Accidents, Calamities, Fatalities, and Scary Moments Delaware Air National Guard
Historically, flying has always been a hazardous enterprise. The Army Air Force suffered 6,351 fatal accidents with over 15,500 fatalities and the loss of over 7,100 aircraft during the World War II. There were an astounding total of 47,462 reportable accidents total. Losses sometimes exceeded 35 aircraft every day! It was a war of survival then. We would not tolerate these loss rates today, and fortunately flying safety is much improved.
In January 2011 the Delaware Air National Guard reached another flying milestone when the unit surpassed 170,000 accident-free flying hours without a Class A, B or C flying mishap since 1963.
The milestone covers the 47-year period when the unit has flown three models of aircraft – the C- 97, the C-130A, and today the C-130H model transport aircraft, and has performed nearly 20 continuous years of flying in Southwest Asia with significant periods of combat flying in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.
Compare that record to the early pioneering days when the organization was just beginning to function. There were numerous flying accidents, incidents and just plain scary moments.
Please note: Damage to aircraft. 1 is minor damage and 4 or 5 means completely destroyed. Initially, the Air Force used a scale of 1 to 5 for damage, but toward the end of 1944 the scale was changed to 1 to 4; however a 5 was still occasionally used. Also, 0 is sometimes used to indicate no damage. Source AAIR Air Force Accident Reports, http://www.aviationarchaeology. com/default.htm
The first recorded incident is a landing accident on June 1, 1947 in F-47N (serial No. 44-89354) flown by Lawrence S. Gibson Jr. The incident occurred at Sussex County Airport near Georgetown, causing minor damage (2) to the aircraft.
James H. Shotwell had a landing accident in his F-47N (serial No. 44-89339) at New Castle on March 3, 1948 resulting in major damage (3) to his aircraft. Shotwell would perish in another crash in 1955.
Robert P. Kemske lost power on his engine and made a forced landing near Gap Pennsylvania on June 1, 1948 resulting in major damage (3) to his F-47 N (Serial No. 44-92081).
Three weeks later on June 25, Donald R. Christ would suffer a landing accident at New Castle in his F-47N (serial number 45-50024) resulting in minor damage (2).
David F. McCallister of the 142 Fighter Squadron, had a minor mid air collision that brought minor damage (2) to his F-47N (serial number 44-89448) on September 14, 1948 near Rockwell North Carolina. Vincent Riley described the incident this way: "McCallister went on a cross country one day and was heading for Florida. He came back a few hours after he departed; came taxiing in and the thing looked like it had been through a war. Seems he had run into some high tension wires with it. Every rivet in the airplane was a least a bit loose and had been spot riveted together. The belly had been whipped by the cable and gouges in it. the prop had big gouges in it. It was a high tension wire he had hit that burned holes in the prop. He got another airplane and went down to "Florida. It's amazing that he got out of that one." McCallister would later die in the crash of a T-33 in 1961.
The final reported incident for 1948 was a ground accident at New Castle on November 18, involving a T-6D resulting in little or no damage on November 18. The following year would mark the unit's first fatal casualty.
Captain William D. Livergood, charter member. On May 13, 1949 Captain Livergood, the full time operations officer at the time, became Delaware’s first fatal casualty when his F-47N (serial number 44-89350)) crashed on final approach to New Castle Airport. He had been on a gunnery mission over the Atlantic Ocean. Ed Atkinson described the incident: “If you remember in those days when fighters came in, they’d peel off, do a tight 360 degree three-“G” turn, losing altitude to reduce their speed, and land. He just kept going in the turn and rolled right over, and practically went straight in…just about opposite the old entrance”.
*John Hite recalls the incident this way: "I remember a hot pilot who did crazy stuff! He would break ground and just tow feet off the ground the gear would go up. We warned him. "One of these days you are going to lose it." the very next day there was a ball game in Wilmington and the Guard sent four P-47s to do a fly-by. About 5:30 PM I heard (I was living in Wilmington Manor, a residential development near the airport) all of a sudden, a blast and windows rattling. The P-47 hit the ground 200 yards from the back of our house in what is now Wilmington Manor Gardens. There was a fire and explosions. I goth there as the fire trucks arrived . the pilot was William Livergood. He was the first one in the group for a landing. He did a high speed stall while doing a tactical approach, not appropriate for a P-47. he made a split"S" at about 900 feet above teh ground, and almost made it. Unfortunately he was killed. The other three aircraft circled the field before landing."
In July, 1949 there were two taxiing accidents within three weeks as Charles D. Hogue had a mishap with major damage (3) to a T-6D (serial number 44-81192) at Philadelphia Airport on July 9. On July 29. George W. Dunn pranged his F-47N (serial number 45-50065) at New Castle, making it a write-off with major damage (4).
The following month there were three more nearly back to back incidents. On August 13, 1949 Robert J. Byrne was forced to make a belly landing in his F-47N (serial number 44-89255) at New Castle when his engine either failed, or caught fire resulting in major damage (3). Just three days later on the 16th Charles R. Hearn Jr's. F-47 (serial number 44-88757) suffered damage (3) in a landing accident at New Castle.
Finally, Vincent L. Riley was taxiing P-47N (serial number 45-50094) at New Castle when he endured a mishap causing minor damage on August 17, 1949. MSgt C.T. Lee recalls, " One day, Rex "Nosedive" Riley was taxiing a jug out on the flightline during encampment, and his old buddy Albert came along in an oil truck. Riley put the brakes on and put the jug right up on its nose and burned off about three or four inches off the prop blades. There's still a mark out on the ramp to this day we call Riley's only mark in life!"
On September 18, 1949 Frank H. Stern Jr. would suffer an engine failure and damage (3) his F- 47N (serial number 44-89404) in a landing accident at New Castle. Stern would perish in a later accident in 1954.
And to cap off a very bad year, on November 12, 1949, Wallace B. McCafferty had a landing accident at Lynchburg Municipal Airport Virginia in his F-47N (serial number 45-50096) resulting in major damage (4). There were a total of eight reportable accidents in 1949, one of them fatal, arguably the worst year for flying safety in the unit history.
Although not a reportable accident, a scary close call was told by Brig Gen William Spruance in an interview in 1986. He said, "We used to tow targets for the Army National Guard; they would shoot these 120 millimeter anti-aircraft guns that would make one helluva boom. We had these airplanes (B-26s) primarily for air to air targets for our fighters. They asked if we would tow some targets for the Army Guard. Instead of using a thousand foot cable which was good enough for air to air gunnery, we used 5000 feet for these 120 mms. So one day Clem Lenhoff and I were flying back and forth and big thunderstorm was coming. "This was our (DE ARNG) last day at Bethany Beach, and would we make just one more pass?" And we said, "Gee that is a big thunderstorm. I don't know if we want to do this. Well we'll go ahead." So we flew another pass and lightning hit that 5000 foot cable and discharged off the nose of the airplane. Of course when it came up that 5000 foot cable it went through the tow reel and the reel operator watched all of the equipment back there practically dissolve from the bolt of lightning. The bolt discharged off the nose of the airplane about as big around as maybe an inch in diameter. I had on a headset and my hair was standing up straight. Lenhoff had on a helmet and his eyebrows were standing out straight. You could smell the electrical discharge, like when there's an electrical short or something. I remember the two reel operator saying "What the hell are you guys doing up there?"
*Another incident while towing a target at Bethany was recalled by Joe Monigle. While towing a target for ground to air artillery practice he had a close call. The A-26 had a crew of three, a pilot, an engineer and a reel operator who controlled the target. Monigle remembers, " We proceeded to Bethany and flew over the ocean, reeling out our target sleeve as planed. We could see the flak from the upraised muzzles of the cannons. After about an hour they reeled the target back into the rear compartment and flew to New Castle. That evening at the University of Delaware, where I was a student, I met a fraternity brother, 2nd Lt Leon Stayton, an artillery officer who had been involved in the practice firing at Bethany earlier in the day. He explained that the radar had tracked up the cable from the target to the bigger target, the airplane. Luckily Stayton had checked visually before firing or we would have been hit at an altitude where we were too low to bail out."
Things began to marginally improve the following year. The F-47s were replaced by F-84C Thunderjets.
There was an incident on the very first day of delivery recounted by Vincent "Rex" Riley in an oral history in 1986. "The F-84Cs that we had, of course, had been used by the Air Force and had all gone back to the factory. All had upgraded fuel systems put in, inspection plates put all over them where earlier models didn't. They were virtually impossible to repair. We had 25 of them come in on one flight, and one of them lost it on final. Lost it short of teh approach to runway 1. When we saw the cloud of dust , when he hit the ground and ricocheted up onto the runway and came taxiing in. I never saw anything like before or since. He split open the leading edge of teh wings right down to the center from the root clean out to the tips. Man did he hit that thing. We ended up taking it apart and trucking it up to Olmstead AFB in Middletwon Pennsylvania and letting them put it back together."
On August 14, David F. McCallister Jr. had a run-in with a towed target in his F-84C (serial number 47-1521) 20 miles southeast of Ocean City, resulting in minor damage (2) to his craft. This was to be his second of four mishaps with the Delaware Air Guard.
On October 19, 1950 Major Merle J. "Jake" Gilbertson was killed near Hockessin in the crash of his F-84C (serial number 47-1528). Gilbertson was assigned to the parent Wing of the 142nd Squadron, the 113th Fighter Bomber Wing. He was a close personal friend of Capt. Dave McCallister. They had flown together with the 20th Fighter Group during World War II. The "rough and tumble, happy go lucky" fighter pilot had been the Ops officer of the 77th fighter Squadron. McCallister named his newborn daughter for Major Gilbertson.
There was one dramatic incident on April 15, 1951 when Lt. Saul Sitzer narrowly escaped death as his F-84C (serial No.47-1581) burst into flames and scattered bullets in all directions during a failed take off at New Castle. He escaped with first and second degree burns as he rolled on the ground to put out the flames. The accident occurred at hare's Corner at the southeastern corner of the airport near the M&M Diner. The $250,000 jet was a total write-off. Sitzer took off in a flight of four airplanes but failed to reach take off speed although his jet was going an estimated 100 mph at impact after aborting his takeoff and applying the brakes. His landing gear collapsed and the plane bounced across Churchman's road. Sitzer was a former WWII pilot and POW. He would later be mobilized for the Korean War.
Robert Davis recalled, "One of our pilots was sitting on alert and he took off, flamed out and crashed his F-84 jet at the end of the runway. This was over towards the DuPont parkway. The plane got pretty well messed up, especially the front end of it, but the pilot got out through part of the damaged area, but got sprayed with fuel. He was wearing a nylon flying suit, and that’s when the nylon would burn, melt, and stick to you. He got burned pretty bad and spent many days in the hospital. His name was Saul Sitzer. I used to visit him in the hospital to see how things were going."
Lt Lawrence S. Gibson Jr. of 1820 Tatnall St, former DE ANG pilot, made a successful dead stick landing at Dover after a stuck throttle control on an F-84 on August 23, 1951. Just one day after a mid-air collision over Odessa by two F-84s of the 113th FIW.
Korean War Twenty five officers and about 100 airmen eventually served overseas, mostly in Korea. Nineteen pilots saw combat. One pilot was killed in action, and one was missing and presumed dead, and one was rescued behind enemy lines after being shot down.
1st Lt Walter C. Stewart of Glenmore Pennsylvania was killed in action 23 April 1951 while attempting a low altitude ejection on returning to base for emergency landing after an explosion in his F-84E Thunderjet (49-2426) while a member of 523rd Fighter Escort Squadron at Itazuke Air Force Base, Japan.
1st Lieutenant Charles D. Hogue of Philadelphia was listed as missing in action. On 13 December 1951 twenty miles northeast of Sinanju, a flight of enemy fighter aircraft was encountered and during the ensuing action, Lieutenant Hogue of the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron radioed that he believed he had been hit. It is believed that he was hit by MiG-15 ace Pavel S. Milaushkin (176th GIAP/324th IAD) . During the remainder of the engagement, which continued for about four minutes, visual and radio contact was lost with Lieutenant Hogue's F- 86. However, a subsequent radio message received by the element leader indicated that the missing pilot was apparently south of Chinnampo and in no difficulty. The F-86 failed to return to base and all efforts to locate it and the fate of the pilot were unsuccessful. Lt. Charles D. Hogue went missing in action and was presumed dead. Of the original Delaware Air Guard pilots, twenty remained on active duty with the Air Force at the conclusion of the war.
Capt. Alvin Thawley was shot down in his F-84E (51-634) with the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 49th FBG, Taegu, and rescued by a Navy Helicopter from behind enemy lines on January 26, 1952.
Meanwhile the 142nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron remained in place at New Castle federalized and converting to F-94Bs. There were four accidents, one fatal, during this time. John J. Collins suffered major damage to his F-94B (serial number 51-5400) during a landing accident at New Castle on February 19, 1952.
William Kastner Keller age 27 of Douglaston, Long Island was killed when his F-94B (serial number 51-5420) crashed at New Castle on June 24, 1952.
Leonard R. Stawers crashed his F-94B (serial number 51-5433) during a landing on July 15 at New Castle causing major damage.
On August 6, 1952 Charles Harry Dooley endured major damage to his F-94B (serial number 51-5427) during a landing accident.
Postwar Korea the 142nd was demobilized and converted to F-51H Mustangs. Anthony J. Florio ground looped an F-51H (Serial Number 44-64426) at New Castle on April 14, 1954 resulting in major damage.
One result of flying outdated equipment of the single engine high performance variety was the high mortality rate due to aircraft accidents. Flying high performance single-engine fighters was a dangerous business. In the course of the jet program in the 1950s the unit lost a number of airmen. Capt. Frank H. Stern Jr., Capt. James R. Shotwell Jr., 2nd Lt Richard T. Byrne, and 2nd Lt. Linford A. Robbins were all lost in crashes during this period.
Capt. Frank H. Stern, Jr. 35, of Chadds Ford PA was lost on August 21, 1954 flying an F-86A (Ser. No. 49-1285) over the Gunpowder River on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. He was on his way from New Castle to deliver the jet to Maj. David McCallister, who was attending a conference in Omaha NE. His last radio report was while climbing over Delaware City about four minutes after takeoff. There was a low ceiling and overcast skies all the way up to 35,000 feet. Clarence Atkinson described conditions as "horrible - the rain was coming down in buckets. I told him, "Frank, it's too bad out there, you shouldn't go up in this kind of weather, its not worth it." He took off in a downpour, not a sprinkle, it was really coming down. The next thing we heard was an airplane had cracked up in the Chesapeake Bay. He hadn't been reporting, so we knew who it was."
A new National Guard Armory on Newport Gap Pike was named in honor of Captain Stern in December 1954. Stern had originally served with the 198th Coast Artillery before joining the Air Force in 1944. He had flown P-47s in World War II, and was a veteran of 41 combat missions in Korea.
According to General Spruance, “Frank was a good friend of McCallister’s and mine. In fact, of all the fighter pilots he was just a fabulous guy. His father ran Stern’s Auto Top Company downtown, so he’d give us discounts on re-topping our convertibles and all that kind of stuff. Frank was kind of a rotund guy. We decided we’d put a turban on him at one point and put him up on the mantelpiece because he looked kinda like Buddha. I’ve got a picture of him in that outfit.”
Not long after Stern's fatality, 142nd FIS commander David F. McCallister suffered a minor malfunction in his F-86A (serial number 49-1142) near Media Pennsylvania on October 30, 1954.
Capt. James R. Shotwell Jr. 33, went down near Delaware City on March 19, 1955 flying an F- 86A "Fyne Type" (Ser, No. 49-1169). His craft suffered a flame-out knocking out his power. It is believed he attempted an "air start", but in so doing he lost too much altitude to safely bail out. He was likely concerned about his jet hitting a populated area around Delaware City. His wingman saw the plane burning. He was able to eject from his burning F-86 jet, but his parachute failed to open in time. The mission was a routine gunnery training flight. Walt Hannum was towing targets in a T-33 at the time of the incident.
Clarence "Ed" Atkinson recalled: "I was flying at the time and had just pulled up on the ramp when I heard the shouting on the radio. Walt Hannum was with him. Walt just kept shouting, "Eject Jimmy, eject Jimmy!" And Hannum came in and pulled alongside of me. He couldn't get out of the airplane. He was just sitting there crying like mad because he and Jimmy were good friends. They were both from around Broomall Pennsylvania. That shook up Walt Hannum. Jimmy was a very likable guy. He took an interest in everybody. He was always smiling and very personable, really one of the nicest guys. He wasn't married so he spent a lot of time out here and did a lot of flying. He took a alot of pictures: most of those 35mm slides we have around were taken by Jimmy."
Shotwell was unmarried, a combat veteran of World War II in the South Pacific. He was employed by All-American Engineering Co. as an instrument engineer. He joined the Delaware Air Guard in 1948. He had been good friends with Frank Stern who was lost only eight months earlier.
2nd Lt Richard Byrne, Delaware Air Guard pilot, was killed on July 6 1955, flying F-86E, (Serial No. 51-13043) while assigned with the 3595th Training Wing at Nellis AFB Nevada, during advanced gunnery training at the fighter weapons course. He perished in a landing pattern accident.
On July 13, 1955, John E. Summerfield moderately damaged his F-86A (Serial number 49-1259) while training at annual summer camp at Travis Field, Savannah Georgia during a landing incident caused by a mechanical failure.
Theodore W. White, endured major damage to his F-86A (Serial Number 49-1303) during a crash landing at New Castle caused by an engine failure on August 7, 1955.
Jack Shieldon Williams of the 142 FIS suffered major damage to his T-33A (Serial number 53- 5955) during a landing accident at New Castle on November 28, 1955. This is the same aircraft that David McCallister was later killed in at Scott AFB in 1962.
2nd Lt Linford Robbins, 23, perished on May 23, 1957 in a crash of his F-86E Sabrejet (Serial No. 51-12979) near Middletown Delaware. He had been flying in a two ship formation with Jack Taylor on a night proficiency flight at about 3200 feet in overcast skies when his craft simply nosed down and exploded on impact. He had not radioed any indication of trouble. Robbins had only just returned from flight school about six months before the incident. His wingman was 1st Lt Johnson M. Taylor. Robbins was the father of a two year old boy.
Capt. William B. "Bloomer" Geisel, 35, was uninjured except for minor bruising when he bailed out of his DE ANG F-86 in December 1957(?) near Perry Iowa. He was enroute from New Castle to California for an aircraft inspection repair and modification mission after refueling in Selfridge AFB,Michigan, heading for Des Moines. Heavy ground fog prevented his landing after three attempts, so he diverted to the northwest. A short time later he radioed, "I've got two minutes fuel left, there goes the canopy, Merry Christmas to all". The plane crashed on a farm, strewing wreckage for nearly a mile. Geisel joined the Delaware ANG in August 1957 (?), as a veteran of World War II and Korea, he had 1500 flying hours and 50 Korean combat missions.
On September 25, 1958, Lt. Thomas W. Nale III was badly burned when his F-86H (serial Number 53-1377) "Ole Ger", (William Hutchison's jet) lost engine power and crashed near Dover AFB. Nale was an experienced aviator with over 1500 flight hours, 1200 in jets. The crash was approximately a mile southeast of the base on Kitts Hummock road. Two of four air Force officers on the scene were also burned while pulling the stricken pilot from the airplane. Lieutenant Raymond A. Malacarne, a radar operator with the 98th FIS was joined by Capt. Roger Thorpe, a medical officer, to make the rescue. They were augmented by Lt. Donald D. Pressley and Lt. Henry Urie, all from Dover AFB. Governor Caleb Goggs awarded all four rescuers the state's highest military honor, the Conspicuous Service Cross. Nale survived and eventually was medically retired from the Air Force after a prolonged medical treatment.
On June 4, 1961, Lieutenant Colonel David F. McCallister (Commander, 142nd Tactical Fighter Squadron) and Brigadier General William W. Spruance (Assistant Adjutant General for Air) were flying a T-33A jet trainer (53-5955) out of Scott AFB, when the aircraft lost power, and crashed. Colonel McCallister died and General Spruance received serious injuries. A total of eight airmen were lost in aircraft accidents during the unit’s first fifteen years of operation.
In 1963, in the last recorded major accident in the Delaware Air National Guard to date, a C-97G (serial number 0-22655) suffered a wheels-up incident resulting in the airplane's destruction. The crew was practicing routine touch and go landings at New Castle on a Friday evening just prior to a federal inspection according to Dick Harada, the flight engineer. There was a normal sequence of cycling flaps and landing gear on each approach.
A characteristic of New Castle airport at the time was the intersection of the two main runways where there was a distinct "hump" in the runway. The co-pilot had evidently inadvertently retracted the landing gear, but it was not evident because a safety feature of the gear was that it would not retract while weight was on the apparatus. On its roll down the runway, it hit the "hump" and momentarily became airborne. Sensing no weight the landing gear began to retract as the airplane settled back down to the runway resulting in an unintended wheels up belly landing. All four props with power on progressively destroyed the props, engines and nacelles as the belly of the airplane crushed itself under its own weight.
Harada recalls that when the airplane came to rest he instinctively shut down all electrical power to prevent a short from igniting fuel. This was standard procedure in preparation for a crash landing. Also aboard for the proficiency training flight were three other flight engineers; Jerrry Blake, Evan Pope, and Al Cucco.
C-97G Photograph at St. Johns Newfoundland 1970 courtesy of Don Driscoll
Lt Col John Marder and the crew of a December 1970 flight to Lajes AFB can thank a faulty relay switch for crippling their C-97. About halfway through a flight from Dover Flight Engineer Alfred DiSabatino found the engines were running too hot. He threw the switches to open the cowl flaps. When they had opened enough he disengaged the switches, but the flaps on engine number four continued to open. DiSabatino tried everything, but the cowl flaps were stuck past the full open stop.
The turbulent air created by the open cowl flaps hit the horizontal stabilizer on the tail and the airplane began to pitch up and down. The controls at the hands of aircraft commander Lt Col John Marder started to vibrate violently and the airplane was growing uncontrollable.
The crew thought they were going into the drink. TSgt James Boyce ran for survival suits but the crew knew survival in the frigid North Atlantic would be measured in minutes.
The plane was losing altitude as Marder and co-pilot Tenney Wheatley fought vainly to regain altitude. They tried lowering the flaps, and varying the power. The biggest help, however, was feathering the propeller on engine number four. The airplane leveled out at 5000 feet (after losing 13,000 in altitude). They turned north towards St. Johns, Newfoundland and descended towards the runway two-and-a-half harrowing hours later. As they flared for landing the stabilizer once again encountered turbulent air as the nose rose. Marder had to hold the tail up and land with only the nosewheel touching. Both pilots had to stand on the rudder pedals to control the airplane. Marder cut the power and plane settled onto its main gear. The crippled C- 97 stopped and the emergency was over.
The crew of C-97G Serial Number 20832 included:
Lt Col John E. Marder, Aircraft Commander Capt. Tenney H. Wheatley, Copilot Maj Paul F. Fuller ACM 1Lt James V. Dugar, Navigator 1Lt David F. Herron Navigator MSgt Alfred V. DiSabatino Flight Engineer TSgt John J. Sakal, Flight Engineer TSgt James A. Boyce Loadmaster MSgt Harold D. Saulsbery Flight Engineer MSgt Newton R. Brackin, Crew Chief Two un-named passengers from Dover AFB were also aboard
Lt Col Marder and MSgt DiSabatino were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses for their actions on that day. Navigator crew member David F. Herron later wrote, " I navigated the first half of the flight. 1Lt Dugar was getting a flight check during the second half. Our altitude was FL130. About fifteen minutes had passed after I had turned navigation duties over to Lt. Dugar. Abruptly the aircraft went into a "nose dive". Lt Col Marder the aircraft commander yelled, "Get Wheatley up here!" I sprinted to the rear to get then Capt Tenney Whaeatley out of a bunk and up front. We were still descending rapidly.
It turned out that we had "runaway" cowl flaps on engine number four. Our flight engineer, MSgt DiSabatino had tried to crack the cowl flaps a little to lower the cylinder head temperature. However, the cowl flaps continued to open, even thought MSgt DiSabatino pulled the appropriate circuit breakers. (We later found out the cowl flaps had opened ten inches.) The disturbed airflow around the number four engine was causing severe buffeting/stalling of the right horizontal stabilizer. This was causing our rapid loss of altitude.
At the time, I was the only crew member without a task to perform. I stood in the cockpit and observed all the crew actions. I held a civilian Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, so feel that I was a highly qualified observer. We were still descending.
Then Capt. Wheatley alone thought of and executed three actions that I believe saved us. First, he shut down the number four engine (to reduce airflow). Secondly, he put down 40% flaps to raise the tail somewhat out of the disturbed airflow. Finally, he slowed the aircraft to 130 KIAS- a few knots over stall speed. This further reduced airflow over the tail. According to our radio altimeter, we were able to finally maintain an altitude of 1500 feet above the sea. Lt Col Marder approved all these decisions.
Lt. Dugar and Major Fuller plotted a course direct to St. Johns, Newfoundland. (We were 400 miles due south). At 1500 feet we had a 70 knot tailwind. Therefore we had a ground speed of 200 knots and reached St. Johns in two hours - all the while frightened that we might start losing what little altitude we had. It turned out that a solenoid in the rear of teh aircraft had stuck, causing a shaft in the cowl flap motor to shear.
Concerning the seriousness of our situation, I read an article by Ernest Gann several years later in "Flying " magazine. Mr. Gann told of a Northwest Air lines Boeing 377 (civilian version of the C-97) which departed Seattle for the Orient. Two hours out over teh Pacific the captain reported runaway cowl flaps over the HF radio. This was his last transmission and the aircraft was never found.
David F. Herron, Major ANG Retired, 24 June 2009
Colonel James V. Dugar (ANG Ret) former Commander of the Delaware Air National Guard, who was also aboard that flight wrote a letter of concurrence dated June 27, 2009 fully endorsing Major Herron's description of the events on that flight.
Gulf War The last recorded fatal casualty of a (former) Delaware Air Guardsman was Major John Gordon. John had been with the unit throughout the 1980's but his civilian job transfer took him to San Antonio Texas where he affiliated with the 433rd Airlift Wing, the Air Force Reserve "Alamo Wing" flying C-5As. At the onset of the Gulf War, Gordon was aircraft commander for an airlift mission out of Ramstein Germany, when the aircraft began take off rotation, it continued to rotate up into a stall and fiery crash killing 13 people with 4 survivors.
Tornado The most expensive calamity to hit the Delaware Air Guard was Tuesday September 28th, 2004. As the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne blew through Delaware the Guard was busy preparing to assist those affected by the heavy rains and imminent flooding. At 4:14 p.m., a tornado touched down on the New Castle County Air Base, home of the Delaware Air National Guard's 166th Airlift Wing.
The tornado damaged five of the seven C-130H aircraft parked on the 166th's ramp. Each aircraft weighs in excess of 100,000 pounds. Despite their weight, some aircraft were twirled around more than 360 degrees, one was picked up and slammed to the ground, and two were pushed into each other. Strangely, a mere 100 yards away, a line of plastic construction cones remained unmoved.
*Quoted from "From Delaware to Everywhere" by Jan Churchill, 2007