On Jan. 10, 1964, a B-52H flown by Boeing civilian test pilot Chuck Fisher and his three man crew lost its tail at about 14,000 ft over northern New Mexico’s Sangre de Christo Mountains.
The aircraft was involved in a test mission whose purpose was to shake, rattle and roll the Stratofortress bomber at high speed and low altitude to record sensor data on how such a profile could affected the plane’s airframe.
The crew did their job: the vertical stabilizer detached from the B-52.
Six hours later, with support from the ground, Fisher successfully performed the first and only Stratofortress‘s tailless landing!
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.
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I’ve actually seen some short video of this damaged jet flying and coming in for a landing. Pretty wild. There have been accounts of B-52s having the tail fail in heavy turbulence, the jet instantly became uncontrollable, and the crew had to bail out. I find it amazing that they brought this jet back with this kind of damage.
I found the USAF aircraft safety film on the accident on youtube be warned though that the audio unfortunately has a distinct buzz.