Accident Fairchild-Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II 79-0215,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 56206
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Date:Wednesday 2 April 1997
Time:13:40 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic A10 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Fairchild-Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II
Owner/operator:357th FSqn USAF
Registration: 79-0215
MSN: A10-0479
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Gold Dust Peak, 15 miles south west of Vail, Easgle County, Colorado -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona (DMA/KDMA)
Destination airport:
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
On 2nd April 1997, USAF A-10A Thunderbolt II 79-0215/DM of the 357th FS at Davis-Monthan AFB Tucson, Arizona went missing on a training flight over the Arizona desert, it was last detected on radar near Eagle, Colorado, 800 miles off-course. Pilot, Captain Craig Button died in crash

His death is regarded as a suicide because no other hypothesis explains the events.His aircraft carried live bombs which were never recovered. It took three weeks to find the crash site. During that time, there was widespread public speculation about Captain Button's intentions and whereabouts.

According to the official USAF AIB report into the incident:

"Captain Button took off in his single-seat A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft on a training mission with two other A-10s from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. His jet was armed with four Mk-82 bombs, 60 magnesium flares, 120 metal chaff canisters and 575 rounds of 30-millimeter ammunition. This training mission would have been the first time Captain Button dropped live ordnance.

Near Gila Bend, Arizona, after being refuelled in-flight, Captain Button unexpectedly broke formation. He flew in a north-easterly direction towards the Four Corners area of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. His jet was spotted numerous times by observers on the ground. One observer, an off-duty pilot, said the jet appeared to manoeuvre around bad weather. This observation suggested to the Air Force that the aircraft was being flown manually and purposefully.

The flight was tracked by radar in Phoenix, Albuquerque and Denver. But because Captain Button's transponder was turned off, the aircraft was only tracked, not identified. It was only after analysing radar data later that investigators were able to track Button's flight.

The jet zig-zagged near the end of its flight. It was last spotted in the air about 100 miles west of Denver. The jet impacted terrain about 15 miles (24 km) SW of Vail, Colorado, on Gold Dust Peak (Coordinates: 39°28′44″N 106°35′40″W) in a remote part of Eagle County at approximate 13:40 hours local time. The Air Force concluded the jet probably had two to five minutes of fuel remaining when it crashed. The impact occurred at about 13,200 feet of elevation, just 100 feet below the summit. The debris field was over a quarter-mile-square area. Pieces of the canopy and cockpit went over a ridge.


1. [Scramble 216]

Revision history:

07-Jan-2012 11:48 harro Updated [Total fatalities, Total occupants, Location, Country, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
06-Dec-2013 18:28 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Other fatalities, Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
30-May-2021 10:22 Anon. Updated [Operator, Location, Operator]

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