An Air Force AWACS aircraft out of Tinker Air Force Base. Oklahoma, caught fire while performing touch and goes in Nebraska and was forced to make an emergency landing Thursday night, according to the Air National Guard.
The crew of six onboard the four-engine Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control system plane safely exited using the slide, according to an Air Guard news release. No one was injured.
The aircraft, assigned to the 552nd Air Control Wing, was performing the routine training when an engine fire warning light came on shortly after 7 p.m., according to the news release. While it’s not unusual for the warning light to come on, actual engine fires are rare, the release stated.
The Nebraska Air National Guard fire department responded to the emergency within 30 seconds and put out the fire within 45 seconds, according to the release. The engine kept smoking, but the fire team smothered the smoke within minutes.
“It was almost like a training exercise, where everyone does everything perfect,” said Scott Osander, assistant fire chief, in the release. “They extensively train on situations like this, and they did what they were trained to do. They aircraft crew members onboard the plane did everything correctly in this situation, landed, handed it over to us, and then we did what we were trained to do.”
John Williams, a crew chief with the Nebraska Air National Guard’s fire department, said the emergency reinforced the training the firefighters already do.
“It’s hard to simulate a fire, but we annually train on simulated aircraft fires … doing this training makes this second nature,” Williams added.
“I trust them completely,” Osander said. “It is my job to direct the operations and truck placement and I did not have a lot to do. This team set up on the aircraft just like they are trained to do, they hit the fire and the rescue team got out and pulled the hand line. While they were doing that, another guy checked on the aircrew. Everyone was doing it exactly like they were supposed to. It makes me proud.”
The aircraft was towed to a safe location for an investigation into the cause of the fire. The aircrew was transported to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.