September 22, 1995
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Greg Lefevre
SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Witnesses saw an engine catch fire as the AWACS attempted takeoff. The plane crashed seconds later in thick woods just north of Anchorage. Laden with fuel for a four-hour training mission, the plane burned for hours, sending up a thick plume of smoke seen for miles.
Assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base outside Anchorage, the plane carried a crew of 24. There were no signs of survivors.
AWACS are built on Boeing 707 air frames. Formally called Airborne Warning and Control System, AWACS provide communication and air traffic control. The distinguishing rotating dome turns as the craft circles over the theater.
It was the first AWACS to crash. The Air Force puts the plane's value at $180 million. Boeing stopped making the 707 air frame for AWACS in 1991. It's replacement, on a newer design Boeing 767 air frame, costs $400 million.
So far the United States has not bought any of the new design. Japan has ordered four. Even though this is the first time an AWACS has crashed, it is the latest in a string of Air Force accidents. Before Friday's crash, 29 people had died in Air Force crashes this year.
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