Sunday, April 26, 2009

F-106 Troubles 1, #57-2484

I recently obtained a few F-106 accident reports from the early 1960s. These F-106s were assigned to the Spokane International Airport.

During the Cold War, and today, really, fighter squadrons were and are stationed around the United States with the intention that they would be able to intercept incoming bombers or other threats. The F-106s (retired in 1988) were assigned to the ADC, or Air Defense Command. The reports are not complete, in that little mention is made of blame or final solution. With that in mind, I am offering my best interpretations. If someone out there finds my suppositions to be false or you have a better description, by all means please e-mail me and I will make necessary corrections. Here is the first report.

On the morning of September 14, 1961, First Lieutenant Russell C. Wood briefed for a routine target mission. This would likely have been an intercept of a B-52 training in the area. Given the location of SAC bases, the B-52 could have been from Larson AFB, Fairchild AFB, or any number of other bases in the Northwest (Idaho, Montanna...etc.). It could have also been an intercept of an EB-57 , which was used to test the Air Defenses of the Continental US, though, I believe that to be unlikely. From what I understand the EB-57s were used for training and checking the radar systems and operators, not necessarily the ADC fighters.

Airman second class Kenneth D. Hintz accompanied Wood on his walk around of F-106A #57-2484. There were no discrepancies and Hintz secured the access panels while Wood strapped in. One combustion start was attempted with no success, but a pneumatic start worked at 0915. The MA-1 power system timed in and they made various checks, then Wood taxied to the ramp. He was airborne a 0926, 6 minutes after the proposed time. Estimated fuel onboard was 8900 pounds.
Wood made a left turn out of traffic and began his climb on a heading of 326. The proposed flight plan was "Geiger direct 52 degrees N. 122 degrees W. (William's Lake B.C.) direct Larson TACAN, direct Spokane VORTAC." That looks like a trip to the North East to British Columbia, a turn to the South West back to Larson, then a turn to the East to end up back at Spokane. The F-106 on the same flight profile and plan 1/2 hour behind heard his check-ins via radio, but no ground stations did.
It was not until he was over the Larson TACAN at 1038 at FL480 (48,000 feet) that Spokan Center heard from him. He then contacted Spokane Approach Control and was positively identified on radar (No difficult feat considering there probably were not many other aircraft at FL480) and "he was cleared to the 35 mile fix of the Spokane VORTAC, report inbound." (VORTAC stands for: VHF Omnidirectional Range/Tactical Aircraft Control)
He reported over the fix at FL200. He was instructed to report once he passed FL70. At 24 miles he was advised of traffic, a DC-6, at 14 miles West of VORTAC. At 15 miles he was dvised to begin his landing cockpit check. He reported when he passed through 7000 feet, and requested a "surveillance approach to runway 03." He was told to level off at 4000 feet and he acknowledged. Again he was advised of traffic, and told to "prepare to start his descent in 4 miles."
He then told RAPCON (Radar Approach Control) that he would have to break off this approach, but they did not respond. He continued his pproach, then was told to start his descent. Twelve seconds later he was told to maintain 4000 feet and turn right to 150 because of traffic. He reported steady on 150, and then was told to turn to 205 and maintain 4000. 30 seconds later the tower observd him continue turning past 205. They asked if he was continuing this appoach on his own, to which he replied, "Negative, I would like a surveillance approach to runway 03." They told him to stop his turn and then proceeded to give him a "no-gyro" approach. At 5 miles he was told to begin his descet. Radar contact was lost at three miles, which was normal considering ground clutter.
The aircraft crashed 2.4 miles from the runway on a heading of 063 degrees true. The smoke was observed from Spokane Tower at 1102. Wood ejected, but unsuccessfully from an altitude of 200-500 feet above the ground.
The report ends with the summation that there was no indication of emergency from Wood. It does not state what caused the crash. It does not go into anything else. Simply the flight description. This, in the my world of aircraft accident reports, is annoying, since others generally have a page where a determination of cause is surmised if it isn't known.
As an unqualified observer from almost 50 years on, I offer my supposition that it may have been possible for his J-75 to flame out. I don't know what would have caused a flame-out, though. Perhaps he retarded the fuel flow for a moment or there was a stuck valve. Did he suffer a bird strike? Until the rest of the report is released or someone comes forward with a better idea, that is what we are left with.
The picture of the crash site and this ground track are all that is included with this report. On the map you can make out the B-52 and KC-135 shapes to the left where Fairchild is, and the F-106 and civil aircraft shapes at Spokane International.
Note: On 30 August 1956 the Air Coordinating Committee approved a common military-civil short-range air navigation system called VORTAC, which combined TACAN with the Civil Aeronautic Authority's very high frequency omnirange direction finder. see link at left.
Note: TACAN stands for Tactical Air Navigation. see wikipedia link at left.

Friday, April 17, 2009

B-52D #55-098 and KC-135 #59-1523 Meet Over Montana

During the Cold War, the men of the Strategic Air Command manned two of the three parts of the Nuclear Triad (SAC Bombers and ICBM Crews). Aircraft and crews spent a certain amount of time on Alert, that is, waiting for the klaxon to sound so they could run to their aircraft and go drop warshots on the Soviet Union. After their stint on alert, they would have some time off for crew rest, then they would be called upon to practice parts of their missions a few times a month. These would be things expected of them if they were ever called to war. If they had ever been called upon to fly to the Soviet Union, they could expect to do long range navigation, air refueling, and radar bombing, among other things. Their training, likewise, included such things.

A normal training mission might include a take off from the home base, a high altitude navigation leg, air refueling, a mock-radar bombing run, sometimes on our own cities, then a low altitude navigation leg, followed by a few pilot proficiency touch and goes. Larson AFB, just on the edge of Moses Lake, Washington, became a SAC base toward the last part of its time as an active military base. B-52s of the 327th Squadron of the 4170th Strategic Wing of the 18th Division of the 15th Air Force were stationed there. Men at Larson had the same missions as B-52 men everywhere.

In the early morning hours of December 15th, 1960, pilot Captain Thomas J. Campbell and his crew began preflight briefings which ended with a ride to the flight line and final preflight of B-52D #55-098. the ground crew would likely have been working on it since sometime around midnight. With the successful start of all eight J-57 turbojets, the bird, call sign Smite 15, taxied to the end of the runway for take off.

Departure was at 0850 PST for what was described as a "Combat Crew Training Mission." This included a rendevous with a KC-135 for inflight refueling in the "Bart's Rock High Altitude Refueling Area." This area would appear to be near the Canadian Border over North Western Montana. Refueling, in this case, would probably have been a few practice hook-ups and transfer of a minimum amount of fuel, since the B-52 had 194,000 lbs of fuel aboard at takeoff, enough for 16 hours of flight. The planned mission was for only about 8 and 1/2 hours.

Using the onboard radar suite, the Electronic Warfare Officer or the Radar Navigator made contact with KC-135 #59-1523 at a range of 60 miles. The KC-135 had flown out of McChord AFB, Washington, having departed at 0820PST. The KC-135, call sign Shore 11, had a fuel load of 126,000 lbs aboard, and, according to the DD Form 175, could have remained airborne for 10 hours.

When the range between the two aircraft was 6 miles, Smite 15 was directly behind the Shore 11. Altitude was 31,000 feet ASL. When the range had closed to 1/4 mile closure rate was determined to be excessive. Captain Campbell closed the throttles to prevent an overrun. He was not successful. The B-52 collided with the KC-135 from behind. It would appear, after examining the report photos, that the B-52 hit the flying boom and possibly the lower rear fuselage of the KC-135 with its right wing.

On board Shore 11, the boom operator established visual contact with Smite 15 at 1/2 mile. At 1/4 mile Smite 15 climbed out of the boom operator's field of vision. He cautioned Smite 15 to slow closure rate. The next visual contact the boom operator had was immediately pior to impact.

After separation and damage assessment, Smite 15 was considered to be airworthy and the crew immediately set course for Larson (Bad enough that the pilot suffered a mid-air collision, but having to land at another base surely seems like it would have lowered the pilot's chances of flying again...though this is only conjecture. It is possible, given SAC's standards, that the pilot would have suffered that fate anyway, there is no record of that in this accident report, however.). Descent, approach, and landing were normal. Near the end of the landing roll, at a speed of about 20 knots, however, disaster struck. The right wing separated from the aircraft in the vicinity of the damaged area. This separation provided fuel and ignition sources for the fire that subsequently destroyed the aircraft. All personell successfully evacuated the aircraft, though some injuries were suffered.

Shore 11 had begun its return to McChord AFB when the crew was instructed to land at Fairchild AFB. A T-33 was scrambled to do an inflight damaged assessment. Approach and landing were made without incident. All men aboard Shore 11 were uninjured by the escapade.

Here is the crew list for this mission:

B-52D #55-098

Captain Thomas J. Campbell, Instructor Pilot. (He is listed as sustaining minor injury.)
Captain Clifford L. Fonsess, Co-pilot. (Minor injury.)
Major Wayne D. Waller, Aircraft Commander. (He is listed as sustaining minor injury.)
Major David Kisong Eum, Electronic Warfre Officer. (Spelling is in question as the report is difficult to read. He is listed as sustaining major injury.)
Major Leonard Carmell, Radar Navigator.
Captain Glen M. Bird, Navigator.
Captain Robert W. Covarrubias, Navigator
First Lieutenant Basil Ciriello, Instructr Navigator (I-N is what is listed, and usually stands for Instructor Navigator, yet, given this man's rank, it would appear he was either from one of the "NEW" SAC crews or in some other way different. If someone knows for sure, I would appreciate an e-mail.)
Captain William C. Lane, Navigator. (It seems there were a lot of navigators on this ship, though the R-N was also probably the bombadier. Still if anyone has some clarification for this drop me an e-mail.)
Master Sergeant Henry W. Olschner, Gunner. (The tail gunner was physically separated from the rest of the crew on all B-52 models until the advent of the B-52G. In case of bail out, he would have jettisoned the tail turret and stepped out into space pulling his ripcord. He is listed as having sustained major injuries)

KC-135A #59-1523

Captain Warren H. Williams, Instructor Pilot.
Captain Charles L. Buechele, Pilot.
First Lieutenant Eugene A. Hendricks, Copilot.
Captain Jack W. R. Peters, Instructor Navigator.
First Lieutenant John C. Hall, Navigator.
Technical Sergeant Charles E. Cade, Instructor Boom Operator.
Staff Sergeant Martin W. Gunder, Boom Operator.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Castle Air Museum, Open Cockpit Day!

To one and all! If you enjoy seeing rare aircraft, and the chance to see INSIDE them, this is your chance!! It's at Castle Air Museum, in Atwater, California. I was able to attend this in event 2004, and loved it! So, if you are in the area, or have a few days off and are interested, this is your chance! Cora in the KC-97.Me, comng out of the RB-36H.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fascinating Site!

I follow a blog that is written by an air traffic controller. He introduced me to this site. It is called Flight Aware. You can track flights (with a slight time lag) across the USA. You can track according to operator, aircraft type, and destination/daparture point. It will show you the invisible side of air operations in the USA. Now, you can look up in the air and have a better idea of where that airplane is going and possibly where it is coming from.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fighter Intercepter Squadrons of Washington State

Here is a partial list of Cold War Fighter Intercepter Squadrons in Washington State. I found that there is no specific site that has all of these together, so, for your viewing pleasure, I present this list of Fighter Intercepter Squadrons that once served at Washington bases. (This is in no way a complete list, I will be adding to it as I get more information. If you have some to add, please let me know!) I also hope to add the years that they were assigned later. As a service to all, I am also including the other squdrons and wings that served.

Fairchild AFB

  • 43rd ARS
  • 98th BG
  • 98th AR
  • 307th AR
  • 327th BS
  • 343rd BS
  • 344th BS
  • 345th BS
  • 380th AR
  • 415th BS
  • 515th SM
Felts Field

  • 116th FIS
  • 142nd ADW
Geiger Field.

  • 440th FIS
  • 445th FIS
  • 497th FIS
  • 498th FIS
  • 520th FIS

Larson AFB

  • 31st FIS
  • 71st FIS
  • 82nd FIS
  • 317th FIS(started with P-61s and changed to F-82s)
  • 319th FIS
  • 322nd FIS
  • 323rd FIS
  • 538th FIS
  • 81st FIW
  • 4721st ADG
  • 71st SRW
  • 4170th SW
  • 327th BS
  • 396th BG
  • 592nd BS
  • 593rd BS
  • 594th BS
  • 595th BS
  • 768th BS
  • 562nd Missile Squadron
  • 568th Missile Squadron

McChord AFB

  • 64th FIS
  • 317th FIS (F-86s beginning March 1951, switched to F-102s December 13th, 1956)
  • 318th FIS
  • 319th FIS
  • 325th FIS
  • 425th NFS(nightfighters)
  • 465th FIS

Paine Field

  • 326th FG
  • 83rd FIS (F-84s, F-86s 1952 to 1955)
  • 321st FIS (F-89s August 1955 to March 1960)
  • 57th FG
  • 64th FIS (F-102, March 1960 to June 1966)