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Fairchild Court-Martial Hinges On Release Of Secret Safety Report

Sat., March 25, 1995

Parts of a secret report on the crash of Fairchild’s last B-52 must be released before the trial of a former commander can begin, a military judge ruled Friday.

Col. James Van Orsdol said he expected a decision from Air Force officials by April 18 on releasing some 50 pages from the report.

The report, by a safety board, is one of two prepared by Air Force investigators after the fatal June 24 crash at Fairchild Air Force Base.

Attorneys for Col. William Pellerin, former operations group commander at Fairchild, want the information to help with his defense in the upcoming court-martial.

Safety board reports are traditionally privileged, and Van Orsdol does not have the authority to release the information.

Van Orsdol’s ruling goes to Lt. Gen. Thomas Griffith, commander of the 12th Air Force, who ordered Pellerin’s court-martial. Griffith must decide whether to forward the ruling to Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall, who has control of the report.

If either Griffith or Widnall refuses to release the report, military rules allow Van Orsdol to dismiss the charges against Pellerin.

The four-member crew died in the crash when the B-52, which had finished practicing maneuvers for an air show, stalled while in a sharply banked turn. As operations commander, Pellerin had flown the maneuvers earlier and recommended they be approved even though they violated Air Force, Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing safety standards.

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