A court-martial will begin March 14 for the officer in charge of flight operations at Fairchild Air Force Base when a fiery B-52 crash killed four people.
Col. William Pellerin faces three counts of dereliction of duty stemming from the June 24 crash. He could be discharged from the military and sent to prison for 12 months if found guilty, Air Force officials said Thursday.
The crash occurred during practice for an upcoming air show, killing the crew and destroying the base’s last bomber.
The plane was flying a routine that featured climbs that were too steep and turns that were too sharp to be safe, according to Air Force regulations and the plane’s manufacturer, The Boeing Co.
Pellerin was responsible for overseeing flight operations at the base and flew a practice of the maneuvers a week before the crash.
Charges for the court-martial allege he did not get proper approval for the maneuvers and did not order changes to make the routine safer.
Pellerin also should have grounded the plane’s pilot, Lt. Col. Arthur “Bud” Holland after being told Holland broke air safety rules, the charges allege.
The plane’s co-pilot, Lt. Col. Mark McGeehan, reported Holland for safety violations in the spring, Air Force investigators said after the crash. McGeehan, who was the bomb squadron commander, was serving as co-pilot because he refused to allow any of his subordinates to fly with Holland, investigators were told.
Pellerin should have checked Holland’s record and removed him from flight duty, the charges say.
Air Force investigators said Pellerin recommended the maneuvers be approved by Col. William Brooks, the wing commander. Under Air Force regulations, neither Brooks nor Pellerin had the authority to approve such maneuvers.
Capt. Mike Richmond, a spokesman for 12th Air Force headquarters at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, said the military would not comment on whether Brooks will be given immunity to testify at the court-martial.
“We can’t comment on any specific witness who may or may not be testifying,” Richmond said in a written statement.
The type of immunity usually granted by the military covers only the specific testimony, not blanket immunity for any actions, Richmond said.
The court-martial will take place at Davis-Monthan, which is near Tucson, Ariz. Air Force officials said they could not estimate yet how long it will last.