B-52 Crash

December 11, 2012

B-52 from the Strategic Air Command that crashed on May 30, 1974

This is a B-52 from the Strategic Air Command that crashed on May 30, 1974. All seven crew members survived the crash without serious injury. The crewman were: Capt. Charles Brown (age 29), Capt. Robert E. Smith (29), 1st. Lt. John D. Weaver Jr. (26), Capt. William G. Heckathorn (28), 2nd Lt. Robert E. Pace (24), Capt. Paul C. Hoffman (26), and 1st Lt. James R. Villines (28).

38 Responses to B-52 Crash

  1. Bob Beavers on December 30, 2012 at 3:49 am

    I have photos of this same crash in my book, “Legacy: Genesis of Aviation Greatness.” I have detailed the crash and the almost unimaginable result of this crash. The front page that day of the Dayton Daily News ran it, and I have the whole story there in my book. It’s on Amazon.com with five five-star reviews.

    • Lisa on January 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      Thank you for your comment and for the information!

  2. D. Glover on January 4, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Do you know if there is more information regarding this picture, or where I can research additional information regarding this picture?
    Was this crash at Wright-Patterson?

    The caption from your archive identifies the aircraft as a B-52, and that all seven crew members survived, and the date as May 30th, 1974.
    Is the date identified, the date of the crash?

    Thank you for your assistance.

    D. Glover

    • Lisa on January 8, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      Thank you for your comment and question. Yes, the B-52 crashed at 2:07 a.m. on May 30, 1974, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I’ve sent you some articles about the crash by email.

      • Bruce Bratschi on November 6, 2015 at 11:36 am

        I flew into Wright Patterson the day after that crash in a KC135. Story at the time was an Elevator malfunction and the pilot thought he could get it down with trim tabs only. They hit so hard the nose broke off and everyone survived in that section of the aircraft. The rest of the plane after the tremendous bounce was airborne and went past the nose section before hitting again, exploding and burning. From Bruce B. Brcbrat@yahoo.com. I’ve got some video I think.

  3. Bob Seale on June 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Is this the crash involving my friend Col. Charles Brown, USAF Ret.? I was a nav.,at Ellsworth and flew 70 missions over Vietnam

    • Lisa on June 26, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Thank you for your comment and question. Yes, your friend Col. Charles Brown (then a Captain) was among them. The seven crewman who “miraculously escaped death or serious injury” in the crash were: Capt. Charles Brown (age 29), Capt. Robert E. Smith (29), 1st. Lt. John D. Weaver Jr. (26), Capt. William G. Heckathorn (28), 2nd Lt. Robert E. Pace (24), Capt. Paul C. Hoffman (26), and 1st Lt. James R. Villines (28). I have sent you some articles about the crash by email.

      • Karen guyton on August 16, 2016 at 10:00 pm

        I am trying to locate capt Charles Brown can you you help me?

  4. Mike Gould, Col USAF, Ret on August 19, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Any idea of the where-abouts of Col Brown. He and I were AF brats together in England circa 1958-61. Our fathers were in the same squadron flying B-66s. Charlie & I linked up once while he was stationed at Wright-Patt (before his accident.) Would certainly like to reestablish contact. Would appreciate any info… Many thnx.

    • Lisa on August 20, 2013 at 9:36 am

      Hi, Mike- Unfortunately, we do not have any information about the current whereabouts of Col. Charles B. Brown, USAF Ret. However, I did find a reference to a book called “Legacy: Genesis of Aviation Greatness” by R. G. Beavers (http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewwork.asp?id=33359) that apparently describes this 1974 crash and was endorsed as accurate by Col. Brown himself. Perhaps the author Mr. Beavers may know how to contact Brown. Good luck!

  5. Dave McPeek on October 14, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Whoa! Interesting that, clearly visible in the strewn wreckage, are the remains of two Hound Dog missiles.
    Those were operationally equipped with a nuclear warhead, although I suppose the two in this incident could have been carrying inert “dummy” payloads.
    Or, maybe they were hot– but I don’t ever remember hearing of this as a nuclear incident, and I was a nuclear weapons officer in SAC.
    Very, very interesting…

    • Lisa on October 15, 2013 at 9:12 am

      That is an interesting observation, Dave. I never would have noticed that. Thanks for visiting and for your comments!

  6. Vernon Pierce on October 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I was the GCA Radar Repairman on duty the night of this crash. The bailout alarm sounded in the radar shack and I picked up the hotline to the rapcon and ask if I really needed to leave. The answer was yes there was a full load of fuel on board. I went to the rapcon and stood behind the controller and watched him bring the plane in. I remember he said he’s down as we watched the blip line up with the touch down relfectors. Then a voice broke over the speaker above his position saying he had crashed.
    We ran downstairs and the field was on fire. It was the biggest fire I have ever seen. The control tower was closed due to renovation so they were in a portable unit on the other side of the taxiway. We wondered if they would make it through the fire. After the fire I went to the radar unit (which I believe is now at the AF Museum) and was met by an MP with an M16 who told me I couldn’t come in. I called my NCOIC and told him what had happened and asked what I should do, I was a young Sgt. He asked if I had done all my preventive maintenance that night and I told him I had he asked if I logged everything, again I told him I had. I asked why and he told me there would be an investigation and I had better have done my job. He asked about the crew and I turned and asked the guys in the rapcon and they told me they were pursumed lost. I went home that night wondering if I had been responsible for their loss. The next morning I learned the base ops officer’s headlights had shown on the nose and all crew members had survived. I believe one suffered a broken back. That night changed my life I had been talking to the FAA about a job in Columbus when I got discharged. I decided I couldn’t go to bed thinking I might be responsible for hundreds of soles on a commercial flight. I called the FAA and told them I was no longer interested in a job.

    • Lisa on October 29, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Wow! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience of the crash with us — yet another example of how a single event can change the course of many lives.

  7. Jennifer on November 19, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    1st Lt. John D. Weaver, Jr. is my Uncle.

    • Lisa on November 20, 2013 at 8:47 am

      Thanks for sharing, Jennifer! And thanks for stopping by!

  8. Patrick Stewart on January 3, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    I was in the mobile tower the night of the crash. I had just got out of school for air traffic control at Biloxi,Mississippi and this was my first assignment. I had been out of school about a month, so I was sorta green you could say. We got the report that the B-52 had lost hydrolics in number 8 engine. This they said was driving a Cadillac with no power steering. I remember the plane making numerous low approaches so the crew could get a feel for of the plane. A B-52 comes in at an attack angle of somewhere around 10 degrees or so, and as it comes over runway the pilot “flairs” the nose to bring it horizontal to the runway. Well that’s what got them. All crew members were huddled in the nose of the plane. I don’t believe we were in charge at this time, but someone cleared the plane to land. The plane came in, did not flair, hit nose first on runway. When that happened, the nose broke off and rolled away from the rest of plane landing to left of runway. What was left of plane went airborne again, rolling and crashing. Big fire. Pieces of the plane was everywhere. We heard all aboard were ok, one with a back problem. The next morning I went to look a the wreck, and to my surprise, found that one of the engine pods had broke off, and was laying about 40 feet from the mobile tower. I glad they all made it, but have to say that was quite a night for a green horn controller.

    • Lisa on January 8, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Wow, that must have been quite a night for you, indeed! Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Patrick!

  9. Donald J Luke on August 21, 2014 at 1:44 am

    Patrick Stewart. I was at Wright Patterson that night. I was a SSgt and we had a B-52 mobile flight simulator parked on the base. We were based out of Castle AFB, CA. assigned to the 4017 CCTS (Combat Crew Training Squadron) The mobile flight simulators were cycled between bases every 30 days or so. I worked on aircraft for 5 years before cross-training to flight simulators so I liked to watch the aircraft land and take off. I noticed all the flashing lights and rotating beacons on all the vehicles and fire trucks out near the runway and had opened the exit door in the end of the railroad car we were in and stepped out on the threshold just as the B-52 came into my field of view off of my right side. I watched the aircraft come in and crash. I seem to remember that as the nose section broke off, the fuselage with wings and engines rose up and rolled to the right before impacting the ground and then the flames flared. I thought I saw a large part of the aircraft continue forward but, at the time didn’t realize it was the forward section . . . too much happening at once and the shock of seeing the aircraft crash . . . We were pretty close to our departure date and moving the mobile simulator to the next base in the sequence but were told we would be extended for an indefinite time while the used the simulator for investigating what happened. It was good to hear the crew had survived.

    • Lisa on August 21, 2014 at 9:50 am

      Wow! Thank you for sharing your recollections of that event!

  10. john r smith on September 21, 2014 at 11:01 am

    sgt john r smith. I was working recovery duty the night of the b52h crash.we were told the aircraft lost its sass system and that capt brown was told they could eject over lake Michigan, he felt he could bring the plane in safely.from the flightline I could see low fog over the runway and engines whinning as he was making his approach. as the landing lights broke thru the fog I could see trouble. the front landing gear hit hard the tires blew and in that flash of light I saw the nose break away and the rest of the craft go airborn.i fell that either the throttle cables were pulled during the break or he was trying a go around.at any rate the engines went full power the rest of the plane went into the air about 800ft.not much fire due to burning off fuel prior to landing. crew ok. 17th oms 2750th bw

    • Lisa on September 22, 2014 at 9:43 am

      Thank you so much for sharing your memories of the crash with us!

  11. Alan Leonhard on February 25, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    13 Oct 1970 I was flying on a B-52 from Kinchloe AFB Mi and we had a diversion due to weather and landed at Wright-Patterson AFB Oh we told at the time that was the first time a B-52 had landed there. crews names were Capt HUGH W NIXON Jr Capt CHARLES D GRAVER Capt JOHN W HARTMAN Capt MARC H WEISS Tsgt FRANK C WASBURN 1StLt RICHARD R GRAY A1C ALAN H LEONHARD Sgt GARY E WEBB we returned to Kinchloe the next day

    • Lisa on February 26, 2015 at 9:24 am

      Thanks for sharing your story with us, Alan!

  12. Joshua Donohue on October 19, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    I’m doing some research on this aircraft and was wondering how I could obtain any additional history on it (early service, photos, etc). Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!

    • Keith Bartsch on December 21, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      You ought to contact Col Charles “Charlie” Brown. Retired, living in Florida. I don’t feel comfortable giving his contact info here, but if you post your email address, I’ll send it to you. He and I stayed in touch after we retired from USAF.

      • Mike Gould on December 22, 2015 at 9:58 am

        I made the following post several years ago:
        “Mike Gould, Col USAF, Ret on August 19, 2013 at 10:57 pm
        Any idea of the where-abouts of Col Brown. He and I were AF brats together in England circa 1958-61. Our fathers were in the same squadron flying B-66s. Charlie & I linked up once while he was stationed at Wright-Patt (before his accident.) Would certainly like to reestablish contact. Would appreciate any info… Many thnx.”

        Would you be so kind as to either send me Charlie’s email or send him mine… I’d still like to reestablish contact. Thanks and Merry Christmas Mike Gould

        • Lisa on December 22, 2015 at 10:07 am

          Hi, Mike – I just wanted to let you know that your email address is only visible to the Archives staff when you enter it in the email field, so I’m not sure if Keith can see it. (He may receive an email notification if he subscribed to comments, but I’m not sure.) With your permission, I can send Keith an message containing your email address.

          • Mike Gould on December 22, 2015 at 10:14 am

            G’mornin’ Lisa. Many thanks for the kwik response. I would appreciate you sending Keith my email address — I’d rather do it that way than posting it publicly.
            Thanks again and Merry Christmas to you….. Mike

          • Lisa on December 22, 2015 at 10:25 am

            You’re welcome! I have sent you both an email message. Hope you all have a great holiday!

          • Karen G. on August 16, 2016 at 7:20 pm

            Mike and Lisa, did either of you have any luck locating Lt. Col. Charles Brown or his contact information? If possible, I would also like to forward my contact information to anyone who may be able to assist with obtaining contact with him. Thanks.

  13. Joe McPherson on March 14, 2016 at 7:00 am

    Joseph McPherson, I worked in AGE and did not get to work until 7 AM. I heard the crash at the barracks and was struck at the awe of the remains. The nose section and the tail section were somewhat in tack but the next largest piece did not appear to be over ten feet in size. It was amazing that anyone survived such a crash. The Lord was definitely with the crew.

  14. Alan Dunkerley on May 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Wow! Some interesting info, and a few errors above. Yes, the airplane carried two Hound Dogs, no warheads. The airplane had two hydraulic systems that had broken lines, about an hour apart. Those two systems had two pumps each to provide pressure, but with broken lines, all fluid was lost from them. Those two systems provided rudder and elevator control. The pitch trim on H models was, and most likely still is, driven by separate hydraulics, moving the entire horizontal stabilizer. Small movements can make big pitch moments. Charlie, who was a Standardization Division Flight Examiner, was giving a check ride when the first failure occurred. He immediately terminated the check ride, took command of the aircraft and headed for home, intending to land as soon as possible, well over the max landing weight of 270,000 pounds for non-instructor pilots. However, Charlie was an instructor. For reasons I will not go into now, his Wing Commander ordered him to not land immediately, but to first exercise the Hound Dogs at the nearest location. Charlie obeyed (note that he had a good future career, as he made Colonel). On the way to exercise the Hound Dogs, the second failure occurred. SAC HQ was notified and they called Boeing for suggestions. Charlie, the experienced IP stated intent to make a “no flap landing”. Boeing had a better idea. Set flaps at some intermediate setting that we never used or practiced, about 23 degrees, as I recall. They were effectively rewriting the pilots Dash One. They burned down gas, and established the proposed landing configuration. Getting into this configuration apparently was worse than Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but Charlie eventually stabilized the aircraft. He then practiced multiple approaches and go arounds at 20,000 feet. He offered all crew members the opportunity to bail out rather than ride the attempted landing. They all had faith in his abilities, and stayed on board. When they got their weight down (never considered the heavy weight landing following the second hydraulic failure) and got into the instrument pattern they we given a GCA approach as the ILS was NOTAMed out. On this first approach glide path control was OK, but course was not good enough, so Charlie went around. That went well and he felt more confident. They asked if anything could be done about the ILS, and were told the field could provide localizer (course guidance) but the glide slope was out. This made a significant difference on the second approach. Airspeed, course and altitude were all good as they crossed the threshold. Supposedly, the flap setting provided by Boeing would have the aircraft in a very slightly nose up attitude, and the pilot could just let the aircraft settle in without attempting to flare, which would have to be done with pitch trim. As he landed Charlie heard someone on the radio (not sure of the source) telling him repeatedly to not attempt to flare, do not trim nose up. (Subsequent testing by some of SAC’s best Buff pilots in the simulator found no one able to land safely. Only the no flap configuration that Charlie planned would work for them, and not all of them did it successfully.) The result was the front gear hit first, extremely hard, driving the landing gear up through the backbone of he aircraft, separating the crew compartment ( subsequently called the crew escape module ) from the rest of the aircraft body, wings, tail. That small piece with 7 souls on board slid several thousand feet down the left side of the runway stopping past an emergency vehicle that had been sent to the edge of the runway. Remainder of the aircraft climbed abruptly nose high ( or perhaps tail low since the nose was detached with the crew), did a partial wingover to the right and crashed to the right of the runway a couple thousand feet short of the crew compartment. Charlie had one or two cracked vertebrae, but was walking that afternoon. Bob had smacked his shins hard on the underside of the instrument panel. All others were better off and left the hospital quickly. I interviewed Charlie and Bob about 12 hours after the accident. As Charlie’s injuries put him in a grounded status, I was given his crew for a few months and became a Flight Examiner, up from Squadron IP, then I went off to graduate school. The wing left WPAFB 9 months later. Bob Beavers had been my Navigator until I moved up. I have not read Bob’s book. OH, by the way, the Wing Commander was fired – he had never flown a B-52H and thought the systems worked like a B-52D (they don”t) so he thought they could safely go exercise the Hound Dogs. For all pilots who read this – the aircraft is your responsibility, not someone else’s. You best know the problem and what to do. Come home safely. These guys were extremely lucky.

    • Lisa on May 31, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share this additional information with us!

  15. Gary Newcomer on September 26, 2016 at 9:53 am

    I was a B-52H crew chief at WPAFB at this time. I was near the end of my 4 year tour. The day of the crash, was my last day of an AF program allowing GI’s to work a “civilian job” before “transitioning” to civilian life. The day after the crash, was my first day back to the SAC Unit. As I had been doing a 3 month transition job, I was no longer assigned as crew chief to a specific bomber (which earlier was 0020). As I was kind of a “floater” I and several other maintainers were assigned to cannibalize various component off the wreckage days later. At 23 years old, this was an eerie job. Alan Dunkerley gave an excellent description of the events, as i had heard them. Though, in no fashion can I claim this as true, I had heard Boeing engineers and other flight experts had suggested to the flight commander they should eject and dump the plane in Lake Michigan.

    • Lisa on September 26, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Thank you for sharing your memories with us!

  16. Ron Willey 1969-1978 46370 on November 19, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    I was working Wing Quality Control for Nukes and Ammo at the time. I am an early riser so I was always the first one in the shop and made the coffee. That morning I came in and the lights were on, looked to my right and the coffee was made. I shut the door and scanned the office as I walked to my desk near the back of the room (Jr NCO). The Sgt that sat across the isle either worked in OMS or FMS…too many years and dead brain cells…he was in his chair, white as a sheet and not moving. He had got a call out when the first hydraulic failure happened and was out on the flightline at the time of the crash. This was 4 hours or so after the crash and he was still in shock. He finally told me what had happened the night before. One thing I did not read above was when the crew compartment broke away, the engines went to full throttle as the fuselage went back into the air. He said the airman on the flightline just ran as nobody knew where the angry 52 was coming back down. The flightline looked ugly as the sun came up.

    • Donald Luke on November 25, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Ron Willey,
      I seemed to recall what you stated, that the engines had spooled up as the aircraft body and crew compartment separated. I had not stated that in my recollection of the incident. My view was from the left side of the aircraft when it landed. Our mobile flight simulator crew consisted of 6 enlisted personnel who maintained and operated the simulator as well as an Instructor Pilot, all TDY from Castle AFB. I don’t recall how long we were extended for our stay at WP but think it was about two weeks. We normally worked a 24 hour schedule with 2 enlisted personnel on each 8 hr shift, part of 2nd shift (swing) and all of 3rd shift (misnight) reserved for maintenance of simulator systems.
      We had a fairly constant flow of WP aircrew and other personnel during that extended stay while they were utilizing the simulator.
      A picture of one of the B-52 mobile flight simulators can be seen at the following location.

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