The Air Force denied yesterday that there had been problems with a C5A transport plane that was part of a U.S. military force supporting a Bolivian drug crackdown.
On the basis of statements by government officials involved in the operation, The Washington Post reported yesterday that the C5A pilots judged the runway in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to be too short for takeoff after the plane was loaded with fuel.
An Air Force spokesman said yesterday that the C5A was on the ground in Bolivia for two hours and 20 minutes Monday, refueled and took off with no difficulty. It landed at Howard Air Force Base in Panama without incident, the spokesman said.
Apprised of this clarification, government officials agreed yesterday that the report from Bolivia had been in error and that there was a delay, caused by three C130 transport planes whose pilots found, after taking off from Santa Cruz, that the runways up-country at their destination in Trinidad, Bolivia, were unsatisfactory.
The C130s -- loaded with equipment for the Bolivian operation, U.S. government officials said -- flew back to Santa Cruz, where their cargo was put aboard smaller aircraft, which then flew to Trinidad, the officials said.
The Air Force refused to comment on the alleged problems with the C130s. The same Air Force spokesman who transmit- ted the objections of his supe- riors to the account about the C5A said they had decided against commenting on the report about the C130s.