January 13, 1964
A B-52 based at Turner Field, Albany, Georgia was returning from a trip starting in Albany on January 11, 1964 as part of the "Chrome Dome" mission, a Cold War defensive concept requiring our B-52 bombers be in the air almost constantly. The flight pattern this time was designated Buzz One Four. Starting in Albany, they flew out over the Atlantic. Engine and mechanical trouble required a stop at Moron Air Base in Spain and again at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. A part of the 484th Bomb Wing, the plane was needed back at Turner to be plugged into the Chrome Dome schedule. A flight crew from Turner was sent to Massachusetts to relieve the exhausted crew and to fly the plane back to Turner.
Weather over Maryland was bitter cold and very turbulent. At 1?32, Air Traffic Control received a call from Flight Buzz One Four requesting permission to descend to get out of the extreme turbulence. As this did not work, the pilot notified the tower they would ascend seeking calmer air. Later review of the tapes would indicate sound of rushing air. The plane was going down.
The Boeing B-52 is 156 feet long with wing span of 185 feet. The tail is four stories tall. It and the 4,000 square feet of wing would catch the full force of the turbulence creating immense stress on the entire structure of the plane. Prior flights had had similar problems to Flight Buzz One Four, flying through heavy turbulence which yanked out the bolts that connected the tail to the fuselage. It is thought that this is what happened to Flight Buzz One Four.
All occupants of the plane heard and heeded the order of Pilot Thomas McCormick to abandon the plane. Two survived. Three did not.
There is an excellent rendition of the events of this crash written by David Wood of the Newhouse News Service and published in the Washington Post Magazine on August 8, 1999 and again in the Oregonian on August 16-18, 1999.
The articles covering this story in the Albany Herald are linked to this page for those interested in following the drama from the local viewpoint. Our thanks to the Albany Herald for researching this for us and for permission to reproduce copies made from Microfilm.
In Memory of and to honor those who died:
Maj. Robert L. Payne, Navigator
T. Sgt. Melvin D. Wooten, Gunner
Maj. Robert E. Townley, Radar Navigator
In Honor of the survivors:
Capt. Parker Carswell "Mack" Peedin, Co-Pilot
Maj. Thomas W. McCormick, Pilot