Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pasco F-106 #57-2489 *update #2*

Contiuning with the F-106 theme, I have here one that went down much closer to my home than the others. Still, as with the other F-106 reports, it leaves much to be desired. This report has only 2 pages plus a map and a photo.

On Tuesday, March 19, 1963, (at about 1712Z or zulu, which would be 9:12am local, because PST is Zulu -8) an F-106 on a local training mission came down about 5 miles south of Pasco, Washington. Its pilot had reported control problems.

Earlier that morning, Captain William F. Tesmer and Lieutenant Donld L. Hatcher briefed for a local training mission. Expected takeoff time was 1615Z, however, their flight was scrambled early at 1557Z(7:57am local). Tesmer's callsign for the mission was AH06 and Hatcher's was AH05. At this time, AH06 reported "dolly in valid." This phrase is not familiar, so could be reference to some ground control point with that call sign, or perhaps he was reporting that his automated guidance/data link was faulty. The latter seems to be supported, though: Three voice intercepts were completed against SAC target Y209 (Again, probably a B-52 from a local base). The results were three "MA's" (Mission Accomplished?) for three attempts. AH05 then completed two data link passes. The first pairing for AH06 was at 1612Z and the last was at 1647Z. The last intercept was completed about 200NM southwest of Geiger Field.

At this time AH05 had 4800 pounds of fuel and AH06 had 6400. AH05 had gone supersonic, which acounted for the difference. Both were returning to base (RTB) at Geiger. AH06 was 12 miles in trail of AH05 at 40,000 feet. AH06 called tallyho on AH05 (meaning he had picked him up visually) and said he would make a pass on AH05 on the way back to Geiger. At 1657Z AH06 transmitted MAYDAY at GEORFF position DRQA5049. (I would sure love to know how this navigation system works)

AH05 stated that, to his knowledge, AH06's intercepts had been completely normal until his breakaway maneuver had begun. AH06 overtook AH06 on the starboard side "began a medium back turn to the left, passing directly overhead." Ah06 transmitted that his "flight controls are frozen" and requested that AH05 follow him. At this time AH05 estimated AH06's mach to be 1.3 or 1.4. AH06 suggested that his "vari-ramps have possibly not returned to their normal position" and "'there is no light on' (vari-ramp), indicating that he was at a supersonic speed sufficient to actuate the vari-ramps." (the vari-ramps would appear to be the F-106 version of a variable inlet. As airspeed increases, engineers have found that it is desirable to alter the flow of air into a jet engine to keep the incoming air subsonic, despite the speed of the aircraft. This is usually done by changing the inlet shape or placing baffles in the inlet. Different designers found different ways of doing the same thing, for example, on the SR-71, there was a movable cone that went forward or aft in front of the engine, according to the airspeed. for more information see this NASA site.)

AH05 observed AH06 perform two tight barrel rolls to the left and then stabilize into a shallow left turn. AH05 joined AH06 for the completion of a 360 degree turn. AH06 had descended from 40,000 feet to about 33,000 feet. At 29,000 feet AH05 lost visual contact with AH06 in the clouds. During the 360 degree turn, AH06 reported that "it fees as though it's stuck in flight mode; the trim button has no effect; I can only maintain 160-170 knots." After he entered the cloud deck, there is no more transcripts of the pilot's transmissions on this report, though, apparently, the "Tab U transcript" has more.

Captain Tesmer reported that he was ejecting at 1712Z. The crash occured sometime between 1712Z and 1719Z. Eye witnesses stated that the aircraft passed the east edge of Pasco on a SSE heading at about 1000 feet altitude. They observed the aircraft pull up as it approached rising terrain south of Kennewick, Washington. As it pulled up, an object, probably the canopy, came off the aircraft. "A few seconds later they observed a bright flash, smoke, dust, and heard a loud muffled explosion."

The accident was fatal for Captain Tesmer, though there are no details explaining how. It does not say where the body/ejection seat was found, nor does it offer any other details tht would flesh out this story.

The map appears to show the impact somewhere near Jump Off Joe, a peak of 2200 feet. Not too far from the Nine Canyon Wind Project. The photo shows the crash to be on plowed land. It seems unlikely, however, that there would be any remnants after 45 years of tillings.

The flight path shows the two aircraft came from the west over the Horse Heaen Hills, about half way between the Yakima Valley and the Columbia River. Tesmer is shown as descending to 28,000 feet above Badger, Washington. A few miles later, almost over the impact area, contact was lost with him at 16,000 feet. From here it seems he made a wide descending turn to the left to end up where he did. It would seem to me that Captain Tesmer could have jumped out earlier, but he chose to ride his mount and keep it under control as best he could. Was this to find a spot to land this high speed aircraft with a high landing speed(unlikely)? Or was this to make sure his aircraft did not come down on a populated area? It seems doubtful we will ever know for sure.

Additionally, it is interesting that F-106 #57-2489 is shown in at least one source as going down some 30 miles further to the south near Hermiston, Oregon instead of its official USAF position on the same date.

*UPDATES* (Many thanks to Gene Gould for his time in the local library) Here is some added information.
1. The crater left by the aircraft was about 20X30 feet and 6 feet deep.
2. The pilot, Tesmer, was a graduate of Ohio University.
3. He served 3 1/2 years in Japan before transfer to Geiger.
4. He was survived by his wife and two children(ages 1 and 4). His parents, too lost a son, they lived in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
5. Tesmer, according to the paper, did NOT eject. While the report did not say that he did, it did not say he did NOT eject. The popping of the canopy seemed to indicate he had, though, and given early F-106 dificulties with the ejection seat, I had wrongly assumed it was to be blamed.
6. The paper confirmed the assumption that Tesmer had likely stayed with the aircraft to avoid populated areas.

*UPDATE # 2*
After some emails and a little patience, a fuller story has come to be revealed. these are the additional details:

1. The aircraft appeared to strike the ground nearly vertically.
2. Despite the fact that the canopy was found about 2 1/2 miles NNW of the crash site, the pilot's "body had remained with the aircraft upon impact." The report blamed a malfunction of the seat as most likely. The F-106 had ejection seat difficulties early on.
3. Preliminary results indicated the there had been a loss of control or near loss of control.

4. The aircraft struck at a high speed or a high thrust, given the depth of the hole.
5. The remains of the aircraft were sifted through a screen and layed out in a hangar at Spokane Airport. the report basically suggests that all remnants were removed.
6. The report further suggests that maintenance forms and records were not kept.
7. The committee suggested that a steering/control problem had occured.

While this does not say much more than the library article and the original accident report, it does add a little to what we know. Hopefully this is the last update necessary, however, if you have any personal relation to the airplane, please leave a comment or drop me an email.

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