Accuracy in Media

When the Air Force plane carrying Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown crashed in Croatia in April 1996, rumors immediately circulated that the beacon that was supposed to guide the plane to the airport had been set to guide the plane into the mountain nearby. This was allegedly done by an employee at the airport who was found shot to death three days later. His death was declared a suicide. When it became known that the beacon at the airport had a fixed setting that could not be changed, the story changed. It was said that a portable beacon had been set up on the mountain to lure the plane off course.

At the time, we were skeptical of this story, which was widely circulated by a publication called Wall Street Underground. It seemed to us to be a concoction based on imagination, not on factual evidence. However, thanks to the persistent efforts of Hugh Sprunt, a Texas tax expert and part-time investigator of political crimes, we now have evidence supporting the rumor that the plane carrying Ron Brown was deliberately guided to crash into the mountain.

Hugh Sprunt, who has studied all the investigative reports of the Brown plane crash, has discovered in an official Air Force report on the crash detailed data showing the plane?s course based on AWACS airborne radar. The radar shows that when the plane was within four minutes of touching down at Dubrovnik, it suddenly changed course radically. It turned to the left almost 90 degrees. A few seconds later, it made a U turn back to the right. It then fixed on a course with a heading of 110 degrees, which it followed for over a minute, ending with the plane crashing into the mountain, nearly two miles off course.

The Air Force jet, carrying the Secretary of Commerce and 14 business executives who were accompanying Brown on a trade mission, crashed into a mountain, killing all aboard. The pilots, who were making an instrument landing through a low cloud cover and a light rain, obviously thought they were being guided to a safe landing by a beacon at the Dubrovnik airport. But that beacon would have put them on a course with a heading of 119 degrees, 9 degrees farther to the right than the course they followed.

Maj. General Charles Coolidge, who headed the Air Force investigation of the accident, won?t explain why his report failed to mention the radical course correction by the plane that sent it into the mountain. He told Hugh Sprunt that his technical advisers said this was an anomaly of no significance, but he has not answered Sprunt?s request for an explanation of that judgment.

Maj. General Coolidge knows that when pilots are landing they don?t make radical changes in their course without a very good reason. It appears clear that when Brown?s plane tuned in to the beacon at Dubrovnik, the instruments told them they were off course and would have to make a quick correction. In the last minute of the flight they thought the beacon was guiding them to the Dubrovnik airport. They didn?t know that it was guiding them to their deaths.

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