55-5262

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From the Boston Globe Nov. 12, 1966

Fatal Plane Off Radar 7 Minutes;

Probers Baffled

By Earl Banner
Staff Reporter

An Air Force Inquiry board will begin today deliberations into the
mysterious crash early Friday of a radar picket plane with 19 men aboard.

Hopes for survival of the crew of the four-engined Constellation, which
plunged into the sea 125 miles east of Nantucket, faded with daylight.

The search called off at dusk, was resumed at dawn today
foreign--sought survivors.

The plane , based at Otis Air Force Base on the Cape, was from the 551st
Airborne Early warning and Control Wing.

The names of the 19 crew members were released after notification to
next of kin.

Officials listed the crew members as missing in hope that survivors
might be found in life rafts.


Major Robert Baird of Payson, Utah, father of eight, was listed as
commander of the aircraft. Three were from New England.
Survivors of the crew gathered at Base Headquarters.

The crash was the second since the planes took over the watch previously
handled by the series of Texas Towers. It occurred close to the site of old
Texas Tower II.

cont page 5

Flight Was Routine; No Trouble Hinted

 

Sixteen months ago, July 11, 1965, another EC-121H crashed in a thick
fog 100 miles northeast of Nantucket. Three of the 19 crewmen were picked
up after 10 hours in rubber suits.
Their rescue lent hope that at least some of the men in Friday's crash
may be found alive.

Col. John Pease, Vice Commander of the 37th Air Division, NORAD, Goose
Bay Air Force Base, Labrador, flew in to head the inquiry.
Col. Pease called the crash a "complete mystery".
Probers were disturbed by a seven-minute lag between the last sighting
of the plane on radar and its sighting by a fishing ship. Normally, they
noted, radar contact with the picket planes is continuous.

The New Bedford fishing boat, Stephen R witnessed the crash of the plane
in patchy fog and rainy squalls.
Fishermen reported the plane flew low overhead, on a northeast course.
It did not seem to be getting full power from its engines.
Two miles away the plane suddenly banked steeply to the right and
plunged into the water. It burst into flames on impact. The fisher men saw
no parachutes.
The Stephen R reported to Coast Guard at Woods Hole at1:30 a.m.

The Constellation left Otis at 13:35 a.m. on a routine air defense
mission. At 1:22 it made radio contact with ground radar sites. The plane
was at 15000 feet. Its situation was normal. No trouble was hinted.
Almost immediately, however, ground radar contact with the plane was
lost. Eight minutes later came the report of the crash. Immediately planes
and ships rushed to the area.

Only a widening oil slick and a few bits of floating debris marked the
spot of the crash.
Recovered were pieces of aircraft skin and insulation, a seat with a
cushion, and three empty life preservers. Air Force officials identified
them as from the missing plane.

The Stephen R and the Terra Nova, another New Bedford fishing ship, were
the first into the area and picked up some of the debris.

The Constellation went down in water 30 fathoms deep--180 feet--at the
Georges Bank fishing ground

While the search went on, the civilian airport at Nantucket was alerted
to convert into an emergency air rescue station if need be. The island only
hospital summoned all available personnel and stood by.

Among the vessels continuing the search Friday night were the Coast
Guard cutter Acushnet, a Navy rescue ship, USS Sunbird, the British
freighters Alunia and Phyllis Bowater and the American freighter SS
Atlantic

Others on the inquiry panel are Lt. Col. Emil V. Busch, McCoy AFB, Fla,
Maj. Robert A. White, McClellan AFB Calif., Maj. Robert R. Willins, Maj.
Morgan C. Childs, Capt. Norman J. Harris and CWO Eulalio B. Lobato from
Otis.

The plane is a military version of the civilian Lockheed Super G Constellation.

 

 

 

 

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

 

At 2130 EST, 10 November 1966, Major Baird., the Aircraft Commander,

assigned :to the 961st: Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron, Otis AFB,

Massachusetts, briefed an air crew totaling 19 for an active air defense mission

to airborne long- range input (ALRI) station #2. Homey 64, an  EC-121H, serial

number 55-5262, was assigned by the 551 st AEW&C Wing operations center.

Fuel 1oad was 7330 gallons of 115/145 aviation gasoline. The-DD Form 175

flight plan filed by the Aircraft Commander listed 12+00 hour of fuel on board,

estimated time en route 9 hours plus 50 minutes and 8 hours plus 5 minutes on

station #2 at fifteen thousand feet (FL150).

 

Briefing and pre-flight were normal

The aircraft blocked on 10 Nov  at 2310 EST. At 2338 EST, the

aircraft taxied back to the maintenance ramp reporting malfunctions on #1

engine #1 cylinder And #2 engine #1 power Recovery Turbine (prt). The

spark plugs, coils and leads were changed on #1 cylinder #1 engine, and the .

clamps were tightened on #1 PRT, #2 engine. Engines were again started at

11/0020 EST  and the aircraft blocked the second time at 11/0025 EST. Take-off

was made from  runway  23 at 11/0037 EST. Otis AFB weather at take-off was

6000 feet. scattered clouds, 8000 feet overcast 7 miles visibility, light rain-

showers surface winds 210 degrees 22 miles per hour, gusts to 30 miles per

hour.

 

The flight was cleared to station #2 by Otis AFB departure Cross

Rip #1 to Nantucket VOR, control eleven forty four COD intersection, direct

to station #2, to maintain fifteen thousand feet altitude. Immediately after

take-off, a transmission from homey 64 was made to Homey Control on

company frequency (channel 9) "still have flames coming from PRT #2 engine "

However the aircraft-continued on its mission. DELETED------------------------

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----------------------------------------------------------The aircraft accomplished

departure instructions as cleared. Homey 64 contacted Boston Center

on UHF radio en route to Nantucket VOR. He last reported his position as over

COD intersection at 0114 EST passing through thirteen thousand four hundred

feet and climbing to flight level 150. This same information was passed to

Andrews Airways Military Relay facility by high frequency (HF) radio

terminating his report about 0117 EST. 

UHF radio contact was established with the. 35th Air Division surveillance-section by the

 Homey 64 combat information center officer (CICO) at 0040

EST. Three of four UHF radios were checked and reported to be loud and clear

(#3 UHF was not installed for this flight). Honey 64 was tracked by radar

throughout the flight by the, 35th Air Division. The Homey 64 CICO reported

reported at 0110 EST that he would be ready for his airborne long range inputs

(ALRI) pre-tie,-in tests about. 0115 EST Radar shows Homey 64 reached station

#2 at 0l23 EST and turned south on track. At this time Homey 64 had not completed the

 tie-in with SAGE or provided further radio transmissions.

Inspection of SAGE radar printouts show that at- 0122 EST operations

were normal aboard Homey 64 as the radio operator positioned his selective

identification' equipment (SIF) mode selector switch from mode 3 Code 1100

to Mode 3 Code 0000 the normal code for station operation At 0124 EST, the

SAGE printout shows Homey 64 position to be on track center line of station #2

approxirnately 7 NM south of center stabilization point, still transmitting Mode 3

Code 0000 At 0125 EST, the 35th Air Division radar input counter measure 

officer (RICMO) lost all radar; contact with Homey 64. He attempted emergency

radio contact and requested North Truro radar site to increase their gain control

on the radar. Radio and radar contacts were unsuccessful. At this time, Boston

Center called the 35th Air Division RICMO to inquire whether they had contact

with Homey 64. The 35th Air Division RICMO indicated negative. Boston Center

advised they had a report of an aircraft down near COD intersection.

At approximately 0126 EST, an aircraft later identified as Homey 64

DELETED----by the 1st mate of the fishing vessel "Stephen R" passing overhead

at approximately 200 feet going in a northeast by due north direction. The air-

craft appeared to be in level flight navigation lights on and emitting a smoke

or vapor trail. Two mites beyond the Stephen R" the aircraft passed directly

over the  fishing vessel "Terra Nova" at an estimated altitude of 150 feet, wings

level, red and green navigation lights on, and engine or engines back-firing.

DELETED------------------------------engine noise to be minimum which gave

them the impression that the aircraft was small in size. DELETED-------------

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--------------------The aircraft continued past the "Terra Nova" for approxima-

tely 3/4 to 1 mile and struck the water at approximately 0127 EST. An Explosion

and fire resulted. DELETED-----------------------------------------------------------

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--------- Weather at time of impact was-----------------------------------clear,

visibility 4 to 6 miles, winds from the south at 10 to 18 knots, and the seas running

1 to 3 feet from the south-southwest, water temperature. +48 F. Immediately

after the impact, and during the period that fire persisted, the fishing vessels

"Terra Nova", and "Fern and Isabel" and "Stephen R" retrieved their fishing

nets and proceeded to the crash scene. The fishing vessels "Terra Nova",

"Stephen.R, " and '"Fern and Isabel" were within three-miles radius of where

the aircraft crashed, exploded, and burned. The position taken at that time was

loran Fix of 1h4 6262 and 1H3 2762. This information was relayed  to the

Woods Hole Coast Guard by the "Terra Nova". First call to the Coast Guard

informing them of the crash was sent by the "Stephen R" at 0129 EST,

approximately two minutes after the aircraft crashed The aircraft crashed

1/2 mile east of station track 5-1/2 south of station center point, and

1-1/2 miles north of last radar position plotted at 0124. Water depth at this

point is listed on the most recent coast and Geodetic Survey chart dated 5/9/66

as being 174 feet to 200 feet. The fishing vessels proceeded to the crash site

after hauling in their fishing nets, arriving from 10 to 15 minutes after the crash.

They crossed back and forth sweeping the area with they search lights trying

to locate survivors or bodies. None have been recovered to date.

Recovered parts of the aircraft indicate that it contacted the

water extremely hard in a nose up, slight bank attitude. DELETED--------------

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Edited extract furnished by Air Force Safety Center
Kirkland AFB..

 

 


What Happened to 55-5262
By A.J Northrup

Articles from the Cape Cod Standard Times

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Notice
Kimberly Ann Hoppe Holloway daughter of First Lt. Richard Karl Hoppe would like to talk with anybody who flew or knew her father

 

This page prepared by Dean Boys
Please sent any comments, corrections or new material to me.