He always parks there."
After a few more steps the Captain inquired, "How does he get away
with that?" The Lieutenant Colonel reflected for a moment and responded,
"I don't know--he just does." 1
Section One: Introduction
There are no bad regiments, only bad colonels.
Failed leadership can have tragic consequences. In the words of Major
General (Retired) Perry Smith, a career Air Force aviator and former commandant
of the National War College, "Leaders make a difference, and large
and complex organizations (like an Air Force Wing) make special demands
on the men and women who run them." 2
This is the story of a group of leaders who did not meet all the demands
required to establish a healthy command climate, and when confronted with
evidence of regulatory deviations- and poor airmanship, did not take appropriate
disciplinary actions. There were several manifestations of these failings.
Only the most tragic and dramatic is addressed here--the crash of Czar
52. An examination and analysis of the command climate which existed at
Fairchild AFB in the three years preceding the crash illustrates several
examples of failed leadership relating to a series of breeches of air
discipline on the part of a senior wing aviator, Lt Col "Bud"
Holland, the pilot in command of Czar 52.
On the 24th of June 1994, Czar 52, a B-52H assigned to the 325th
Bomb Squadron, 92d Bomb Wing, Fairchild Air Force Base, WA, launched at
approximate 1358 hours Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), to practice maneuvers
for an upcoming airshow. The aircrew had the planned and briefed a profile,
through the Wing Commander level, that grossly exceeded aircraft
and regulatory limitations. Upon preparing to land at the end of the practice
airshow profile, the crew was required to execute a "go-around"
or missed approach because of another aircraft on the runway. At mid-field,
Czar 52 began a tight 360 degree left turn around the control tower at
only 250 feet altitude above ground level (AGL). Approximately three quarters
of the way through the turn, the aircraft banked past 90 degrees, stalled,
clipped a power line with the left wing and crashed. Impact occurred at
approximately 1416 hours PDT. There were no survivors out of a crew of
four field grade officers. 3
Killed in the crash were Lt Col Arthur "Bud" Holland, the Chief
of the 92d Bomb Wing Standardization and Evaluation branch. Lt Col Holland,
an instructor pilot, was designated as the aircraft commander and was
undoubtedly flying the aircraft at the time of the accident. 4
The copilot was Lt Col Mark McGeehan, also an instructor pilot and the
325th Bomb Squadron (BMS) Commander. There is a great deal of evidence
that suggests considerable animosity existed between the two pilots who
were at the controls of Czar 52..
This was a result of Lt Col McGeehan's unsuccessful efforts to have Bud
Holland "grounded" for what he perceived as numerous and flagrant
violations of air discipline while flying with 325th BMS aircrews. Colonel
Robert Wolff was the Vice Wing Commander and was added to the flying schedule
as a safety observer by Col Brooks, the Wing Commander, on the morning
of the mishap. This was to be Col Wolff's "fini flight," an
Air Force tradition where an aviator is hosed down following his last
flight in an aircraft. Upon landing, Col Wolff was to be met on the flightline
by his wife and friends for a champagne toast to a successful flying career.
The radar navigator position was filled by Lt Col Ken Huston, the 325th
BMS Operations Officer.
While all aircraft accidents that result in loss of life are tragic,
those that could have been prevented are especially so. The crash of Czar
52 was primarily the result of actions taken by a singularly outstanding
"stick and rudder pilot," but one who, ironically,
practiced incredibly poor airmanship. The distinction between
these two similar sounding roles will be made clear as we progress in
this analysis. Of equal or greater significance, was the fact that supervision
and leadership facilitated the accident through failed policies of selective
enforcement of regulations, as well as failing to heed the desperate
warning signals raised by peers and subordinates over a period of three
years prior to the accident. At the time of the accident, there was considerable
evidence of Lt Col Holland's poor airmanship spanning a period of over
Significance of the Case Study
The Fairchild example is worth our further analysis and contemplation,
not because it was a unique aberration from what occurs in other military
organizations, but rather because it is a compilation of tendencies that
are seen throughout the spectrum of our operations. Many aviators report
that rules and regulations are "bent" on occasion, and some
individuals seem to be "Teflon coated" because their
mistakes are ignored or overlooked by their supervisors. Most honest flyers
will readily admit to operating under different sets of rules depending
on the nature of the mission they are about to fly. For example, standard
training missions are treated differently than evaluations. Likewise,
higher headquarters directed missions are treated differently than inspections,
or airshow demonstrations. This often leads to a confusing mental state
for young or inexperienced flyers, who see ever-increasing "shades
of gray" creeping into their decision-making process. This case study
illustrates examples of such missions, and of aviators who felt that the
rules were different for them.
This monograph takes a case study approach to identify positive and negative
aspects of leadership. This study uses no formal definition of leadership,
although there are many to choose from. This is not an oversight, but
rather by design, to allow each reader the opportunity to apply his or
her own notions of leadership to the case study. Leadership assessment
will use criterion taken from several sources, chosen for their relevance
and practicality, including Major General Perry Smith's "Taking Charge:
A Practical Guide for Leaders", "The Leadership Secrets of Attila
the Hun", by William Roberts, "Follow Me: The Human Element
of Leadership", and "Follow Me II", by Major General (Retired)
Aubrey S. Newman, and J. K. Van Fleet's "The 22 Biggest Mistakes
Managers Make". In addition, the author selected several points from
a lecture given by Lieutenant General (Retired) Calvin Waller on the subject
of Ethical Leadership. From these sources, the author compiled
a list of questions with which to assess the leadership behaviors. They
Did the leader have all the facts necessary to make an informed decision?
For example, did they know and understand the applicable guiding regulations
Were the leader's actions and words congruent? Did he talk the
talk and walk the walk?
Did the leader act in an ethical manner? Would his actions pass
the "newspaper test?" 5
Did the leader consider the implications of his actions on subordinates?
Did the leader's actions promote a sound command climate? Did
he permit and encourage the free flow of information? Did he require that
deviations from standards be reported?
Did the leader enforce established standards? Was the leader able
to effectively discipline? Was he fair and decisive?
Senior leadership actions (or lack thereof) will be addressed using a
chronological approach and the Leader--Follower--Situation framework
outlined by Hughes, Ginnett, and Curphy in "Leadership: Enhancing
the Lessons of Experience", a textbook used at the Untied States
Air Force Academy.
Key Concepts: Airmanship, Rogue Aviators,
Leadership, and the Culture of Compliance
At a gut level, most aviators can determine reasonable from unreasonable
courses of action, regardless of the nature of the mission. This quality
is referred to as judgment or airmanship. From the
beginning of an aviator's training, he or she is taught that "flexibility
is the key to airpower" and is given considerable latitude in
employing methods for accomplishing mission objectives. This is one of
the major strengths of airpower and should not be changed. But there are
also those aviators, usually of high experience, skill, and confidence,
who see this built in flexibility as a chaotic environment which may be
manipulated for their own ends--often with tragic results. These rogue
aviators are usually popular and respected, possess considerable
social skills, and have learned what rules they can break, when, and with
whom. They are usually perceived much differently by superiors than by
peers or subordinates. This level of sophistication makes the direct oversight
role of the supervisor more difficult, and the role of effective command
climate more important. What the leader may not recognize as an individual,
must be identified for him by the organization. Further, upon
this recognition, the leader must act. Failure to act after the
organization has fulfilled it's role in identifying a problem, leads to
a deterioration of faith in the system by subordinates,
who now feel that their input is of little value. A culture of compliance
must be inculcated and constantly nurtured to prevent the downward
spiral into disaster, such as occurred at Fairchild Air Force Base in
June of 1994.
The culture of compliance was certainly not in place at Fairchild AFB
in the three years preceding the crash of Czar 52. In this case study,
the signs of trouble were present early and often. A pattern of negative
activity could be found in complaints from other crewmembers, maintenance
problems from over-stressing or exceeding aircraft limitations, and stories
of the Lt Col Holland's grand accomplishments and plans that circulated
throughout the crew force. After reviewing the history contained in the
testimonies, one suspects that an energetic historian could find earlier
signs of Lt Col Bud Holland's departure from the aviators' "straight
and narrow" path of regulatory compliance, but for our purposes we
will limit the analysis to the period between 1991 and June of 1994.
By the summer of 1994, the entire Fairchild culture was caught up in
the activities of a single B-52 pilot. Red flags of warning were abundant--
and yet those who could act did not do so, in spite of recommendations
to ground Bud Holland. As one B-52 crewmember said about the accident,
"You could see it, hear it, feel it, and smell it coming. We were
all just trying to be somewhere else when it happened." 6
Section Two: The Players
There were many individuals involved with this story. This section introduces
the reader to Lt Col Holland and the command staff at Fairchild AFB during
the period of this analysis. The remainder of the personnel will be discussed
as they fit into the narrative.
Lt Col Bud Holland
Lt Col Arthur "Bud" Holland was the Chief of the 92d Bombardment
Wing Standardization and Evaluation Section at Fairchild Air Force Base.
This position made him responsible for the knowledge and enforcement of
academic and in-flight standards for the wing's flying operations. By
nearly any measuring stick, Bud Holland was a gifted stick and rudder
pilot. With over 5,200 hours of flying time and a perfect 31-0 record
on checkrides, Lt Col Holland had flown the B-52G and H Models since the
beginning of his flying career in March of 1971.7
He was regarded by many as an outstanding pilot, perhaps the best in the
entire B-52 fleet. He was an experienced instructor pilot and had served
with the Strategic Air Command's lst Combat Evaluation Group (CEVG), considered
by many aviators to be the "top of the pyramid." But between
1991 and June of 1994, a pattern of poor airmanship began to surface.
Perhaps his reputation as a gifted pilot influenced the command staff,
who allowed this pattern of behavior to continue. The following were typical
comments from Lt Col Holland's superiors:
"Bud is as good as a B-52 aviator as I have seen." 8
"Bud was ... very at ease in the airplane ... a situational awareness
type of guy. - - among the most knowledgeable guys I've flown with in
"Bud was probably the best B-52 pilot that I know in the wing and
probably one of the best, if not the best within the command. He also
has a lot of experience in the CEVG which was the Command Stan Eval ...
and he was very well aware of the regulations and the capabilities
of the airplane (emphasis added)." 10
A far different perspective on Lt Col Holland's flying is seen in statements
by more junior crewmembers, who were required to fly with him on a regular
"There was already some talk of maybe trying some other ridiculous
maneuvers. - - his lifetime goal was to roll the B-52." 11
"I was thinking that he was going to try something again, ridiculous
maybe, at this airshow and possibly kill thousands of people" 12
"I'm not going to fly with him, I think he's dangerous. He's going
to kill somebody some day and it's not going to be me." 13
"(Lt) Col Holland made a joke out of it when I said I would not
fly with him. He came to me repeatedly after that and said 'Hey, we're
going flying Mikie, you want to come with us.' And every time I would
just smile and say, 'No. I'm not going to fly with you." 14
"Lt Col Holland broke the regulations or exceeded the limits ...
virtually every time he flew." 15
The reasons for these conflicting views may never be entirely known,
but hint at a sophisticated approach to breaking the rules that became
a pattern in Lt Col Holland's flying activities. Additionally, some light
can be shed on the issue by looking at the rapid and frequent turnover
of the 92d Bomb Wing senior staff.
The Shifting Command Structure
The 92d Bomb Wing experienced numerous changes to its wing and squadron
leadership during the period from 1991 to 1994. The changes included four
wing commanders, three vice wing commanders, three deputy commanders for
operations/operations group commanders, three assistant deputy commanders
for operations, and five squadron commanders at the 325th BMS. Figures
1 and 2 show a leadership timeline at the 92d Bomb Wing from mid 1990
through mid 1994. Above the timeline are listed the eight significant
events that will be analyzed. As the discussion proceeds, the interaction
between incoming and outgoing members of the staff will be addressed.
Section Three: The Events
Each of the events leading up to the crash of Czar 52 on 24 June 1994
provides insights on leadership performance. We will analyze each event
by providing a synopsis of what occurred, as determined from eyewitness
testimony. Secondly, we will look at the action of the followers, which
were typically (but not always) B-52 air crewmembers. Finally, we will
conclude the analysis of the event with a look at the leader's actions.
This framework, or model for analysis is suggested by leading researchers
for use in the case study approach. 16
It is important to understand that a historical case study cannot provide
definitive guidance for other situations. All situations are unique and
must be defined in terms of their own circumstances. It is hoped, however,
that this discussion will provide some general lessons that may carry
over into other environments.
Situation One: Fairchild AFB Airshow
19 May 1991
Lt Col Holland was the pilot and aircraft commander for the B-52 exhibition
in the 1991 Fairchild AFB air show. During this exhibition, Lt Col Holland
violated several regulations and tech order (T.O. 1B-52G-1-11, a.k.a.
Dash 11) limits of the B-52, by (1) exceeding bank and pitch limits,
and (2) flying directly over the airshow crowd in violation of Federal
Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 91. In addition, a review of a videotape
of the maneuvers leaves one with the distinct impression that the aircraft
may have violated FAR altitude restrictions as well.
Many of the crewmembers who were at Fairchild for the 1991 airshow were
unavailable for interview, but it appears as if there was no large public
or private outcry as a result of the 1991 B-52 exhibition. However, some
aircrew members had already began to lose faith in the system. One B-52
pilot, when asked why more crewmembers didn't speak up about the violations,
said, "The entire wing staff sat by and watched him do it (violate
regulations) in the '91 airshow. What was the sense in saying anything?
They had already given him a license to steal (emphasis added)."
There is no evidence to indicate that commanders at any level took any
action as a result of Lt Col Holland's flight activities. There is no
indication that either the wing commander (Col Weinman) or the deputy
commander for operations (Col Julich) was aware that the profile flown
was in violation of existing MAJCOM regulations or FARS. However, there
can be little doubt that they were both aware that the profile violated
the Dash 11 T. 0. Both men were experienced pilots and were undoubtedly
aware of the bank and pitch limitations of the B-52 in the traffic pattern
environment, which were grossly exceeded as they personally observed the
The Fairchild leadership failed in two major areas. The first was allowing
a command climate in which such a blatant violation of air discipline
could be planned, briefed, and carried out without interference. The fact
that Lt Col Holland planned and briefed a profile that did not meet established
regulatory and Tech Order guidelines suggests a complacent command climate.
J. K. Van Fleet, in "The 22 Biggest Mistakes Managers Make,"
would see this as "a failure to make sure that the job is understood,
supervised, and accomplished." 18
One could argue that this level of oversight was unnecessary, since Lt
Col Holland, as the Chief of wing Stan-Eval, was a senior officer with
a great deal of experience. If this argument is accepted, then the leadership
failed to act decisively after the violations occurred. William Roberts,
in "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun" would see this failure
to act as a lost teaching opportunity. "Chieftains must teach their
Huns what is expected of them. Otherwise, Huns will probably do something
unexpected of them." 19
Simply stated, the wing commander and DO did not know certain things they
should have known (like command regulations on airshows) and did not enforce
standards on violations of regulations that they clearly understood. This
would not be the only lost teaching opportunity.
Interestingly, the wing commander had a reputation for demanding strict
adherence to air discipline. While acting as the commander of a provisional
bomb wing at Andersen AFB, Guam, in GIANT WARRIOR 1990, Colonel Weinman
had been very proactive to prevent low altitude violations during airfield
attack portions of the exercise. After two days of observing aggressive
simulated airfield attacks at Andersen, he remarked, "If we keep
trying to outdo each other every day, there is only one way this is going
to end--with somebody getting killed. The next guy that busts an altitude
will talk to me personally and explain why I shouldn't ground him and
send him home." 20
The author could find no explanation for the apparent disconnect between
what Col Weinman demanded in the provisional wing and what he allowed
to occur at his own airshow.
Situation Two: 325th BMS Change of Command "Fly
12 July 1991
Lt Col Holland was the aircraft commander and pilot for a "fly over"
for a 325th BMS Change of Command ceremony. During the "practice"
and actual fly over, Lt Col Holland accomplished passes that were estimated
to be "as low as 100-200 feet." 21
Additionally, Lt Col Holland flew steep bank turns (greater than 45 degrees)
and extremely high pitch angles, in violation of the Dash 11 Tech Order,
as well as a "wingover"-- a maneuver where the pilot rolls the
aircraft onto its side and allows the nose of the aircraft to fall "through
the horizon" to regain airspeed. The Dash 11 recommends against wingover
type maneuvers because the sideslip may cause damage to the aircraft.
Because most of the 325th BMS personnel were standing at attention in
ranks for the Change of Command ceremony, they did not personally see
the violations as they occurred. Most had to rely on descriptions from
family and friends. The followers were acutely aware, however, that the
senior staff had a ringside seat, and therefore may not have felt the
need to report or complain about a situation that their leaders had witnessed
This time the leadership was forced to take action. The ADO (Col Capotosti)
went to the DO (Col Julich) and remarked "We can't have that, we
can't tolerate things like that, we need to take action for two reasons--it's
unsafe and we have a perception problem with the young aircrews."
22 Evidence indicates
that Lt Col Holland may have been debriefed and possibly verbally reprimanded
by either (or both) the DO and wing commander. However, Lt Col Harper,
the outgoing Bomb Squadron commander stated, "No overt punishment
that I know of, ever occurred from that (the Change of Command flyover)."
Failures in oversight, an ineffective command climate, and a lack of
continuity between words and disciplinary actions earmarked the leadership
response to this situation. As in the previous situation, the flyover
plan was developed, briefed, and executed without intervention. The flyover
for a change of command required approval by the USAF Vice Chief of Staff.
24 No such approval
was requested or granted. Although the senior staff was spurred to action
by the magnitude of the violations, the response appeared to be little
more than a slap on the wrist, a point certainly not missed by other flyers
in the wing.
Situation Three: Fairchild Air Show
17 May 1992
Lt Col Holland flew the B-52 exhibition at the Fairchild Air Show. The
profile flown included several low altitude steep turns in excess of 45
degrees of bank, and a high speed pass down the runway. At the completion
of the high speed pass, Lt Col Holland accomplished a high pitch angle
climb, estimated at over 60 degrees nose high. At the top of the climb,
the B-52 leveled off using a wingover maneuver. 25
Once again, perhaps because the senior staff were eyewitnesses to the
violations, the junior crewmembers kept their opinions on the flyby to
themselves. A B-52 pilot remarked, "I was amazed that they (the senior
staff) let him keep doing that. Getting away with it once you could understand,
you know -- forgiveness is easier to get than permission. But this was
the third time in less than a year." 26
The wing commander was Col Ruotsala and the Deputy Commander for Operations
(DO) was Col Julich. The DO was TDY during the airshow planning sessions
from January to April 1992, and was to leave for another assignment within
a month after the airshow. 27
The Assistant Deputy Commander for Operations (ADO), Col Capotosti, did
not take part in any of the airshow planning due to a family emergency.
28 As a result, the
normal command structure was not in place for the planning phase of the
airshow. The ADO, Col Capotosti, was to move up to DO a week after the
air show. He was upset by the lack of Lt Col Holland's air discipline
and told his wife "This will never happen again. In seven days, I'll
be the DO. Lt Col Holland will never fly another airshow as long as I
am the DO." 29
After he took over as DO, Col Capotosti "took Holland in and told
him to his face, behind closed doors, 'If you go out and do a violation
and I become aware of it, I will ground you permanently." 30
Although Col Capotosti began to keep a folder on flyover and airshow regulations,
there was no documentation of the reprimand or counseling given to Lt
Col Holland in any form.
A lack of attention to detail, failure to adequately discipline, and
a failure to document counseling, were the primary leadership failures
at this juncture. Once again, the required waivers were not obtained for
the B-52 demonstration. The wing commander stated "I guess I assumed
that it had been approved because there are a lot of other flyovers, or
flying events ... and it was all kind of bunched up into one approval
for the event." 31
This was an incorrect assumption. The outgoing DO took no disciplinary
action, perhaps feeling that the new DO would handle the situation. The
incoming DO's statement that "this will never happen again"
was soon to be qualified with "as long as I'm the DO." Perhaps
more significant was the fact that the counseling sessions which apparently
occurred after the last incident (Change of Command flyover, 12
July 91), were apparently not passed on to the new DO. If there had been
any implied or stated threats to Lt Col Holland after the last event,
such as "If you do this again, you are grounded." they were
not passed along. This left the new DO at "step one" in the
disciplinary process. By this time, the credibility of the senior staff
had been severely damaged, and the DO's verbal reprimand most likely sounded
hollow to Lt Col Holland, who had been verbally reprimanded by the wing
commander for similar violations the previous July. Apparently, the senior
staff at the 92d Bomb Wing was unwilling to take preventative disciplinary
action, even after three public displays of intentional and blatant deviations
from regulations and Technical Orders. Further deterioration of airmanship
should not have come as a surprise.
Situation Four: Global Power Mission
14-15 April 1993
Lt Col Holland was the mission commander of a two-ship GLOBAL POWER mission
to the bombing range in the Medina de Farallons, a small island chain
off the coast of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. While in command of this mission,
Lt Col Holland flew a close visual formation with another B-52 in order
to take close up pictures. 32
This type of maneuver was prohibited by Air Combat Command (ACC) regulations.
33 Later in the mission,
Lt Col Holland permitted a member of his crew to leave the main crew compartment
and work his way back to the bomb bay to take a video of live munitions
being released from the aircraft. This was also in violation of current
The members of the crews on this GLOBAL POWER mission participated in
the unauthorized activities that took place. When questioned as to why
they did this, several crewmembers testified that Lt Col Holland told
them that the wing commander, Brigadier General Richards, had instructed
him to do "whatever you need to do, to get good pictures." 35
The pictures and video which resulted were clear and unequivocal evidence
that regulations had been broken.
After the mission, the 325th BMS commander, Lt Col Bullock, became aware
of the video. One crewmember testified that the squadron commander attempted
to coerce him into taking a job as the wing scheduler by using the videotape
as "blackmail." 36
The crewmember was so upset with this development that he went to the
base Judge Advocate General (JAG) to file a complaint, but was told "he
could not win." 37
Lt Col Bullock denies these events took place and states that "no
one told him specifically" that illegal events had taken place on
the flight. 38 The
same crewmember later showed the video to the Deputy Operations Group
Commander (ADO), Lt Col Harper, who advised him, "I would not show
any of this" relating to certain sequences of the video tape which
he (Lt Col Harper) felt were in violation of regulations. 39
When the DO was made aware of the presence of the potentially incriminating
video he allegedly responded "Okay, I don't want to know anything
about that video -- I don't care." 40
The entire episode began with Lt Col Holland's impression that he was
given "some orders (presumably from the wing commander) to basically
free-style to get good photographs and video ... to make the presentation
(of the wing's accomplishments) more spectacular." 41
For the first time, the wing leadership was confronted with "hard
copy" evidence of wrong doing on the part of Lt Col Holland. Yet
there was apparently no attempt at any level to interview the crewmembers
or to reprimand the guilty parties. If the story of blackmail is true,
the actions of the squadron commander were dearly unethical and possibly
illegal. If they were not true, he still did not enforce existing standards
and regulations. The ADO, by his own admission, was aware that illegal
activities had taken place during the flight. He claims to have advised
the DO of the problem, which the DO denies. In either case, no disciplinary
action was taken as a result of this episode. If the DO actually stated
"I don't want to know anything about that video--I don't care"
he was clearly complacent and failed in his leadership role by not enforcing
standards, as well as inhibiting communications. The wing commander may
not have been involved at all in this case, as he denies that he ever
told Lt Col Holland to "do what it takes to get good pictures."
Once again there was no disciplinary action taken or any documentation
Perhaps the most disturbing part of this situation is that it shows at
least three examples of military officers telling lies, an unpardonable
breech of integrity. Either the blackmail incident occurred or it did
not, either the ADO informed the DO of the problem or he did not, and
either the wing commander told Lt Col Holland to "do what it takes"
or he did not. It is unlikely that the individuals involved would have
forgotten or misinterpreted these events, making it highly likely that
several officers lied while testifying to the investigating authority.
Integrity--the cornerstone of officership, was clearly lacking at, or
within, all three levels of command.
Situation Five: Fairchild Air Show
8 August 1993
Lt Col Holland flew the B-52 exhibition for the 1993 Fairchild air show.
The profile included steep turns of greater than 45 degrees of bank, low
altitude passes, and a high pitch maneuver which one crewmember estimate
to be 80 degrees nose high--ten degrees shy of completely vertical. Each
of these three maneuvers exceeded technical order guidance. As was the
case in previous air shows, Air Combat Command approval was required,
but was neither requested or granted.
By now, the crewmembers of the 325th BMS had grown accustomed to Lt Col
Holland's air show routine. But a more insidious effect of his ability
to consistently break the rules with apparent impunity, was manifested
in younger, less skilled crewmembers. In one example, Captain Nolan Elliot,
a B-52 Aircraft Commander who had seen several of Lt Col Holland's performances
attempted to copy the "pitch-up" maneuver at an airshow in Camloops,
Canada--with near disastrous results. 42
The navigator on this flight said "we got down to seventy
knots and ... felt buffeting" during the recovery from the pitch
up. 43 At
seventy knots, the B-52 is in a aerodynamically stalled condition and
is no longer flying. Only good fortune or divine intervention, prevented
a catastrophic occurrence in front of the Canadian audience. A second
example occurred at Roswell, New Mexico, when a new Aircraft Commander
was administratively grounded for accomplishing a maneuver he had seen
Bud Holland do at an air show. "It was a flaps down, turning maneuver
in excess of 60 degrees of bank, close to the ground." His former
instructor said of the event "I was appalled to hear that somebody
I otherwise respected would attempt that. The site commander was also
appalled, and sat the man down and administered corrective training."
44 The bad example
set by Col Holland had begun to be emulated by junior and impressionable
officers, and had resulted in one near disaster and an administrative
action against a junior officer. This was precisely what Col Capotosti
had feared when he warned the DO about Holland's influence on younger
crewmembers in July of 1991.
There was no disciplinary action taken at any level of command as a result
of the 1993 airshow.
The response to this event from the wing commander, Brigadier General
Richards, sheds some light on the nature of the overall leadership problem
at Fairchild AFB. In testimony after the crash in June of 94, Richards
said of Lt Col Holland, "he never acted ... anything other than totally
professional ... nothing I saw or knew about when I was at Fairchild
led me to any other belief (emphasis added) about Bud Holland."
45 This testimony
was from a Wing Commander who personally witnessed Lt Col Holland's flagrant
and willful tech order and regulatory violations at his own 1993 air show.
Regarding the '93 air show, BG Richards went on to state "I made
it absolutely clear that everything that was going to be done in this
demonstration was going to have to be on the up and up and in accordance
with tech order and in accordance with the regulations ... and
I was sure that it was (emphasis added)." 46
It is interesting to note, that the site commander at Roswell, New Mexico
immediately recognized a high bank maneuver by a B-52 as a violation of
tech order guidance, and took administrative action against the offender.
What was going on at Fairchild? Did the Wing Commander not know or understand
the tech orders or regulations? Was he misinformed? BG Richards states
he looked to the DO, Col Pellerin for guidance. 47
Col Pellerin states he looked to his Chief of Stan-Eval, Lt Col Holland
for guidance -- and so the demonstration proceeded under the guidance
of an aviator who already had been verbally reprimanded (perhaps twice)
for willful violations and poor airmanship. 48
A B-52 pilot interviewed about this state of affairs, said "it was
worse than the blind leading the blind. It was more like the spider
and the fly" referring to the abilities of Lt Col Holland to bend
the leadership to his will. 49
Although there was a new DO in place, Col Pellerin did not take any more
forceful action than did any of his predecessors. In fact, there was no
verbal reprimand or counseling given to Lt Col Holland, as there had been
in the past airshows. He may have seen this as another signal of the senior
leadership's acquiescence to his brand of airmanship.
Situation Six: Yakima Bombing Range
10 March 1994
Lt Col Holland was the aircraft commander on a single ship mission to
the Yakima Bombing Range to drop practice munitions and provide an authorized
photographer an opportunity to shoot pictures of the B-52 from the ground
as it conducted its bomb runs. Lt Col Holland flew the aircraft well
below the established 500 foot minimum altitude for the low level
training route. In fact, one crossover was photographed at less than 30
feet, and another crewmember estimated that the final ridgeline crossover
was "somewhere in the neighborhood of about three feet"
(emphasis added) above the ground, and that the aircraft would have impacted
the ridge if he had not intervened and pulled back on the yoke to increase
the aircraft's altitude. The photographers stopped filming because "they
thought we were going to impact . . . and they were ducking out of the
way." 50 Lt
Col Holland also joined an unbriefed formation of A-10 fighter aircraft
to accomplish a flyby over the photographer. This mission violated ACC
Regulations regarding minimum altitudes, FAR Part 91 and Air Force Regulation
(AFR) 60-16, regarding overflight of people on the ground. There were
several occasions during the flight where other crewmembers verbally voiced
their opposition to the actions being taken by Lt Col Holland. Following
the flight, these same crewmembers went up the squadron chain of command
with their story and stated they would not fly with Lt Col Holland again.
During the flight, crewmembers strongly verbalized their concerns about
the violations of air discipline and regulations. At one point, Lt Col
Holland reportedly called the radar navigator "a pussy" when
he would not violate regulations and open the bomb doors for a photograph
with live weapons on board. On another occasion, following a low crossover,
the navigator told Lt Col Holland that the altitudes he was flying was
But the real hero on this flight was Capt Eric Jones, a B-52 instructor
pilot who found himself in the copilot seat with Lt Col Holland during
the low level portion of the flight. On this day, it would take all of
his considerable skills, wits, and guile, to bring the aircraft safely
back to Fairchild. After realizing that merely telling Lt Col Holland
that he was violating regulations and that he (Capt Jones) was uncomfortable
with that, was not going to work, Capt Jones feigned illness to get a
momentary climb to a higher altitude. Capt Jones also said he needed training
and flew a few more passes. But in the end it was once again Lt Col Holland
at the controls. The following is Capt Jones recollection of the events
that took place then:
We came around and (Lt) Col Holland took us down to 50 feet. I told
him that this was well below the clearance plane and that we needed
to climb. He ignored me. I told him (again) as we approached the ridge
line. I told him in three quick bursts 'climb-climb-climb.' .
. I didn't see any clearance that we were going to clear the top
of that mountain ... It appeared to me that he had target fixation.
I said 'climb-climb-climb.' again, he did not do it. I
grabbed ahold of the yoke and I pulled it back pretty abruptly ... I'd
estimate we had a cross over around 15 feet . . . The radar navigator
and the navigator were verbally yelling or screaming, reprimanding (Lt)
Col Holland and saying that there was no need to fly that low ... his
reaction to that input was he was laughing--I mean a good belly laugh.
Following the low level portion of the mission at the Yakima Range, the
crew was scheduled to fly another low level at a different route.
Capt Jones convinced Lt Col Holland that the other copilot on the flight
needed some training. When Lt Hollis climbed in the seat with Capt Jones
(replacing Lt Col Holland at the other set of controls) Capt Jones "told
Lt Hollis that he was not to get out of the seat again, (even if ) Col
Holland ordered him to." 53
Upon returning from the mission, the crewmembers discussed the events
among themselves and came to the conclusion that they would not fly with
Lt Col Holland again. Capt Jones reports, "I vowed to them that never
again would they or myself be subjected to fly with him. That if it required
it, I would be willing to fall on my sword to ensure that didn't happen."
The next day, Captain Jones reported the events to Major Don Thompson,
the squadron operations officer stating "I did not ever want to fly
with Lt Col Holland again, even if it meant that I couldn't fly anymore
as an Air Force pilot." 54
Major Thompson told Captain Jones that he didn't think it would come to
that, because he "was joining a group of pilots in the squadron who
had also made the same statement." 55
The staff at the squadron level began to take action when Captain Jones
reported the events to Major Thompson, the squadron Ops officer. Major
Thompson had also already seen a video tape taken from the ground during
the photography session the previous day and was aware of the severity
and degree of the infractions. Although he was admittedly a good friend
of Bud Holland, Major Don Thompson had seen enough. He immediately went
to the Squadron Commander, Lt Col Mark McGeehan. Major Thompson recalls,
"I had an intense gut feeling that things were getting desperate
... I said 'I feel like I'm stabbing a friend in the back. I like (Lt)
Col Holland but we need to remove him from flying. That Yakima flight
needs to be his fini-flight.' I guess I was just trying to protect Bud
Holland from Bud Holland." 56
The Squadron Commander concurred with his Ops officer, but it was agreed
that in order to restrict the wing Chief of Stan-Eval from flying, the
order would have to come from the DO. Lt Col Mark McGeehan went to see
Col Pellerin. At the meeting, Lt Col McGeehan laid the facts on the table
and made his recommendation to ground Bud Holland. The DO thanked him
and said he would get back to him with a decision after he had heard the
other side of the story. Colonel Pellerin consulted with Lt Col
Holland and was told that he (Holland) was just trying to demonstrate
aircraft capabilities to the more junior crewmembers. Lt Col Holland was
verbally reprimanded by Col Pellerin (undocumented) and promised not to
break any more regulations in the future. The DO then called a meeting
with Lt Col Holland and Lt Col McGeehan to announce his decision. He informed
them both that he had reprimanded Lt Col Holland but that he had decided
against any restriction on his flying. At that point, Lt Col McGeehan
made a decision to restrict his crews from flying with Lt Col Holland
unless he was in the aircraft. According to his wife "Mark said afterwards
that he knew that he was not going to let (Lt) Col Holland fly with anybody
else unless he was in the airplane ... that he was going to be flying
whenever Bud flew." 57
He was true to his word.
The squadron leadership at the 325th BMS performed admirably. After acquiring
the facts and evidence, the squadron senior staff reached a logical conclusion
and made an ethical and appropriate decision. They attempted to use the
chain of command to enforce established standards and upchannelled the
information to the appropriate level. After the decision of the DO was
rendered, they saluted smartly and went about taking actions that were
within their purview, in an attempt to do what they could to keep everyone
There were two apparent failures at the DO level. First, Col Pellerin
did not obtain all of the available information. He did not view the videotape
of the event, and he did not contact previous senior wing leaders to ascertain
if Lt Col Holland had a history of airmanship problems. This leadership
error was not unique in the history of the 92d Bomb Wing. When confronted
with clear evidence of willful violations of regulations, Colonel Pellerin
did not take proactive action to prevent a reoccurrence. Once again,
the unrecorded verbal reprimand was the extent of the disciplinary action.
By failing to take further action, the DO had set the stage for a
bizarre and dangerous situation. Two men (Lt Cols McGeehan and Holland)
who were professionally at odds, were to be paired in the cockpit for
the next several months. Lt Col McGeehan had confided in his wife that
he did not trust Bud Holland to fly with his aircrews. Captain Eric Jones
related the following encounter with Lt Col Holland (after the DO's decision):
I was sitting there and he came over and said "That little f---
er," referring to Lt Col McGeehan, "tried to get me grounded.
But I solved that, the three of us." And Lt Col Holland told me,
speaking directed at Lt Col McGeehan, that he didn't respect him as
a man, as a commander, or as a pilot. Apparently Lt Col McGeehan had
said something about him being dangerous and Lt Col Holland indicated
that he told him that he was just a "weak dick." 58
The DO had not adequately considered the implications of his actions
when he allowed Bud Holland to continue to fly. Within his Operations
Group there was, in essence, a small mutiny going on. Many of the crewmembers
were no longer willing to fly with his Chief of Standards and Evaluation,
even under orders. He had alienated his Bomb squadron commander,
who was now having to spend time tracking the flying schedule of Bud Holland,
to ensure that his crewmembers were not put in the unenviable position
of choosing between risking their careers or risking their lives. The
DO's last error was that he failed to pass either the information or his
decision up to the wing commander, Colonel Brooks, who remained unaware
of the entire situation.
The Command Climate at
Fairchild AFB in Early 1994
The Yakima mission brought to a head many emotions that had been lying
beneath the surface at Fairchild. In addition to the problems in the Operations
Group, the antics of Bud Holland were being discussed by the officer's
wives, civilians, and even on the high school playground.
The rift that existed between Lt Col McGeehan and Lt Col Holland extended
beyond the men themselves. A B-52 aircraft commander stated "Everybody
was lining up on one side or the other, Bud had his groupies, and then
there were the rest of us." 59
The effects and strain was also felt by Lt Col McGeehan's wife Jodi, who
related a conversation she had with Bud Holland's wife, Sarah Ann. "I
was at Donna Pellerin's going away luncheon and I never really had a chance
to meet Sarah in the whole year . . . somebody mentioned something about
one of the airshows, and Sarah Ann just turned to me and she said 'You
know, there is not anybody that could do anything to stop my husband from
flying the way he wants to fly." 60
The children were no more exempt from the controversy than were the wives.
Patrick McGeehan, Mark and Jodi's oldest son came home from school one
day extremely angry at Victoria Harper, the daughter of the Lt Col Steve
Harper, the Deputy Operations Group Commander. When his mother asked him
why he was so upset he replied, "well all year long she just kept
telling me that the best pilot in the squadron was Colonel Bud Holland
... it annoyed me, but the thing that really annoys me the most now is
that she said that if anybody is going to roll the B-52, Bud Holland is
going to be the one to do it, and I can just see him doing it some day."
There is also some evidence to suggest that the local civilian community
was aware of the controversy swirling around Lt Col Holland's flying practices.
One civilian complained to the local TV news that a B-52 was in 60 to
70 degrees of bank over the local supermarket in Airway Heights. 62
But it was the crew force morale that was most effected. Captain Shawn
Fleming, an B-52 instructor pilot and a weapons school graduate, was an
opinion leader within the squadron, and summed up the feelings many 325th
BMS aviators had about Lt Col Holland's airmanship, and the wing leadership's
actions related to it.
Everybody had a Col Holland scare story. Col Holland was kind of like
a crazy aunt ... the parents say "Ignore her" . . . and the
hypocrisy was amazing. For him to be in the position of the Chief of
Standardization ... is unconscionable. When Col Holland did something
... he's patted on the back by the leadership, "Good Show."
What's the crew force supposed to learn from that? You got the "He's
about to retire" (and) "That's Bud Holland, he has more hours
in the B-52 than you do sleeping." Yeah, he might have that many
hours, but he became complacent, reckless, and willfully violated regulations.
By June 1994, the command climate at Fairchild Air Force Base was one
of distrust and hostility. "Everybody was just trying to get out
of here." 64
In spite of these facts, Lt Col Holland was selected by Col Pellerin to
perform the 1994 airshow. "It was a non-issue,"' Pellerin said.
"'Bud was Mr. Airshow."
Situation Seven: Air Show Practice
17 June 1994
Lt Col Holland and the accident crew flew the first of two scheduled
practice sessions for the 1994 airshow. The profile was exactly the same
as the accident mission except that two profiles were flown. Once again
they included large bank angles and high pitch climbs in violation of
ACC regulations and technical order guidance. The wing commander, Col
Brooks, had directed that the bank angles be limited to 45 degrees and
the pitch to 25 degrees. These were still in excess of regulations and
technical order guidance. Both profiles flown during this practice exceeded
the wing commander's stated guidance. However, at the end of the practice
session, Col Pellerin, the DO, told the wing commander that "the
profile looks good to him; looks very safe, well within parameters."
Because the 325th BMS was scheduled to close, most of the bomb squadron
crewmembers had already been transferred to new assignments. But those
that remained were not comfortable with the situation. In fact, one of
the squadron navigators refused to fly the airshow if Lt Col Holland was
going to be flying. This required the ranking navigator in the 325th BMS,
Lt Col Huston, to be the navigator for the airshow and practice missions.
66 Major Thompson,
the squadron Operations Officer was also uneasy. "I had this fear
that he was again going to get into the airshow . . . that he was going
to try something again, ridiculous maybe and kill thousands of people."
It wasn't just the flyers that were getting nervous. Lt Col (Dr) Robert
Grant, the 92d Air Refueling Squadron Flight Surgeon, was told by a crewmember
during a routine appointment, that he refused to fly with Lt Col Holland.
This, coupled with a concern that Lt Col Holland was scheduled to fly
in the 1994 airshow, led Dr. Grant to take his concerns to both the 92d
Bomb Wing Chief of Safety, Lt Col Mike McCullough, and to Dr. Issak, the
Chief of Aeromedical Services at Fairchild. The Chief of Safety told Dr.
Grant that "Lt Col Holland was a good pilot and that the maneuvers
had been done before." 68
Dr. Issak did not pursue the issue after he learned that Dr. Grant had
spoken to the wing safety officer. 69
Major Theresa Cochran, the nurse manager in emergency services, attended
an airshow planning session in which Lt Col Holland briefed that he planned
to fly 65 degree bank turns. The wing commander quickly told him that
he would be limited to 45 degrees maximum. Major Cochran recalls Lt Col
Holland's response in a prophetic discussion between her and a co-worker
who was also in attendance at the planning session.
Colonel Holland's initial reaction was to brag that he could crank
it pretty tight ... he said he could crank it tight and pop up starting
at 200 (knots). Bob and I looked at each other, and Bob is going, "He's
f---ed.", and I said "I just hope he crashes on Friday, not
Sunday, so I will not have so many bodies to pick up." . . those
words did return to haunt me. 70
During the planning session briefing on June 15, Lt Col Holland briefed
using overhead slides (see Appendix). As the briefing progressed, Col
Brooks, the wing commander, made clear that (1) there would be no formation
flight, (2) bank angles would be limited to 45 degrees, and (3) that pitch
angles would be limited to 25 degrees. 71
Although the slides and briefing clearly indicated that a part of the
demonstration would include a "wingover," there was curiously
no discussion on this point. Although Lt Col Holland was clearly not pleased
with the wing commander's guidance, there is no doubt that he left the
briefing with an understanding of what the commander's guidance was. During
the practice mission, the commander's guidance was repeatedly violated,
but was not reported as such by Col Pellerin, the DO to the wing commander.
The wing commander had only personally witnessed a small portion of the
practice, because he was at a rehearsal for a retirement ceremony for
the outgoing Base Commander. Lt Col Ballog, who was serving as the Commander
of Troops on the parade field at this rehearsal, recalls Col Brooks making
a negative comment about the portion of the airshow practice that he was
able to see. "The comment was basically, that this was not supposed
to be happening ... not a part of the agenda . . that he (Lt Col Holland)
was too low and banking over too hard ... which were contrary to guidance
that had been put out." 72
In spite of this personal observation, no action was taken following the
report of "well within parameters" by the DO upon landing from
the practice session.
Once again, there was incongruity between senior leadership words and
actions. After stating that certain safety criteria (which still exceeded
regulatory and T.O. guidance) regarding bank and pitch angles would be
followed, the senior leadership personally witnessed the violations. The
DO witnessed them from the aircraft and the wing commander witnessed them
from the ground. Both undoubtedly knew that the deviations were intentional.
Lt Col Holland's unquestioned flying skills ruled out the possibility
that these overbanks and excess pitch angles were simply slip ups or errors.
Yet no action was taken.
It appears that at this point, the leadership had given up on enforcing
standards with regards to Lt Col Holland. Further, they appeared to be
unable to read an atmosphere of impending disaster that permeated nearly
every aspect of the 92d Bomb Wing.
|On Monday, the 20th of June, disaster did strike
Fairchild AFB, but it was not the one that is the focus of this analysis.
A lone gunman entered the base hospital and killed several Air Force
members before being shot and killed by a security police officer
responding to the scene. Understandably, the airshow and all preparations
for it were immediately put on hold. After some discussion, it was
determined that going ahead with the airshow would aid in the healing
process of the personnel still at the base, and so another practice
session was scheduled for the morning of 24 June.
On that morning, Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall and United
States Congressman Tom Foley visited the base, so the takeoff for the
practice session was delayed until the afternoon. At 1335 Pacific Daylight
Time (PDT), Czar 52 taxied to runway 23 for departure. At 1416 PDT, the
aircraft impacted the ground killing all aboard.
Section Four: Conclusions and Implications
Leadership exists in direct proportion to the degree to which subordinates
are willing to follow. Leadership is a social phenomenon When followers
cease to follow, leaders cease to lead. This is true even if the "leaders"
hold high military ranks and fill positions of great power and responsibility.
To a large degree, this was what had occurred within the 92d Bomb Wing
at Fairchild AFB in the early 1990s. Describing what occurred is
interesting and insightful, but determining why it occurred is
absolutely essential if we are to avoid similar catastrophes in the future.
Using the questions posed in Section One of this study, the following
conclusions were reached.
Followers stopped following.
Just as "up" has no meaning without the concept of "down,"
leadership must be defined in terms of followership. On an individual
basis, Lt Col Holland refused to follow written regulations and B-52 tech
orders, as well as ignoring the verbal orders and guidance given by the
Wing Commanders and DOs. Even when verbal reprimands and counseling sessions
focused on the specific problem of airmanship, he steadfastly refused
to follow their guidance. At one point, only weeks prior to the accident,
he clearly stated his feelings on the issue of guidance from senior officers.
I'm going to fly the airshow and yeah, I may have someone senior
in rank flying with me, - - . he may be the boss on the ground,
but I'm the boss in the air and I'll do what I want to do. 74
The aircrews quickly perceived this as an integrity problem within the
leadership. The flyers, and eventually other members in the wing, simply
lost faith in the leadership's ability to deal with the problem. Capt
Brett Dugue summed up the crewmember's frustration this way. "You've
got to be kidding me, if they allowed him to fly a 50 foot fly-by at a
change of command, do you think me telling anybody about him flying low
at IR 300 is going to do any good?" 75
As a result of this loss of faith the aircrews began to employ other survival
techniques, such as feigning illness and openly refusing to fly with Lt
The lesson learned and implication for current and future commanders
is that trust is built by congruence between word and deed at all levels.
Subordinates are quick to pick up on any disconnect. They are closer
to the action, have more time on their hands, and love to analyze their
leaders. Retired Air Force General Perry Smith writes, "Without trust
and mutual respect among leaders and subordinate leaders, a large organization
will suffer from a combination of poor performance and low morale."
76 He was right on
target in this case.
Standards were not enforced.
A rogue aviator was allowed, for over three years, to operate with a
completely different set of rules than those applied to the rest of the
wing aviators. The institutional integrity of the 92d Bomb Wing leadership
was severely damaged by this unwillingness to act. The entire leadership
structure of Fairchild Air Force Base (above the squadron level) appeared
to be operating in a state of denial, hoping for the best until the base
closed or Lt Col Holland retired. Why? Either the wing leadership did
not understand or know that the rules were being violated, or they chose
not to apply them uniformly. The first case illustrates possible negligence
and incompetence; the second hints at a lack of integrity.
In the words of retired army Lt General Calvin Waller, "Bad news
doesn't improve with age." 77
Leaders must act upon information or evidence of noncompliance.
If they elect not to act, they should communicate their reasons for not
doing so. Failure to do either invites second guessing and criticism,
often eroding the critical element of trust between the leader and the
led. Leaders must also learn to recognize the traits of the rogue aviator,
for while Lt Col Holland stood out like a beacon, many others still operate
today to a lesser degree.
A key position was filled with the wrong person.
Selecting an aviator who exercised poor airmanship as the Chief of Stan
Eval was a poor choice, but leaving him there after multiple flagrant
and willful violations of regulations sent an extremely negative message
to the rest of the wing flyers. Individuals who hold key positions are
looked up to as role models by junior crewmembers. They must be removed
if they cannot maintain an acceptable standard of professionalism. Even
if Lt Col Holland had not crashed, the damage he had done through his
bad example of airmanship is incalculable. Not only did many young officers
see his lack of professionalism as a bad example, but they also observed
several senior leaders witness his actions and fail to take any corrective
action. What this said to them about Air Force leadership in general is
uncertain, but in at least one case, it led an otherwise satisfied Air
Force pilot to try civilian life. "I wanted no part of an organization
that would allow that kind of thing to continue for years on end. We (the
crewmembers) pointed it out to them (the leaders) over and over again.
It was always the same response -- nothing. I'd had enough." 78
General Perry Smith states, "Leaders must be willing to remove people
for cause . . . the continued presence of ineffective subordinates, drain
the organization and its capable leaders of the time, energy, and attention
needed to accomplish the mission." 79
He goes on to explain, "If the person is fired for cause, there should
be no question remaining about why the person was fired and that the cause
was an important one." 80
The implication for current and future leaders is simply to select key
personnel carefully, with an understanding that they are role models and
will help shape the personality of the entire organization. If a mistake
is made by selecting the wrong person for a key position, remove that
person if there is cause so that you don't compound the original error.
The senior leadership positions did not speak with
That is to say that when an individual Wing Commander or DO issued an
ultimatum, like "If you do this again, I will ground you," they
did not pass this information along to their replacement. Consequently,
new commanders were left having to deal with the problem as if were new.
Lt Col Holland undoubtedly viewed this situation like a "get out
of jail free" card, a new commander or DO equaled a fresh start.
While outgoing leaders didn't fulfill their responsibility to inform new
commanders, incoming commanders didn't ask the right questions.
One recommended technique when there is little or no overlap of commanders,
is for the outgoing leader to make an audio tape and file for the incoming
leader detailing any problem areas or "skeletons in the closet"
that would lend continuity to an organization during the crucial transition
period. 81 In any
case, critical information must be passed along to preserve the "corporate
memory" and integrity of a command position.
Leaders did not keep open channels of communication.
In some cases, the problem was blatant and obvious, such as the DO who
told a subordinate "I don't want to know about any video. I don't
care," after the Global Power mission. In other cases it was more
subtle. The fact that the DO did not inform the Wing Commander of the
Yakima Bomb Range issue, with the resultant request for Lt Col Holland's
grounding, begs the question "Why didn't he tell the boss?"
Would the Wing Commander have made the same decision to keep Lt Col Holland
flying? Perhaps the DO did not want to "air dirty laundry" outside
of the Ops Group, or perhaps the Wing Commander was unapproachable with
bad news. These are purely speculative statements, but are mentioned here
to get the reader to analyze similar traits in themselves or leaders they
have worked for, and to emphasize the importance of communication throughout
the chain of command. This is especially important now that there are
Brigadier Generals as wing commanders throughout the Air Force. The flag
rank adds a new factor to the communication equation and can make it much
more difficult for subordinate to feel comfortable bringing the bad news
to the boss.
A Final Perspective
The crash of Czar 52, like most accidents, was part of a chain of events.
These events were facilitated through the failed policies of several senior
leaders at the 92d Bomb Wing. These failures included an inability to
recognize and correct the actions of a single rogue aviator, which eventually
led to an unhealthy command climate and the disintegration of trust between
leaders and subordinates. However, in most aircraft mishaps, the crash
is the final domino to drop in the cause and effect chain of events. In
this case, however, scores of young and impressionable aviators "grew
up" watching a rogue aviator as their role model for over three years.
They remain on active flying status in various Air Force wings, passing
along what they have learned. Because of this, the final domino in this
chain of events may not yet have fallen.
All Endnotes that include Tab numbers, for example "V-21.7,"
refer to the USAF 110-14 Accident Investigation Board Report of the B-52
Mishap at Fairchild AFB, 24 June 1994.
1 Telephone interview with Major Kramer (pseudonym),
16 Dec 94. Pseudonym used for prologue continuity. Actual name withheld
2 Perry M. Smith, Taking Charge: A Practical Guide
for Leaders (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1986)
3 Michael G. McConnell, Col, USAF, "Executive
Summary," AFR 110-14 USAF Accident Investigation Board,
Vol 1 ed.: 1.
4 Medical Statement to the Accident Board from 93rd
Med Group/SGP, 19 Aug 94
5 As a test of ethical soundness, Lt General (Ret)
Waller asked himself the question "If this came out in the newspaper,
could I defend my actions as honorable?"
6 Personal Interview, Captain Pilot who preferred to
remain anonymous, 525th BMS.
7 Aeronautical Order (PA) Aviation Service, 92d Bombardment
Wing, Combat Support Group, IO Mar 89.
8 Col Compotosti, V-3.3.
9 Col Brooks, V-2.8.
10 Col Ruotsala, V-6.3.
11 Major Don Thompson, V-21.4.
12 Major Don Thompson, V-21.7.
13 Captain Brett Dugue', B-52 Aircraft Commander,
14 Captain Mike Meyers, V-32.10.
15 Mr. Al Brown, Former B-52 instructor pilot, V-32.3.
16 Richard L. Hughes, et. al., Leadership: Enhancing
the Lessons of Experience (Homewood, IL: Irwin Publishers, 1993) 66-86.
17 Personal Interview, Captain B-52 Pilot who preferred
to remain anonymous, 525th BS.
18 J. K. Van Fleet, The 22 Biggest Mistakes Managers
Make (West Nyack, N. Y.: Parker, 1973) 9-17.
19 William Roberts, Leadership Secrets of Attila the
Hun (New York: Warner Books, 1985) 61-63.
20 The author was present at the post-mission debriefing
in which this comment was made.
21 Col Capotosti, V-3.5.
22 Col Copotosti, V-3.6.
23 Lt Col Steve Harper, V-5.6.
24 AFR 110-14 Accident Investigation Board, AA-2.7.
25 AFR 110-14 Accident Investigation Board, Vol 1,
Executive Summary, p. 5.
26 Personal Interview, Captain Pilot who preferred
to remain anonymous, 525th BMS.
27 Col Julich, V-7.3.
28 Col Capotosti, V-3-9.
29 Col Capotosti, V-3.10.
30 Col Capotosti, V-3.10.
31 Col Ruotsala, V-6.6.
32 Capt Donnelly, V-26.18.
33 Air Combat Command Message, DTG 281155Z Feb. 94.
34 Capt Donnelly, V-26.20.
35 Capt Donnelly, V-26.19.
36 Capt Donnelly, V-26.23. According to Capt Donnelly,
Lt Col Bullock stated 'This is the blackmail part." and went on
to say that the wing commander knew about the video and wanted to court
martial Capt Donnelly, but he (Lt Col Bullock) stepped in to prevent
it. However, if Capt Donnelly did not take the job in scheduling, Lt
Col Bullock would see to it that the court martial went through. It
was later discovered that the wing commander was unaware of the existence
of the videotape and had no intention of court martialing Capt Donnelly.
37 Capt Donnelly, V-26.26.
38 Lt Col Bullock, V-1 1.7.
39 Capt Donnelly, V-26.26.
40 Capt Donnelly, V-26.29.
41 Capt Donnelly, V-26.32.
42 Capt Donnelly, V-26.12.
43 Capt Donnelly, V-26.12. This airspeed is approximately
80 knots below minimum inflight airspeed for flaps up maneuvering in
the B-52. If the seventy knot figure is accurate, the aircraft had already
stopped flying and the resultant "recovery" was merely a fortunate
pitch down into the recovery cone. The aircraft could just as easily
departed controlled flight.
44 Capt Al Brown, V-32.7.
45 BG Richards, V-1.4.
46 BG Richards, V-1.8.
47 BG Richards, V-1.6.
48 Col Pellerin, V-8.30-31.
49 Personal Interview, Captain B-52 Pilot who preferred
to remain anonymous, 325th BMS.
50 Capt Jones, V-28.8.
51 Capt Jones, V-28.9.
52 Capt Jones, V-28.9.
53 Capt Jones, V-28.1 1.
54 Capt Jones, V-28.13.
55 Capt Jones, V-28.13.
56 Maj Thompson, V-21.7.
57 Mrs Jodi McGeehan, V-33.3.
58 Capt Jones, V-28.18.
59 Personal Interview, Captain B-52 Pilot who preferred
to remain anonymous, 325th BMS.
60 Mrs. Jodi McGeehan, V-33.4.
61 Mrs. Jodi McGeehan, V-33.8.
62 Capt Fleming, V-39.5.
63 Capt Fleming, V-39.7.
64 Personal Interview, Captain B-52 Pilot who preferred
to remain anonymous, 325th BMS.
65 Col Brooks, V-2.23.
66 Maj Thompson, V-21.7.
67 Major Thompson, V-21.7.
68 Dr. Grant V-14.7.
69 Dr. Issak, V-41.
70 Major Cochran, V-1 9.7.
71 Col Brooks, V-2.15-16.
72 Lt Col Ballog, V-9.3.
73 Richard L. Hughes, et. al., Leadership: Enhancing
the Lessons of Experience (Homewood IL: Richard D. Irwin, Inc., 1993)
74 Maj Thompson, V-21.1 0.
75 Capt Dugue, V-25.20.
76 Perry Smith, Taking Charge: A Practical Guide for
Leaders (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1986) 4.
77 Lt Gen (Retired) Calvin Waller, CGSC lecture slides.
78 Former B-52 instructor pilot, name withheld by
79 Perry Smith, Taking Charge: A Practical Guide for
Leaders (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1986) 8.
80 Perry Smith, Taking Charge: A Practical Guide f(-)r
Leaders (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1986) 50.
81 Perry Smith, Taking Charge: A Practical Guide for
Leaders (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1986) 17.
DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Adz. (AFNS) - Air Force Col. William E. Pellerin was
sentenced to forfeit $1,500 per month for five months and to receive a
written reprimand May 22 after being found guilty of two allegations of
dereliction of duty associated with his performance of duty as commander
of the 92nd Operations Group at Fairchild AFB, Wash., last year.
Pellerin had pleaded guilty to the two offenses in a military judge alone
proceeding on May 19. His plea was part of a pretrial agreement in which
he offered to plead guilty to the two offenses in exchange for a third
offense being dismissed and limitations on the amount of punishment which
could be imposed.
By law, the agreed-upon punishment limitations were not disclosed to
the judge until after he announced his own adjudicated sentence. However,
the pretrial agreement's sentence limitation will not affect the judge's
announced sentence, because the judge's sentence did not exceed the agreed
The first dereliction of duty of which Pellerin was found guilty involved
failure to obtain required higher headquarters approvals for aerial maneuvers
and failing to ensure that maximum bank angles were not exceeded in airshow-related
flights. The second dereliction involved failure to make adequate inquiry
into a pilot's qualifications to perform flying duties after becoming
aware of issues concerning the pilot's airmanship and air discipline.
The pilot and crew died in a B-52 crash in 1994 while practicing for
an airshow at Fairchild.
The offense that was dismissed was an allegation that the accused had
been derelict in his duties by failing to remove the pilot from flying
About the Author
Major Tony Kern is a U.S. Air Force pilot with operational experience
in the Rockwell B-1B supersonic bomber, Boeing KC-135 Tanker, and the
Slingsby T-3 Firefly. During his 15-year Air Force career, he has served
in various operational and training capacities including the Chief of
Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) Plans and Programs at the USAF Air Education
and Training Command (AETC). While at AETC, he designed and implemented
a comprehensive, career-spanning CRM training system which has radically
changed the way that human factors training is offered to all Air Force
aviators. Major Kern has been actively engaged in many areas of military
aviation training, including inflight instruction and evaluation, academic
instruction, and curriculum development. He is a published author and
his most recent book Redefining Airmanship (McGraw-Hill 1997) describes
the traits of historical aviation success over the past 90 years. He holds
Masters Degrees in Public Administration and Military History, as well
as the Doctorate in Higher Education from Texas Tech University specializing
in human factors training and curriculum development. He is currently
the Director of Military History at the United States Air Force Academy
and lives with his wife Shari and two sons in Colorado Springs.