24 January 1963: A Boeing B-52C-40-BO Stratofortress, 53-0406, call sign “Frosh 10,” of the 99th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, was conducting a low-altitude training flight using terrain-following radar. Eight crewmen were aboard. Flying at or below 500 feet (152 meters) above ground level (AGL) and at 280 knots (322 miles per hour, 519 kilometers per hour) the bomber encountered wind gusts of up to 40 knots (21 meters per second).
As the turbulence became severe, the aircraft commander, Lieutenant Colonel Dante E. Bulli, began a climb to avoid it. At approximately 2:52 p.m., EST, however, the vertical fin attachment failed and the B-52 began rolling to the right and pitching down. Colonel Bulli, unable to control the airplane, ordered the crew to abandon the bomber.
B-52C 53-0406 crashed into the west side of Elephant Mountain, a 3,774 foot (1,150 meters) forest-covered mountain, 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Greenville, Maine. Only three men, Colonel Bulli, co-pilot Major Robert J. Morrison and navigator Captain Gerald J. Adler, were able to get out of the B-52, but Major Morrison died when he hit a tree. Lieutenant Colonel Joe R. Simpson, Jr., Major William W. Gabriel, Major Robert J. Hill, Jr., Captain Herbert L. Hansen, Captain Charles G. Leuchter and Technical Sergeant Michael F. O’Keefe were also killed.
Large sections of Frosh 10 are still on Elephant Mountain. The crash site is a popular hiking destination.
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress had been designed as a very high altitude penetration bomber, but changes in Soviet defensive systems led to a change to very low altitude flight as a means of evading radar. This was subjecting the airframes to unexpected stresses. Several crashes resulted from structural failures during turbulence.
Less than one year later, Boeing was conducting flight tests of the B-52 in turbulence, using a highly-instrumented B-52H. That airplane also lost its vertical fin when it encountered severe turbulence in Colorado. The Boeing test pilots aboard were able to save the bomber and landed it six hours later.
Dante E. Bulli was born at Cherry, Illinois, 17 July 1922, the second child of Italian immigrants Giovanni Bulli, a salesman, and Anna Gareto Bulli. He attended Hall High School before working on the aircraft assembly lines of the Lockheed Aircraft Company in California.
Bulli enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Army of the United States, 5 December 1943, and promoted to first lieutenant, 5 December 1946.
In 1947 Lieutenant Bulli married Miss Evelyn Lewis, also from Cherry, Illinois.
“Dan” Bulli was a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He flew B-24 Liberators, the B-29 Superfortress and B-52 Stratofortress. He retired from the Air Force in 1974.
Colonel Dante E. Bulli died at Omaha, Nebraska, 30 December 2016, at the age of 94 years.
24 January 1962: The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation delivered the first F-110A Spectre to Colonel Gordon Graham and Colonel George Laven, United States Air Force, at the McDonnell plant at St. Louis, Missouri. The F-110A was soon redesignated as the F-4C Phantom II.
Two Phantoms were delivered to the Air Force for evaluation at Langley Field, Virginia. They were U.S. Navy F4H-1 Phantom IIs, Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers 149405 and 149406. Initially the aircraft retained the Navy serial numbers but eventually were assigned Air Force numbers 62-12168 and 62-12169. The Air Force bailed them back to McDonnell to develop the YF-4C prototypes.
62-12169 (ex-Bu. No. 149406) was converted to a JF-4B (a special test aircraft). Operated by the McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft Center at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, it suffered an engine explosion, 8 March 1967. McDonnell test pilot Charles (“Pete”) Garrison successfully ejected. The airplane crashed and was destroyed.
McDonnell built 5,057 Phantom IIs. They served with the United States Navy and Marine Corps, the U.S. Air Force, and many allied nations. The last Phantom II, an F-4E, was completed 25 October 1979. The U.S. Air Force retired its last operational Phantoms from service 20 December 2004, 42 years, 10 months, 27 days after receiving the first F-110A.
24 January 1961: “Keep 19,” a Boeing B-52G-95-BW Stratofortress, serial number 58-0187, of the 4241st Strategic Wing, was on a 24 hour airborne alert mission off the Atlantic Coast of the United States. The bomber was commanded by Major Walter S. Tulloch, U.S. Air Force, with pilots Captain Richard W. Hardin and First Lieutenant Adam C. Mattocks. Other crewmembers were Major Eugene Shelton, Radar Navigator; Captain Paul E. Brown, Navigator; First Lieutenant William H. Wilson, Electronics Warfare Officer; Major Eugene H Richards, Electronics Warfare Instructor; Technical Sergeant Francis R. Barnish, Gunner. It was armed with two Mark 39 thermonuclear bombs, each with an explosive yield of 3–4 megatons.
The B-52 refueled in flight from an air tanker. The tanker’s crew notified Major Tulloch that the B-52’s right wing was leaking fuel. The leak was severe and more than 5,400 gallons (37,000 pounds/17,000 kilograms) of jet fuel was lost in less than three minutes. The B-52 headed for Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.
As they descended, the unbalanced condition made the bomber increasingly difficult to control. The bomber went out of control and Major Tulloch ordered the crew to abandon the doomed ship. Five crewmen ejected and one climbed out through the top hatch. (Lieutenant Mattocks is believed to be the only B-52 crewmember to have successfully escaped through the upper hatch.)
58-0187 broke apart and exploded. Its wreckage covered a two square mile (5.2 square kilometers) area. Three crewmen, Majors Shelton and Richards, and Sergeant Barnish, were killed.
As the B-52 broke up, its two Mark 39 bombs fell free of the bomb bay. One buried itself more than 180 feet (55 meters) deep. The other’s parachute retarding system operated properly and it touched down essentially undamaged. It was quickly safed by an explosive ordnance team and hauled away.
Recovery of the buried bomb was very difficult. After eight days, the ordnance team had recovered most of the bomb, including the 92 detonators and conventional explosive “lenses” of the “primary,” the first stage implosion section. The uranium-235/plutonium-239 “pit”—the very core of the bomb— was recovered on 29 January. The “secondary,” however, was never found.
The secondary contains the fusion fuel, but it cannot detonate without the explosion of the primary. Although the secondary remains buried, there is no danger of an explosion.
“During a B-52 airborne alert mission structural failure of the right wing resulted in two weapons separating from the aircraft during aircraft breakup at 2,000 – 10,000 feet altitude. One bomb parachute deployed and the weapon received little impact damage. The other bomb fell free and broke apart upon impact. No explosion occurred. Five of the eight crew members survived. A portion of one weapon, containing uranium, could not be recovered despite excavation in the waterlogged farmland to a depth of 50 feet. The Air Force subsequently purchased an easement requiring permission for anyone to dig there. There is no detectable radiation and no hazard in the area.”
An accident of this type, involving the loss of nuclear weapons is known by the military code name BROKEN ARROW. Though official statements were that there was no danger that either of the bombs could have exploded, others indicate that five of the six steps (or six of seven) required for a thermonuclear detonation did occur. Only the aircraft commander’s arming switch had not been activated.
The Mark 39 was a two-stage, radiation-implosion thermonuclear bomb. It was in production from 1957–1959, with more than 700 built. It was fully fused, meaning it could be detonated by contact with the ground, as an air burst, or “lay down”— a series of parachutes would slow the bomb and it would touch down on its target before detonating. This allowed the bomber time to get clear.
The Mark 39 was considered a light weight weapon, weighing 6,500–6,750 pounds (2,950–3,060 kilograms). The bomb’s length was approximately 11 feet, 8 inches (3.556 meters), with a diameter of 2 feet, 11 inches (0.889 meters). The explosive yield of the Mark 39 was 3–4 megatons. (For reference, the 1956 nuclear weapons test at Bikini Atoll, Redwing Cherokee, had a yield of 3.8 megatons.)
The Mark 39 was withdrawn from service in the mid-1960s and replaced with the more powerful Mk 41.
Completing a round trip flight from Paris to Hanoï, Indochine, and back to Paris, pilot Paul Joseph Codos and navigator Henri Robida flew the return leg in record time.
Departing Hanoi at 6:40 a.m., 20 January, the route of flight was Calcutta, Karachi, New Basra, Athens, Rome, Marseilles, and finally, Paris. The aviators laded at le Bourget at 3:55 a.m., 24 January.
The total elapsed time was 3 days, 5 hours, 40 minutes.¹ The distance traveled was 11,015 kilometers (6,844 miles).
Flight reported on their journey:
Last week we gave a brief account of the record-breaking flight accomplished by the French pilots Codos and Robida, when they flew from Hanoi, Indo-China, to Paris in 3 days 5 hours 40 minutes. We have now received some further details of this flight from our Paris Correspondent who writes as follows:— Leaving Hanoi at 6.40 o’clock on Thursday morning (local time) and taking advantage of the prevailing full-moon period, the airmen flew night and day, practically making stops of only sufficient time for refuelling and the examination of their passports and other papers. They thus established a new record, surpassing by 30 hours and 20 minutes the best previous time of 4 days and 12 hours made for this flight by Costes and Bellonte about two years ago. Codos declared, moreover, on his arrival that they could have gained several hours additional but for the strong head winds and rain that they encountered between Basra and Athens and further, if he could have flown directly from Athens to Paris, it would have shortened the time considerably. Owing, however to this bad weather and the necessity of taking off with a full load of fuel, Codos decided to make additional landings at Rome and Marseilles . . .
Both airmen are in the Air Union Air Line Company’s service, Codos being the Assistant Chief Pilot and Robida an engineer of that company. Enlisting in the artillery, at the age of 18, at the beginning of the world war, Paul Codos was transferred to the Aviation Service in 1917, and obtained his pilot’s brevet a year later, in 1918. At the close of hostilities he served as pilot with several air transport companies, and entered the service of the Air Union Company in 1924. He has made a specialty of night flying and piloted the initial trips between Paris and London in 1927. In company with Dieudonne Costes, Codos also took part in several long-distance closed-circuit continuous flights, about two years ago, in which world records were established. He is 35 years old and has 5,200 hours flying to his credit.
Henry Robida is an engineer pilot, in addition to being a licensed navigator. He is 30 years old and has 650 hours in the air to his credit.
With the exception of an additional fuel tank, the plane used on this flight, a “Breguet,” type 330, long-distance observation machine, was of strictly series construction. It was equipped with an Hispano-Suiza 650-h.p. 18-cylinder in-W.,² water-cooled engine of the well-known type used by Costes and Bellonte in their transatlantic flight.
The regular fuel tanks of the Breguet 330 are installed in the lower wings, and have a total capacity of 475 litres (105 gallons). The supplementary tank was installed in the fuselage between the motor and the pilot’s seat. It had a capacity of 1,400 litres (312 gallons). The plane thus had a flight radius of some 2,700 kilometres (1,700 miles) at a cruising speed of 180 km./hr. (122 m.p.h.) with the motor turning 1,640 r.p.m. The petrol consumption at cruising speed was 65 litres (14½ gallons) per 100 km. (62½ miles), with a flight radius of 15 hours.
The Breguet 330 is of the same type of construction as the well-known 270 . . .
The general characteristics of the Breguet type 330 are as follows:—
Span, upper wing, 17 m. (55 ft. 9 in.); lower wing, 17.5 m[sic] (24 ft. 6 in.). Overall length, 9.86 m. (32 ft. 4 in.). Height 3.69 m. (12 ft.) . . . .
— FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, February 5, 1932, No. 1206. (Vol. XXIV. No. 6.) at Page 107.
The Breguet Bre.330 was a prototype high-altitude variant of the Breguet Bre.27. Two were built by la Société Anonyme des Ateliers d’Aviation Louis Breguet in 1930, F-AKEZ and F-AKFM. Bre.330 serial number 01, F-AKEZ, was the airplane flown by Codos and Robida. It was called a “sesquiplane” because the lower wing was approximately half the span of the upper.
The airplane was 9.85 meters (32 feet, 3¾ inches) long with an upper wingspan of 17.0 meters (55 feet, 9¼ inches), lower wingspan of 7.5 meters (24 feet, 7¼ inches) and overall height of 3.69 meters (12 feet, 1¼ inch). Its empty weight was 1,866 kilograms (4,114 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight was 3,575 kilograms (7,882 pounds).
The airplane was powered by a liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated 36.050 liter (2,199.892-cubic-inch-displacement) Société Française Hispano-Suiza 12Nb single-overhead-cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 650 cheval-vapeur horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. The direct-drive V-12 turned a two-bladed metal propeller.
The Bre.330 had a cruise speed of 212 kilometers per hour (132 miles per hour) and maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour (155 miles per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 8,250 meters (27,067 feet). Maximum range was 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles).
¹ L’EXPRESS DU MIDI, 41° ANNEE — Nº 14.200, Lundi 25 Janvier 1932, Page 1 at Columns 6 and 7. Many sources state that the Hanoi-to-Paris flight took 3 days, 4 hours, 17 minutes.
² Although the Flight article states that the Bre.330 was powered by a Hispano-Suiza W-18 engine, every other source that TDiA has found states that it was an H-S 12Nb V-12.