1982 Thunderbirds crash

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posted on May, 10 2014 @ 10:03 PM
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For tonight's trip into the Wayback Machine, we're going to look at the 1982 Thunderbirds crash.

To start with, we have to look at September 8, 1981. The Team had just completed a performance at Burke Lakefront Airport, in Cleveland, and were departing for Nellis AFB, NV and home. At the time the Team flew T-38 Talon aircraft, and the Crew Chief flew in the back seat on routine transit flights.

On this day, with a huge crowd watching, both at the airport and in office buildings nearby, Team Commander Lt. Col. David Smith, and his Crew Chief, Staff Sergeant Dwight Roberts departed the airport in Thunderbird #1. Upon takeoff, the aircraft impacted a flock of seagulls, losing power and catching fire. Both Col. Smith, and SSGT Roberts were able to eject from the aircraft, but Col. Smith's chute didn't have time to open before he impacted the rocks, and went into the lake. He was killed instantly. This accident ended the 1981 season (which was approaching the end anyway) for the Team.

tangotillyouresore.wordpress.com...

After the 1981 crash, Major Normal Lowry, who had been selected already to lead the Team, stepped into the role of Commander. The Team then began practice for the 1982 season.

On January 18, 1982 the Team was practicing for the Davis-Monthan Air Show, at the Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field (this is important later). The Diamond (aircraft 1-4) were performing the Line Abreast Loop, where the four aircraft go into a slow loop, side by side, then drop down the back side of the loop at 400 mph, pulling out approximately 100 feet above the ground. At some point during the loop, Thunderbird #1 apparently suffered a mechanical failure. All four aircraft struck the ground so close to simultaneously that no one could tell which aircraft hit first. All four pilots were killed instantly in the impact.

Impact site

There were several eyewitness accounts, and Tech Sergeant Alfred King was videotaping the practice for later review. He taped the aircraft to impact with the ground.

Thanks to the video tape, it was determined that the likely cause was a jammed stabilizer on Thunderbird #1. As per their training, the other three pilots never looked away from the lead aircraft.

After the crash, Major General Gerald Larson lead the investigation into the cause of the crash. Thanks to the video tape, the Board determined the likely cause to be a jammed stabilizer on Thunderbird #1. The other three pilots never looked away from the lead aircraft, and flew into the ground with him.

After the completion of the investigation, General Wilbur Creech, who had control of all copies of the video tape of the crash, without input or direction from the Judge Advocate Generals office ordered all copies of the tape either destroyed, or partially erased. He stated that two copies of the tape were completely destroyed, and he personally, erased the last few seconds of the master copy of the tape, that showed the fireball.

GAO report on the video tape

The Thunderbirds cancelled the entire 1982 season, and started the transition from the T-38 Talon, to the current F-16 Falcon. Several former Thunderbird pilots were called back to the Team, and certified in the F-16. They began by flying 2 ship formations through all the maneuvers, eventually leading up to all six aircraft being involved.

Their first performance in the F-16 was the start of the 1983 season, and they have flown them since. In 2005, Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field was renamed Creech Air Force Base in honor of General Wilbur Creech.

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edit on 5/10/2014 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)




posted on May, 11 2014 @ 12:17 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

wow... just wow... emotionally gripping stuff. the 4 plane crash is a testament to their training and skill if nothing else.

the first crash in 81 makes me sick to my stomach. i have a recurring nightmare that I'm falling and traveling forward at a great deal of speed and always wake up right at impact, the feeling in the last few seconds leading up to the impact is so intense and just brain frying and its only a dream. the intensity of those last few moments are probably some of the more intense moments felt by anyone ever id be willing to wager.(no way we can ever know that but you get my point)

these are the situations that every enlisted man and woman wake up and knowingly face every day. some more then others. this is why i hold most soldiers and marines in the highest of reverence. its really almost inhuman to go into every day knowing that it could end in just terrible catastrophic failure and not letting it hinder you. the uncontrollable factor that flyboys face to me adds even more to the stress of their job. the speeds and altitudes that a lot of pilots operate at make parachutes null and void and besides all the real dangerous times a parachute isnt gonna do ya much good anyway.

my hats off to these folks, thanks for sharing, I'm going to observe a moment for them myself and send a little reverence their way in valhalla!



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 12:37 AM
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a reply to: mindseye1609

Even for people not involved with the Team this was a horrifying event. The Thunderbirds are sort of everyone's Team for people around the Air Force. This one crash decimated the Team, and left the entire Air Force heart broken for a long time. I think it took the rest of the Air Force awhile to get over the loss.

It's always hard when you lose a pilot or a crew, but to lose the entire heart of a unit at one fell swoop is staggering.



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 12:43 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Being an old Air Force brat, I remember this well... what a heart break.

I've always loved the T-Birds... one of my fondest memories is watching them scream over the Air Force Academy stadium when a family member was graduating... melancholy, but thanks for the memories.



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 12:51 AM
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a reply to: Baddogma

We were PCSing in 1983, and had to stop at Dover because my sister was sick as could be with the flu. On our way out of the base hospital, we heard a roar, and they went over doing one of their arrival mini shows in the F-16. It was so exciting to see them both in the new planes, and flying again. It was almost like a healing to see them in the air again.



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 01:44 AM
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I've refueled just about every plane out there and I can tell you my absolute favorite was the thunderbirds. Everything they do is coordinated, including the way they do air refueling. Just YouTube thunderbirds grand forks and you can see a video from the tankers point of view. I got to refuel them during a check ride and even though we didn't take pics on check rides my evaluator allowed me to. Pretty cool stuff...



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 01:53 AM
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a reply to: boomer135

That's one of the things I've always loved about watching them. Everything they do is coordinated down to the millimeter it seems. From walking to the jets, to walking away from them. I'm looking forward to taking the other half to a show and letting her see the fly for the first time.



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 10:35 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Do you think they will eventually transition into F35's or stay with the F16's?



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 10:55 AM
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a reply to: Sammamishman

I think they'll be in F-16s for awhile now. We might eventually see them transition to F-35s quite a few years down the road, but I'm torn on that idea. I don't know if the F-35 will live up to their standards, and put on a show like the Viper does.



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 02:41 PM
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I'd see them going to the f-22 before the 35. We'll if it wasn't for the price tag...that would be a sexy looking thunderbird.

Edit: here's a couple I took...





edit on 11-5-2014 by boomer135 because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 02:44 PM
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a reply to: boomer135

Or that there are only 187 or so of them out there. That's one reason I might see them go to the -35 if they buy them in the numbers they're talking about.



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 02:55 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58
Yeah but can you imagine a raptor painted up like a thunderbird? Lol. Sweeeeeeeeeeet



Oh and hey we would get in more trouble for scratching the paint on them than we would scratching a stealth!
edit on 11-5-2014 by boomer135 because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 03:03 PM
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a reply to: boomer135

You'd probably get taken out and shot for scratching the paint.


And yeah, that WOULD be pretty.



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 03:38 PM
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A friend of mine was stationed at Nellis I believe at the time of the crash and his job was to survey the debris field. He doesn't like to talk about it when he's sober.




posted on May, 11 2014 @ 03:40 PM
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a reply to: mikell

I don't blame him. That would have been an awful debris field to have to survey and recover. I went to one where no one was hurt, and that field was a mess. I can only imagine from the pictures how bad this one would have been.



posted on May, 11 2014 @ 03:55 PM
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It was before computers so he had to draw it all out on paper and separate the planes even though they knew what happened. I think he was either in school or just out and I think it was the first and only crash he surveyed. At least the only one he talked about. It might have been a year or so of work in itself. Haven't seen him in a few years he owes me a bit of money.







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