Monday, August 18, 2008

"True Survivor" Colleague

The following three e-mails were just received by our Book of the Month Reviewer, Rick Spencer (39th ATS Navigator, '62-'65) from Bill Neely (40th ATS C-124s & 1607th Flightline Maintenance Squadron, consolidated maintenance, '55-'58, when the 39th was converting from C-54s to the brand new 133s). So Bill was in Dover when C-133 #54-0146 "augered in, inverted" in Georgetown, DE, with 4 fatalities. Here's his story:

17 Aug 2008

Hi Rick:
You probably don't remember me but I'm one of your high school classmates.
I spent nearly all my adult life in aviation as a mechanic and pilot. Also did about 20 years of skydiving and parachute rigging as a hobby.
I retired from the FAA in 1997.
I was talking to an old friend the other day who was in the Air Force when I was and we were discussing the various types of aircraft when we were on active duty.
I was at Dover AFB from 1955 through 1958. I was in a C-124 outfit as a mechanic and later a crew chief (started in the old 40th Air Transport Squadron-MATS).
There was also a C-54 squadron there.
About 2 years before I was discharged (maybe less) the new C-133's were assigned to Dover to replace the C-54's. While I was there they had the first (I think) fatal accident with the C-133.
A civilian C-46 (Logair) pilot supposedly saw the aircraft on it's back falling out of control.
I never did hear an official answer as to what happened. I think there was a rumor that the props may have reversed in flight.
One of our hangars was used to reconstruct the airplane wreckage.
As I recall the aircraft were grounded and I don't remember if they got back flying or not before I left Dover.
I was wondering if you could point me towards a web site that may have accident information on the C-133.
During my nearly 30 years with FAA I participated in numerous civilian aircraft accidents, but never got involved with any military investigations.
Since I survived many hours in "Old Shaky" and you did likewise in the C-133, we can be termed "True Survivors".
Thank you in advance for any information you may provide.
Stay safe.

Bill Neely

I found a brief description of the accident I inquired about.
It occurred 13 April 1958 about 8 months prior to my leaving Dover.
Crashed inverted about 17 mins after takeoff @ Georgetown, Delaware.
4 fatalities. Not much info.
That may be all that's available.

Thanks Rick:
That's the web-site that I had book marked from your message to Mitch quite awhile back.The accident I'd mentioned was the first fatal accident with the C-133. A probable cause was never determined. Most of the accidents with that aircraft went in the "undetermined" category. From what I found on various web-sites only one accident had survivors.
You are probably familiar with the various sites. They all have good info and many photos.
When I was at Dover the 39th was the C-54 squadron. As I mentioned, I was in the 40th. Later we became the 1607th Flightline Maintenance Squadron (consolidated maintenance).
Shortly before I was discharged we got a new assistant crew chief named Robinson. He had been a flight engineer on C-124's and got tired of box lunches and living out of a B-4 bag. He was one of my bosses those last few months of active duty.
Many years later he showed up at my FAA office in Columbia, South Carolina to get authorization to take the examinations for his civilian mechanic's license. He retired from Charleston AFB (troop carrier outfit). He was a civilian Fixed Base Operator in the Charleston area until he finally retired for good. I hear from him every now and then. Small world - huh? When I left the Air Force I never thought I'd see any of those guys again.
I met a lot of old C-124 guys in the FAA. Also at Charleston AFB civilian aero-club.
When I came to South Carolina in 1975 there was an aircraft museum in Florence, SC. It was out in the open along the highway beside the Florence airport. In it was 52-1074. A C-124 from Dover.
The owner of the place either died or went broke and the airplanes disappeared. It turns out that my friend Robinson and some other retired C-124 guys got the airplane patched up enough for a ferry flight to Charleston AFB. The airplane is on display inside the main gate of the base.
Robinson told me the ferry flight was quite an adventure. The fabric covered control surfaces were patched up with duct tape. There were fuel leaks everywhere and not many of the instruments worked. About 10 minutes out of CAFB the duct tape on one elevator came loose and set up a lot of vibration. Anyway they made it safely and the airplane is on display. Looked pretty good to me the last time I saw it. The crew chief on it when at Dover was a good friend of mine from Florida.
Once again, thank you for the information. It's good to hear from you. I look forward to the updates from Mitch. That's a nice thing he's doing for all us old farts. Later.



Hans and Diane said...

At the same time I was entering this Post, Bill Neely was leaving his own Comment directly on another Post. So I'm transferring it here to be more visible and relevant. THANKS FOR THE INTERESTING INPUT, BILL!

BILL NEELY has left a new comment on your post "Update on 61999 move to Travis":

I was stationed at Dover AFB from 1955 thru 1958. I was a mechanic in a C124 outfit (40th Air Transport Squadron which later became the 1607). The 39th squadron had C-54 aircraft.
A few months prior to my discharge the new C-133's arrived to replace the C-54's. The C-133's flew training flights and maintenance test hops. They seemed to have problems that grounded them from time to time. During this time they had the first fatal accident with the aircraft. We heard rumors, but no facts. A C-46 pilot (LOGAIR) reportedly saw the aircraft on its back falling to earth. They used one of our hangars to reconstruct the wreckage. There was a rumor circulating that the props had reveresed in flight, but I never heard an official determination of probable cause.
A short while ago I was talking to a friend who was in the Air Force at the same time as I was. We were discussing the varios types of aircraft that we saw. The subject of that accident came up.
I remembered that one of my high school classmates (Rick Spencer)had flown in C-133's. I asked Rick to direct me to a web-site that may have accident info and he sent me here. After researching this and other sites, it is clear that not many C-133 accident investigations ever produced a probable cause.
After the Air Force I remained in civil aviation and eventually retired from the FAA after nearly 30 years. I recall that a few years before my retirement we received a notice not to issue ferry permits to certain C-133 aircraft due to questionable time pertinent to life limits on fuselages an/or wing spars. I was surprised to hear that any of the aircraft were evenaround, let aline flyable.

Posted by BILL NEELY to CargomasterRaster at August 18, 2008 10:26 AM

firstfleet said...

My book, Remembering an Unsung Giant, has a full chapter with lots of detail on each of the C-133 crashes or accidents. There were some intereting theories about the cause of the first crash, at Dover. I also have a fair amount of accidednt detail on the C-133 web site.

Cal Taylor