Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mystery of low-flying plane over Alden and Clarence, New York, solved

CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) — News 4 has found out what caused a loud noise that jarred people in the Clarence and Alden areas Wednesday evening.

Calls and emails flooded into our newsroom around 6:45 p.m. from people who said they heard a low-flying plane.

One man in the Alden told us he was brushing off his car when he saw the low-flying plane. He estimated it was only flying at about 300 feet. “(Flight) 3407 came to my mind real fast,” Alden resident Paul Werner told News 4. “I thought for sure I was going to hear and see a big explosion. And thank God nothing happened like that.”

On Thursday morning, public affairs representatives with the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station confirmed the plane that was seen Wednesday evening was one of their C-130s on a routine low-altitude training flight.

Those cargo planes are designed for low level missions and can fly as low as 300 feet, but usually cruise between 500 and 1,000 feet up. And, they’re flying over Western New York all the time, with training missions every week.

Usually the crews try to fly the C-130s over less populated areas, so people don’t notice. But, the one spotted over Alden and Clarence last night was a little different.

We’re told the crew saw a minor warning light go off as they were flying, so they turned to take the most direct route back to the base. They were still on an approved route, still working with air control, but this flight took the plane over the Clarence area, where, understandably, people are on edge about low flying planes.

The eighth anniversary of the tragic crash of Flight 3407 was only last weekend. That crash in Clarence Center killed 50 people, including one person on the ground.

In the dark Wednesday night, and in the few seconds the plane was seen, at least some people mistook it for a commercial airliner flying below the normal altitude.

Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station reps say they understand people’s sensitivity to the situation, but they point out, unless you live right by the base, most people in Western New York are used to seeing commercial airplanes like the ones flown out of Buffalo Niagara International. Anything out of the ordinary generally catches people’s attention.

Case in point: According to NFARS Public Affairs reps, on Thursday morning, during a separate training flight, another plane was put in a holding pattern and had to circle over Amherst. The Air Base also fielded several calls about that.

The 914th Airlift Wing started flying C-130s out of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station several years ago, but will soon transition to an Air Refueling Wing mission, as more KC-135 stratotankers arrive.

Airmen from the 914th Airlift Wing departed on their final deployment as a C-130 Air Reserve Station last May, but training flights on the C-130s continue.

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