Bystander intervention, Lt. Col. Bud Holland

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jason Nulton
  • 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron
 Aircraft commander Lt. Col. Bud Holland piloted a B-52 Stratofortress on a practice run for an upcoming air show June 24, 1994, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

On board were Lt. Col. Ken Huston, 325th Bomb Squadron weapons systems officer, Lt. Col. Mark McGeehan, 325th Bomb Squadron commander and co-pilot, and Col. Robert Wolff, 92nd Bomb Wing vice commander.

It was Wolff's "fini-flight," and his family and friends were on the ground watching the demonstration. Holland was executing "touch-and-go's," which involve the aircraft landing and taking off immediately after.

On one of his approaches, a KC-135 tanker moved onto the runway and the aircraft control tower instructed the B-52 to go around for a second attempt. Holland banked sharply left at nearly 60 degrees, only 250 feet above the ground. His airspeed then slowed and his plane banked 90 degrees --it stalled.

He lost control and crashed into the ground, killing everyone onboard.

Most of us have heard our wing leadership talk about "bystander intervention." The Bud Holland case is worth a quick study because it illustrates the importance of the concept. Holland was known as a risk-taker for years. Investigations after the crash revealed a pattern of risky and dangerous behavior, yet few people said or did anything about it.

· 1991 - Holland banked his B-52 80 degrees above his daughter's softball game. He lost control, dropped 1,000 feet in altitude, but recovered.
· 1991 -Holland flew directly over air show spectators violating safety rules. This was witnessed by several people, yet supervisors took no action,
· 1991 - Holland was executing a fly-over for a change of command and performed 45 degree banks at just 100 feet above ground level. For this, he received verbal reprimand, but no documented action.
· 1992 - At an air show, Holland performed low altitude steep turns at 45 degree banks and a high pitch angle climb estimated at 60 degrees nose-high. Once again, this was witnessed by a number of people and some of his leadership. He was threatened with grounding, but in the end, his supervision did nothing.
· 1993 - At another Fairchild AFB air show, Holland performed bank angles greater than 45 degrees, low altitude passes and another high pitch climb - this time at 80 degrees nose-high. Once again, witnesses saw this, but his supervisors didn't do anything.
· 1994 - At Yakima Bomb Range, Wash., the minimum altitude for bomb runs was established at 500 feet, yet film crews showed Holland's plane flying 30 feet above a ridge. On a later run, he was filmed flying at only 3 feet above the ridge. Multiple witnesses saw this and his crew stated they'd never fly with him again. His squadron commander, McGeehan, reported the incident up his chain of command, but there was no action, and Holland remained on flying status. The squadron commander decided he would protect his aircrews by appointing himself co-pilot on any future mission Holland was the aircraft commander of.
· 1994 - At another air show practice, Holland repeatedly violated maximum 45 degree bank angles and 25 degree pitch during B-52 demo. Witnesses and leadership saw it happen, yet did nothing.

See a pattern here? Holland crashed a B-52 June 24, 1994. Families of the crew members witnessed husbands and fathers incinerated before their eyes.

Investigators attributed the crash to Holland's dangerous flying. The lack of action by co-workers and supervision allowed him to think it was okay to break the rules. Had these bystanders intervened, four people might be alive today.

This case illustrates the importance of speaking up. Bystander intervention means more than just preventing sexual assault or harassment - it covers a spectrum of things. It's our job to confront our buddies, both on and off duty. It's the supervisor's job to act when your people are acting irresponsibly.

Document, evaluate and identify your at-risk individuals, and when you find out about an issue, address it. You could end up saving million-dollar equipment, or more importantly, saving a life.