Asymmetric Thrust and a HAPPY Ending

John Harris

The B-57 was infamous for causing trouble when the throttles were advanced too fast at low speeds. Over the years, several crew members were killed when throttle application was used improperly. This story has a happy ending with a recovered airplane and two scared crew members.

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In June 1955, I and my Navigator, Louis Miserocchi were in a flight of five B-57s from Warner-Robbins AFB, GA to Laon, France. We made a first stop at Dover AFB, Delaware to refuel and to pick up water survival and other gear for our big adventure of flight across the cold North Atlantic. Dick McCullough was another of the pilots. He had some difficulty with his airplane on the way to Dover. When the maintenance was finished, he flew a test hop to make sure it was OK for the trip. "Rock" Miserocchi volunteered to go along for the experience, since we were all inexperienced in the airplane. On his landing attempt, a need for a go around became apparent late in the approach. Dick tried to hurry the power application and got the throttles too far ahead of the engine acceleration. One engine accelerated faster than the other and caused the airplane to start a rapid roll to the left. Dick retarded the throttles, but the damage had been done. He was able to level the wings, but heading about thirty degrees away from the runway heading.

The airplane hit hard on the nose section, causing the nose gear to separate from the air aircraft. The bottom of the nose was crushed in enough to drive the pilot seat up and forward. The top of the seat penetrated the canopy. The pilot's head was driven up and forward. Originally, the magnetic compass was firmly attached (probably could have lifted the nose by it) to the canopy bow above and forward of the pilot's head. Dick's head hit the compass, smashing a hole in his helmet and rendering Dick unconscious for a short while. The canopy opening mechanism was also wrecked. The airplane continued to roll for about two thousand feet across "the boonies" toward the gun club and skeet range. The pilot blissfully unaware, but Rock was pretty frantic. It finally stopped a short distance from the club building, where a sergeant was frantically dashing from one window to another to see if the possibility of collision looked any better or worse. Rock couldn't get the pilot to respond.

He couldn't see it, but Dick was clawing for the throttle to shut it down, but couldn't find them. They had moved aft relatively, and Dick was still about half out of it. He probably also tried the canopy open switch, because the fire crew were able to open it by putting an ax in the crack under the canopy and prying. Meantime, Rock was trying desperately to open the canopy. He pulled the emergency T handle and the shell blew up in the cockpit. Didn't cause any more damage, but added to Rock's considerable fright, when the smoke and smell of the explosive became so apparent. He located the crash axe and proceeded to try to chop his way out. The curve of the axe pretty well fit the curve of the canopy and Rock only managed to peck a small hole in the tough plastic material. The airplane sat there for a while with both engines at idle, treating everyone present with the beautiful sound of a B-57, just waiting. The fire crew, after trying everything they could decided to get physical. A big guy swung his axe at the seam below the canopy where it closes. It worked. the pried the canopy up and things went well after that.

The aircraft was 521565. It was lost to the 38th Bomb Wing but later repaired. I saw it in North Africa as a "Shanticle" airplane. They had attached a Mace nose to it and it's job was to fly the missile tracks as a missile for test purposes, I suppose.

Dick got a couple stitches, and found another way to France. Rock and I continued the trip successfully. If Dick's career suffered any, it wasn't apparent. After his France tour, he wound up in the long wing B-57s. Rock continued as my navigator until I moved to wing training.

A lot of us learned the hard way about asymmetrical thrust in the B-57. There are a lot more stories.


Copyright Marquis G. Witt, 1998,1999, 2000, 2001,2002,2003,2004,2005,2006,2007,2008, 2011
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