09 July 2011

Air Force Sells Agent Orange Poison Airplanes to Disney for Movies!

In an inadvertent and quickly-regretted 1994 business move, the General Services Administration and the Air Force sold two surplus C-123K/UC-123K cargo aircraft to Walt Disney Films! Contaminated with dioxin from Agent Orange residue remaining from their Vietnam War years, the aircraft were released to an intermediate buyer, and the films made included Operation Dumbo Drop.

Stored aircraft before 2010 Destruction
Another problem: the surplus C-123K/UC-123K aircraft were so contaminated with Agent Orange that the entire fleet at the Davis-Monthan AFB "Boneyard" had to be stored in an out-of-sight, fenced in security area marked "Hazardous Material". Base workers were allowed near the airplanes only with hazmat suits, respirators and goggles, followed by decontamination. So why are three of these dioxon-contaminated aircraft still in museum display with the public allowed in close contact? The museums which received the contaminated aircraft include Pima Air Museum in Tucson (Tail #567 and 659), Kenosha Military Museum in Kenosha, WI, and the Minnesota Air National Guard Museum in St. Paul, MN. Further, there is a contaminated C-123K at the Robins AFB Museum of Aviation in Warner-Robins, GA.
Workers in required HAZMAT protection

The Air Force Museum received just such an aircraft when the C-123K/UC-123K were retired in 1982. Most were flown to Davis-Montan for surplus storage, but the famous "Patches"(which the author of this blog and his associates ourselves flew between 1972-1982) went to the Air Force Museum. Tests showed the aircraft, typical of all the spray aircraft from Vietnam, was "heavily contaminated" with dioxin. Special preparations costing $57,000 were completed before the aircraft was allowed inside the museum, and still only very limited public access is permitted. The aircraft is roped off to prevent the public from approaching, and when, on occasion, folks are allowed to walk through, it is a very quick walk through to limit exposure!

From our perspective as aircrews who flew these airplanes between 1972-1982, we had no hazmat protection. Nobody knew the dioxin was present in the aircraft although we knew Agent Orange residue remained and we couldn't clean it all out. But why, once Air Force tests completed in 1993 and later began to show the toxicity of the airplanes, why couldn't the Air Force let us know we'd been exposed? Why did (and still does) the Department of Veterans Affairs deny claims for Agent Orange exposure for veterans such as the late Aaron Olmstead, ruling in his appeal before the Board of Veterans' Appeals (C 28 107 548, dated 23 Aug 07) that he has no proof of flying Agent Orange-contaminated airplanes nor that the planes were actually the aircraft used for spraying Agent Orange. We now have the tail numbers, we have the Air Force tests, we have the Air Force official historical data, and we have expert testimony by the aircraft commanders, flight instructors, Stan/Eval flight examiners, maintenance officers, maintenance supervisors and other experts that eleven of our C-123K/UC-123K aircraft still had Agent Orange residue and stank of the lousy stuff!  
Judge Stephen Cohn of the Board of Veterans's Appeals should demand an explanation from the Government about why this evidence was deliberately withheld from Olmstead and his family. Aren't there any standards of ethical legal behavior in his jurisdiction?

What's it take to get a veteran with "boots in the airplane" to get his/her documented exposure to Agent Orange toxins recognized by the VA so that our cancers and other illnesses can be treated?

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