El Dorado County Residents Startled by Low-Flying Military Plane

EL DORADO COUNTY -- People in Pollock Pines, Camino and Pleasant Valley had a scare after a large military transport plane flew within 200 feet of their homes. An Air Force official confirms a C-17 was flying over the area, but it's still unknown why the aircraft was so low.

Randy Keene told FOX40 he was in his front yard on Starks Grade Road, near Pollock Pines, when the large military transport buzzed overhead.

"Probably not more than 200 feet above my house, maybe a hundred feet above the tree tops," Keene said.

He said the noise was deafening.

"It was really odd because then all of a sudden the engines just quit," he said.

Keene wasn't the only one who heard it. Dozens of calls started pouring into El Dorado County's 911 dispatch center. Others in the area told FOX40 they either heard or saw it, with most fearing the plane was about to go down.

"Ran up on the hill thinking I'd see black smoke, I was taken back by it that much," Keene told FOX40.

But the plane didn't crash. A Travis Air Force Base spokesperson confirms a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft did take off from the base flying eastward, and may have been in the area around Keene's home.

The aircraft flies out of McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

Tech Sergeant Chris Powell, of McGuire AFB, told FOX40 Monday that the plane technically did nothing wrong and that it never dipped below 500 feet, which is the safety height set by the FAA and the Air Force.

Powell said the C-17 is part of the 6th Airlift Squadron. It was flying a routine training mission above Pollock Pines in which crews use "Visual Flying Rule," a technique pilots use to fly without the aid of instruments or computers.

Pilots do this type of exercise in California, because the state's mountainous terrain resembles Afghanistan, Powell said.

The FAA did not reply to a request for comment.

Travis AFB does confirm an hour after the low sightings their command post made contact with the plane's crew, who indicated they had no issues to report.

"I really couldn't tell you exactly what he was doing, but I just know that it seemed awfully low and awfully odd," Keene said.