B-52 Accidents

  • On 24 January 1961, a B-52G broke up in midair and crashed after suffering a severe fuel loss, near Goldsboro, North Carolina, dropping two nuclear bombs in the process without detonation.
  • On 14 March 1961, a B-52F from the 70th Bombardment Wing was carrying two nuclear weapons and experienced an uncontrolled decompression that required it to descend to 10,000 feet in order to lower the cabin altitude. Increased fuel consumption at lower altitude, together with its inability to rendezvous with a tanker in time, caused the aircraft to run out of fuel. The aircrew ejected safely, while the unmanned aircraft crashed 15 miles (24 km) West of Yuba City, California.
B-52H 61-0026 Czar 52 before crash; note the escape hatch detaching during the co-pilot's ejection sequence is visible near the tip of the leading edge of the tail.
  • On 24 January 1963, a B-52C on a training mission out of Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts experienced trouble and crashed into the side of Elephant Mountain near Greenville, Maine. Of the nine men aboard, only two survived the crash.
  • On 13 January 1964, a B-52D carrying two nuclear bombs suffered a structural failure in flight that caused the tail section to shear off. Four crew ejected successfully before the aircraft crashed near Cumberland, Maryland. Two crew subsequently perished on the ground because of hypothermia, while another who was unable to eject died in the aircraft; both weapons were recoverd.
  • On 17 January 1966, a fatal collision occurred between a B-52G and a KC-135 Stratotanker over Palomares, Spain. The two unexploded B-28 FI 1.45-megaton-range nuclear bombs on the B-52 were eventually recovered; the conventional explosives of two more bombs detonated on impact, with serious dispersion of both plutonium and uranium, but without triggering a nuclear explosion. After the crash, 1,400 metric tons (3,100,000 lb) of contaminated soil was sent to the United States. In 2006, an agreement was made between the U.S. and Spain to investigate and clean the pollution still remaining as a result of the accident.
  • On 21 January 1968, a B-52G, with four nuclear bombs aboard as part of Operation Chrome Dome, crashed on the ice of the North Star Bay while attempting an emergency landing at Thule Air Base, Greenland. The resulting fire caused extensive radioactive contamination, the cleanup of which lasted until September of that year. Following closely on the Palomares incident, the clean-up costs and political consequences proved too high to risk again, so SAC ended the airborne alert program the following day.
  • On 31 March 1972, a B-52D, AF Serial No. 56-0625, departed McCoy Air Force Base, Florida on a routine training mission. Assigned to the 306th Bombardment Wing, the unarmed aircraft sustained multiple engine failures and engine fires on engines #7 and #8 shortly after takeoff. The aircraft immediately attempted to return to the base, but crashed just short of Runway 18R in a residential area of Orlando, Florida, approximately 1 mile north of McCoy AFB, destroying or damaging eight homes. The flight crew of 7 airmen and 1 civilian on the ground were killed.
  • On October 16, 1984, a B-52 slammed into Hunts Mesa in Monument Valley, Arizona, sending a fireball high into the air, killing two and injuring five.
  • On June 24, 1994, a USAF B-52H crashed at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, during an airshow practice flight. All crew members died in the accident.
  • On 21 July 2008, a B-52H, AF Serial No. 60-0053, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam crashed approximately 25 miles (40 km) off the coast of Guam. Personnel in all five crewmember positions and a flight surgeon were killed.