Supersonic Starlifter



A Wild Ride



At the current time I don't have the exact date (it was in 1976) for this incident but it was a Norton aircraft/crew. John Neilson confirmed the aircraft tail number was 65-9402.

This photo was taken while 65-9402 was sitting on the ramp at the COMOX airport awaiting repairs following the 'supersonic' incident'. Due to the resolution of the photo you can't make out the tail number, but trust me, it's 9042.
Copyright ©: Bill Weeper

Bill adds these comments regarding the supersonic incident:

I was on a C-141 crew that took a replacement set of petal doors to Comox RCAFB Canada after the incident with 65-9402. We took the old set back to Norton. One of the petal doors had a large chunk taken out of the door (at narrow end). It sat there for quite a while getting repaired. A loadmaster friend of mine (George Spaulding) was on board 402 when the incident occurred. I can't remember any of the other crew member's names.
Bill Weeper


Copyright ©: Paul Minert, Date: November 1980

Copyright © 1976, John Neilson, Date: 2000 at the boneyard

While cruising at FL390, and without warning the aircraft nose swung sharply to the right. The pilot disconnected the autopilot, and yaw damper. The Dutch Roll became worse. He started a descent and regained control at FL310. After the aircraft landed, the #2 and #3 yaw damper rate gyros were replaced and the write-up was signed off.

The next day while returning to home base, cruising at FL410, the crew felt a couple small jolts. They disconnected the autopilot and waited. After a few moments when nothing more was felt, they reconnected the autopilot. Moments later the nose slammed violently to the right. The pilot again disconnected the autopilot and yaw damper. He attempted to control the Dutch Roll with aileron.

Within seconds the aircraft was partially inverted. The rolling and yawing continued as pitch reached 90 degrees nose down. Loose objects flew around the cockpit. The crew bunk mattress and the Navigator wound up lying across the instrument panel, hindering vision and control movements.

The pilot regained control and recovered from the high-speed dive at 17,000 feet. The crew performed a controllability check and recovered the aircraft to the nearest military base, Comox RCAFB in Canada. Large pieces of the upper wing skin, and pieces of both petal doors were missing.

Flight recorder data indicated "G" loadings of+3.18 to -3.52 and a maximum of 450 KIAS Investigators were unable to confirm the maximum Mach, but suspect that it had exceeded Mach 1.0.

Accident investigators found that the aircraft had experienced seven yaw related flight control malfunctions, none given a red "X". A dual malfunction of the autopilot junction box and the yaw damper control panel caused intermittent spurious signals to the yaw damper, yet gave a satisfactory test indication.


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