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

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.

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.

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

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.
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

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

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

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

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-97 Crew Overcomes Overwater Emergency (January 1971 DANG TRUTH)

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
 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.

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

*Quoted from "From Delaware to Everywhere" by Jan Churchill, 2007
Delaware Military History