Lt. Thomason’s RB-29 Crew
From the Office of the Operations Officer
|It all happened on the thirteenth, the thirteenth of May 1950. Lt. Thomason and his RB-29 crew had been assigned an hour of formation, surveillance reconnaissance between Okinawa and Japan, and a photo training mission at Japan. The first part of the mission proceeded without incident, the takeoff, the formation, and the low altitude reconnaissance being accomplished in a routine manner.
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|When the time came to climb to altitude, power was set up and all instruments indicated a normal climb until the aircraft reached 8,000 feet. At this point, the position was aproximately 75 miles from the coast of Japan with nothing but ocean underneath. Suddenly things began to happen. Number three propeller started to wind up with the tachometer climbing to 3,900 rpm in a matter of seconds. Lieutenant Thomason tried to feather this engine immediately, but it would not feather completely. The feathering buttons were to receive quite a workout, for within the next few seconds, after number three had gone out, number one propeller went to 3,700 rpm. Before the co-pilot could feather that engine, the left scanner called in “Number two is on fire!” Almost simultaneously one and two were feathered, and the aircraft began to loose altitude rapidly, 4,000 feet being lost in a little over two minutes. Lieutenant Thomason declared an emergency and a position report was on its way. Next he called for the re-start of number one, and that engine came back into operation, developing 2,300 rpm and a manifold pressure of 38 inches. Still unable to maintain altitude and because a climb would have to be made to clear terrain between the present position and an emergency field, Lieutenant Thomason tried unsuccessfully to bring number three back in. Failing that, he had number two re-started, although number two still smoked considerably and would develop only partial power, it was now possible to climb slightly at a very low airspeed.
New positon reports were sent out to ground stations and a DF steer to Itazuke Air Force Base was requested, each heading given being carefully checked by the navigator. Lieutenant Thomason also requested an escort from Air Sea Rescue. From there on in to the field, he gave continuous position reports and kept the Control in that area fully informed as to his progress and the condition of his aircraft.
At 1130 hours, one hour after the emergency had started, the aircraft was parked on the ground, an uneventful two engine landing having been made at Itazuke.
Lieutenant Thomason displayed superior flying technique and judgement throughout the emergency. He demonstrated his ability to face such a situation calmly and to use his knowledge of ground facilities to aid him in saving his crew and his aircraft from possible disaster. The crew demonstrated excellent training in performing their duties during the emergency.
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