Man sucked out of B-52. Lands on water tower?

OK, I (over)heard this a few weeks ago in a conversation between two chaps in the same line with *me. Here’s what one guy was telling:

“I knew a guy in Wichita Falls who was a crewman on a B-52. One day, while they were in flight, he accidentally bumped something that opened up an access panel, and sucked him out. They later found his body on a water tower.”

The guy was definitely serious in his account of this (whether he was sincere, or just a poker face), but I didn’t buy it. And if I had been part of the conversation, I would definitely have pressed for more details.

It also seems that something this freakish would be more-or-less well known, especially in the Wichita Falls (I’m pretty sure it was Wichita Falls, not Wichita) area, so the GQ’s are:

If you’re familiar with this account did it happen?
How “easily” could this have happened?
In my opinion, it smacks of UL to most charitable, and pure BS at the least charitable. Am I off-base?

*Waiting to ride the tram to the top of Sandia Peak in Albuquerque, NM, if you’re interested.

The difference between a sea story and a fairy tale is that one of them starts out “once upon a time.”

There are a lot of military aviation accidents you don’t hear about and it’s entirely possible this isn’t a firsthand account despite your friend saying “I knew a guy.” No telling when it might have happened if there was a FOAF chain involved.

My sea story meter is twitching because “access panels” typically would not open to the outside of a pressurized aircraft. I’m not familiar enough with the B52 to know if there are escape hatches separate from where the seats eject but I’m sure they’d be designed to not easily be accidentally opened in flight.

I have to agree with Padeye, here. I too am not very familiar with the schematics of a B-52, but I do read a lot about military aircraft (I’m somewhat of an enthusiast).

To say that, “he accidentally bumped something that opened up an access panel, and sucked him out” I find to be highly suspect.

I mean, the only thing I can think of is if he was in the landing gear area, with the landing gear still down, and he somehow managed to fall through.

I know that doesn’t really qualify as an “access panel” but, who knows, the story could’ve gotten twisted somewhere through its recount.

From here About half way down the page, the ECM was the only crewman whose duty required him t be out of his seat.

Fairy tale: “Once upon a time…”

War story: “No shit, this really happened…”

That being said, B-52s have been flying for over 50 years. And while no “access panel” could be easily bumped to de-pressurize the aircraft, there probably is some way to do it. In the C-141 we had an emergency de-pressurization handle installed on the overhead panel in the cockpit. After several incidents of non-crewmembers using it for support (thinking it was an “Oh-shit” handle) and blowing the #2 escape hatch, the handles were deactivated. So it’s possible that this could have happened, although I’m not very familiar with the B-52.

As for landing on a water tower, that’s of course possible as well. Wichita Falls is a pretty big city, and if this happened a few years ago I wouldn’t be surprised if most people there have forgotten about it.

So, as with any good war story…it’s not impossible. It’s very unlikely, but just believable enough to make you go…hmmmm.

I vote “war story”.

And Earl last time I was in Albuquerque I hiked UP the Sandia Peak and took the tram DOWN. Next time I’m doing it your way!

I heard of one in WWII where a P-51 exploded close to the ground and it’s pilot found himself standing safely on terra frima. :dubious: Yeah, right.

I used to be in the Civil Air Patrol. One guy was telling me about when he was stationed in Alaska in the Air Force. He said that a pilot ejected at mach 1. When he came down he was only wearing boots, gloves, and his parachute. Everything else had been torn away.

The same guy (who was not an AF pilot) said he was flying a Piper Cherokee in Alaska when ATC asked if he would mind having a couple of F-4s run an intercept on him. He agreed. The Phantoms came up beside him, and he slowly retarded the throttle. The AF pilots tried to match his speed. He said he kept slowing until the Phantoms stalled.

I have no idea if those are true, but they make good stories.

I suppose it could also be a story originating during the WWII era of non pressurized bombers that just migrated to the B-52 over the course of many retellings. Did they train bomber crews near Wichita Falls in WWII?

The Free Fall Research Page

Mrs Duckster and I attended the 2003 Oregon International Airshow this past September. The Sunday opening major event was a demonstration by the US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team.

We watched one of the Golden Knights plunge to earth because his main chute apparently failed, he couldn’t release it and his reserve chute got tangled in it.

None of the TV news reports that night reported it. There were no online stories we could find. (Can’t say if there were any radio reports.) Yet, thousands of us watch this guy plunge to earth and to date, I’ve never found any news story of the incident, or what injuries he sustained, let alone if he died.

With no apparent published news stories, I’m sure this could taken on an urban legend. Yet we all saw it happen.

Duckster, I hate to sound harsh, but I find your story as unbelievable as the OP. Are you sure the person didn’t have a close-call, and require his reserve chute? Or that you misinterpreted the disaster?

The event had a TV station and seven radio stations as sponsors, so I’m certain they got decent media coverage, and I’d be surprised if they weren’t at least mentioned on most stations that evening, even if nothing happened. And if something aweful did happen, I can’t see how it could’ve avoided mention.

Bill H. you can be as harsh as you want. With my own eyes, as well as everyone else there, we saw this fall with his unopened chute trailing upward. He went all the way down and no chute fully opened to slow his descent.

The entire crowd was silent. There never was an annoucement the rest of the day informing about the guy’s health status.

While it is possible it made the news somewhere, I’ve yet to locate a source.

Honestly guys, the best way to do it is up the back side of the mountain… on a motorcycle… going reaaallly fast.

Weather balloon.

Duckster, I have wonderful news: Everyone was fine at the show.

From Bill H. to KATU, a sponsor of the show:

Response from Janice Salvador, KATU Producer:

I can send you her email address if you’d like to follow up.

I have read several reviews of that airshow, and boards frequented by Oregon scanner enthusiasts where the Airshow’s official frequencies were published for monitoring. None mentions a fatality, which would surely have been a highlight of their reports. The attendee reports, in particular, seem to contest your assertion that "everyone else there"saw what you believe you saw. They were present, but you have now way of knowing what they saw or thought they saw.

Packages were released, with aerodynamic streamers [photograph] which might have been mistaken for a Golden Knight falling under a fouled parachute [Slideshow showing yellow uniform and black gear]

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what you saw. I do however wonder if you had any independent confirmation that the event actually took place. Aside from official reports, that incident would almost certainly have been a hot topic of discussion in the crowd. Is it possible that someone misinterpreted what was seen, and unwittingly spread a false rumor through the neighboring region of the crowd as a result?

There used to be a site somewhere on the net that was inspired by a true story from WWII. Apparently a guy got shot out of his bomber and fell without a parachute, and managed to survive. I believe he landed on a hay bale or something that coushined most of the blow, and IIRC he had a heck of a time convincing the germans who captured him about where he came from that day.

Someone calculated that from the height he started at, it took him two minutes or so to reach the ground. The web site had a shockwave graphic or something that was basically a guy screaming all the way down for 2 minutes straight while chaff exploded overhead and such. It made a very lasting impression about exactly how long two minutes is when you are falling from the sky.

If anyone knows the site I’m talking about and if it still exists, maybe you can post a link.

That’s weird…I’ve heard that same story too, somewhere. Damned if I know where.

Maybe it was from you, Johnny.

This reminds me of an airline hostess, Vesna Vulovic by name and Yugoslavian, who fell 33,330 feet when her DC9 blew up. She’s in Guinness as the survivor of the longest fall without a 'chute. (1996 Edition)

engineer and zoogirl you might want to check out the link Michael Ellis provided. It has both of the incidents you mention, plus many more.

Here it is again.

BTW, great link Michael!