Smith’s wife was last person to see AF pilot alive

My wife, Karen, was the last person to have an official Air Force “visual sighting” of Capt. Craig D. Button and his $6 million fully loaded A-10 military aircraft. On April 2, 1997, Button pulled away from a training sortie in Arizona, turned his transformer off (thus no radio contact was possible), did not go on automatic pilot, flew 800 miles north into Colorado and crashed his jet 100 feet from the summit of 13,365-foot Gold Dust Peak. I was in Keystone skiing with my son Conrad. That evening I called Karen to say we’d be coming home the next day. She told me the strangest thing had happened that day (April 2). She was out hanging up the wash on the clothes line when an Air Force jet flew over her so low and so close that she could see the pilot inside the plane. It was a cloudy day with a low ceiling. She watched the plane as it flew northwest over the fields and then sharply banked east toward the mountains. She believed the maneuver was odd in such poor visibility. We both just figured he was on a training mission out of Colorado Springs. Saturday (April 6) we were watching the news on the ABC affiliate out of Grand Junction when the anchor person related that an Air Force jet out of Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, was missing. Karen almost fell out of her chair and exclaimed that that was the jet she’d seen. Enter Murphy’s Law. Karen called Channel 8 to see if they had any telephone numbers to call as she’d seen the plane in question on April 2. The station said they’d picked the story up from CNN and there had been a phone number in the news release but when the station had called it, it was inoperable. So, Karen called information and got the telephone number for Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. She called them not once, but twice’letting it ring and ring. It seemed no one was at home. I then picked up the phone and called an old college pal who’d just recently retired as a general in the Air Force. I told him the story and how no one would answer the phone. He said to leave it up to him. He called back soon and said he couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone either. Needless to say he was not a happy camper and said he’d get to the bottom of this if he had to go all the way to the top. He must have called the Pentagon because soon the phone rang, and it was an officer from Davis-Monthan. He questioned my wife for a long time and then requested she sketch a picture of the aircraft she saw. I personally don’t think they actually believed she’d seen “their” plane at all. She sketched the A-10, faxed it to them and waited. Soon they called back and said “Good grief, you did see it!” The next morning the phone rang and someone from Davis-Monthan wanted to know if she’d fax the sketch again as they’d lost her original. Lost the original’ What’ Anyway, she did as they requested and then we waited along with everyone else to see where Capt. Button had disappeared. To be continued . . . Mickey Smith has lived in Colorado for 30 years but has been visiting there since 1947. His e-mail address is campwag@co.tds.net. Should you have questions about the Colorado, he’d be happy to try to answer them.

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