Distinguished Flying Cross awarded to Ellsworth officer

From left are: Maj. Christopher N. Duhon, an instructor pilot; Capt. Matthew Sutton, weapons system officer instructor; 1st Lt. Thomas C. Ahearn, a student weapons systems officer; and 1st Lt. Joseph Welch, student pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (KEVN) – The B-1 bomber crew members that had to make an emergency landing in Texas were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses during a July 13 ceremony at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

The crew includes 1st Lt. Thomas C. Ahearn, a student weapons systems officer who is now assigned to Ellsworth AFB. Other crew members (all from the 28thg Bomb Squadron, Dyess) are: Maj. Christopher N. Duhon, an instructor pilot; Capt. Matthew Sutton, weapons system officer instructor; and 1st Lt. Joseph Welch, student pilot.

The crew was on a routine training flight May 7 when there were suddenly fire warnings in three areas of the aircraft. According to a story posted on the Dyess AFB website, the crew put out the fires but “one fire indicator light remained, which prompted the aircraft commander to heed technical orders. Despite auditory warning systems and depressurization, the aircrew safely landed at the Midland International Air and Space Port in Midland, Texas.”

"I am extremely proud of these four individuals who exemplified excellence in an uncertain and potentially fatal situation,” said Col. Brandon Parker, 7th Bomb Wing commander.

That inflight emergency prompted the Air Force to ground the entire B-1 bomber fleet while some components in the egress system could be inspected and replaced. The Air Force did not release what the specific issue is with the components or what role they played in how the crew handled the emergency.

The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to airmen for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. It is America’s oldest military aviation award.