The Lost Hurricane/Typhoon Hunters VI: Typhoon Bess, October 12th, 1974

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:20 PM GMT on December 28, 2009

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It's getting to be the end of the year, and its time to conclude the 6-part series I began earlier this year honoring the memory of the hurricane and typhoon hunter missions that never returned to base. I've made a permanent link to the series on the "Articles of Interest" section of our tropical/hurricane page.

The most recent recent loss of a Hurricane Hunter flight came on October 12, 1974. An Air Force WC-130H (tail number 65-0965, call sign Swan 38), from the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Anderson AFB, Guam, was lost in the South China Sea while flying Category 1 Typhoon Bess. Bess had formed east of the Philippines on October 8, then passed over northern Luzon Island on the 11th, triggering flooding and landslides that killed 29 people and caused $9 million in damage. On the 12th, Bess emerged over the South China Sea as a minimal Category 1 typhoon with 75 mph winds, and "Swan 38" was sent out to provide reconnaissance information. The aircraft had only recently arrived at the 54th WRS after having been converted to WC-130H, and had previously spent eight years assigned to combat rescue as an HC-130H. Swan 38 departed Clark Air Base in the Philippines, and successfully completed its first penetration and most of an "Alpha pattern" peripheral track. They were preparing for their second penetration, on the north side of the storm about 400 miles northwest of Clark AFB, when the last radio contact came at about 2200. An investigation board later speculated the crew was on the final leg inbound to make a second fix when they encountered some catastrophic problem. No emergency communications were received. Four days of relentless searching by rescue aircraft and two surface ships proved unsuccessful, and the six crewmen were declared missing and presumed dead. The name "Bess" was retired from the active list of typhoon names as a result of the loss, and the call sign "Swan 38" was also retired. A plaque honoring the crew was affixed to the squadron building at Andersen AFB (the plaque was removed when the 54th closed in 1987, and it's whereabouts are currently unknown). The crew members, carried on AWS rolls as Killed In Action, were:

Capt Edward R. Bushnell
1Lt Gary W. Crass
1Lt Michael P. O'Brien
1Lt Timothy J. Hoffman
TSgt Kenneth G. Suhr
Sgt Detlef W. Ringler


Figure 1. Above: plaque dedicated to the crew of Swan 38 (WC-130H 65-0965), located at Kirtland AFB. Inset image, top left: Swan 38 during an engine-running crew change at Guam in 1974. Image credit: Tom Robison.

Sources: Air Reconnaissance Weather Association May 2008 Newsletter; New York Times 13 Oct 1974 58:1; http://www.awra.us/WhiskeyCharlie.html by Tom Robison, 1974 Annual Typhoon report of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Other notes:
The Air Force has had 24 weather reconnaissance missions that have resulted in loss of life; only three of these were typhoon flights. A full list of the missions is at the Air Weather Reconnaissance Association web site.

Special addendum: a Cold War mystery
September 10, 1956: An Air Force RB-50G Superfortress flying in the vicinity of Typhoon Emma was lost over the Sea of Japan. This was not a typhoon hunting aircraft, as is often reported. The aircraft was stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, and assigned to the 41st Air Division, 5th Air Force, and was performing electronic of photographic intelligence of the Soviet Union, North Korea, and China. The military gave out a "cover story" saying that the aircraft was lost performing weather reconnaissance. From Bernie Barris of the Air Reconnaissance Weather Association, "This aircraft was NOT lost in a typhoon penetration, nor was it shot down by the Soviets, as was often speculated. It was an RB-50G on a Strategic Reconnaissance mission. Everything I've read is that they were on the fringes of the typhoon, but more than likely the plane was lost due to mechanical problems, which plagued the B-50 in the 1950's. The typhoon did impact search efforts. The Soviets never released any records of tracking or attacking this flight; it is one of those true Cold War mysteries."


Figure 2. A Popular Mechanics cover story from 1950 dramatized the dangers that the early typhoon hunters faced. From the article: "It is impossible for me to describe accurately or exaggerate the severity of the turbulence we encountered. To some it may sound utterly fantastic, but to me it was a flight for life. I have flown many weather missions in my 30 months with the 514th Reconnaissance Squadron. I have flown night combat missions in rough weather out of England, and I have instructed instrument flying in the States, but never have I dreamed of such turbulence as we encountered in Typhoon Beverly. It is amazing to me the ship held together as it did."

Next post
My final post of the year will be on Wednesday or Thursday. I plan to present my pick for the top U.S. weather story of 2009.

Jeff Masters

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488. hydrus
7:02 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:
Does anyone else find it amusing how many people get all kinds of anxious over the GFS model 7-15 days out, when it forecasts some kind of crazy cold outbreak? And then when it changes its forecast (as it always does), many people just start looking further out to the next hyperblizzard that is 384hr out?
Hyperblizzard?????Yeah..there going to put up hyperblizzard warnings..with 150 ft snowdrifts and 160 mph winds, wind chill factor --300 degrees, cross country skiing in the Everglades and ice skating on Lake O. I can dig it. So much for Global Warming.jk..really jk.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20489
487. IKE
6:56 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
I see a new format on the links up top.

It was time for a change.

Nice looking.

12Z ECMWF...
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
486. nrtiwlnvragn
6:54 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
I see we can now have "favorite blogs". Anyone notice any other new features with this recent upgrade?
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 10873
485. Bordonaro
6:44 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting PensacolaDoug:



Its the old "what if" thingy... Sorta like blob watching only "winter style".


:0)
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
484. PensacolaDoug
6:43 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:
Does anyone else find it amusing how many people get all kinds of anxious over the GFS model 7-15 days out, when it forecasts some kind of crazy cold outbreak? And then when it changes its forecast (as it always does), many people just start looking further out to the next hyperblizzard that is 384hr out?



Its the old "what if" thingy... Sorta like blob watching only "winter style".
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 551
483. Patrap
6:42 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Spiffy new look,eh?


LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
482. Floodman
6:40 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:
Does anyone else find it amusing how many people get all kinds of anxious over the GFS model 7-15 days out, when it forecasts some kind of crazy cold outbreak? And then when it changes its forecast (as it always does), many people just start looking further out to the next hyperblizzard that is 384hr out?


Hmmm...like riding out every CMC forecast of a CAT 5...Hmmmm
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
481. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:40 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
i logged out and logged in and poof everything changed not bad its all good
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
480. presslord
6:39 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Yea...it looks great!
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10479
479. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:39 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
page layout and at the top in the header bigger nav bar with a lot of choices
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
478. Bordonaro
6:36 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
looks like some changes looking a little different around here

What's different?
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
477. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:34 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
looks like some changes looking a little different around here
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
476. StormChaser81
6:33 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting BobinTampa:
What are the odds that I'll have to outrun a deadly cold air mass like in The Day After Tomorrow??



buoy 13 is showing a 3 degree drop. Oh NOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
475. BobinTampa
6:31 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
What are the odds that I'll have to outrun a deadly cold air mass like in The Day After Tomorrow??

Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 527
474. StormChaser81
6:31 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:



For sure a long shot, would be nice though. 14 degree's, eeeeekkk. What does that translate to the surface?


Dam Cold.=)
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
473. TheCaneWhisperer
6:29 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting Drakoen:


Tell him or her there is a <5% chance right now of that happening.



For sure a long shot, would be nice though. 14 degree's, eeeeekkk. What does that translate to the surface?
472. reedzone
6:27 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:
Does anyone else find it amusing how many people get all kinds of anxious over the GFS model 7-15 days out, when it forecasts some kind of crazy cold outbreak? And then when it changes its forecast (as it always does), many people just start looking further out to the next hyperblizzard that is 384hr out?


The European model is also showing this to, which has been accurate so far this winter.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7340
471. jeffs713
6:26 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Does anyone else find it amusing how many people get all kinds of anxious over the GFS model 7-15 days out, when it forecasts some kind of crazy cold outbreak? And then when it changes its forecast (as it always does), many people just start looking further out to the next hyperblizzard that is 384hr out?
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5871
470. Drakoen
6:23 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:



Aww, my 2 1/2 year old is dying to see snow after seeing it all this Christmas on TV.


Tell him or her there is a <5% chance right now of that happening.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
469. TheCaneWhisperer
6:18 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting Drakoen:
The long range GFS has snow down into South Florida mid week next week.



Aww, my 2 1/2 year old is dying to see snow after seeing it all this Christmas on TV.
468. Floodman
6:18 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting NRAamy:
my abs, btw,, i lost two,, dangit,, now. if it snows , i can make snow angels , and try to get up, 100 times

how did you lose two abs???

:(


Old war wound...LOL
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
467. Drakoen
6:17 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
1989 Christmas NARR:



Look how far south the 540 line is. Also on the 850mb temps you see -10C temps into Central Florida

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
466. jeffs713
6:17 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting tampahurricane:
So what do you think the chances are for use to see snow here in Tampa. if none what are the temps going to be thanks. P.S I have been waiting for snow here in Tampa since i was born lol.

Too far out to tell. Right now, my best estimate is 0% to 99%. ;)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5871
465. gregpinehurstnc
6:17 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
i ate your cooking,,
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 88
464. unf97
6:11 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting larryvillega:
A little question for everyone and please cut an paste so this continues......But, what temperture does everyone keep the thermostat set at for heat...

TampaSpin---70....im a whimp

Floodman 68-70 daytime, 66 overnight

BobinTampa -- Heat??? Who turns the heat on in Florida?? It was 52 inside my house this a.m. Slept with the windows open.

Grothar: When the temperature gets this low, I have a setting on my thermostat that is set at "hysterical". I keep it there until the outside temperature reaches a resonable 75 deg; a temperature at which life is sustainable.

T-Dude: Well during the nice and cold winters here, I usually keep it around 65, it feels just fine after coming in from the frigid temps!


larryvillega; 62 if its less than 50 outside, otherwise off


During cold spells like we are experiencing currently, I generally keep the thermostat at 68-70 degrees. If it gets really cold, like the models are depicting for next week, my themostat is more like 74-76. I'm fearful the electricity bill is going to take a little hit after next month. Hope the bill won't be too bad.
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
463. Bordonaro
6:11 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Atmoaggie, what is your professional opinionforecast concerning the Arctic outbreak for 1-4 through 1-15-10?
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
462. Canekid98
6:11 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
o ok :( thanks
461. Drakoen
6:09 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting atmoaggie:

I think he wanted that in cubic centimeters...

LOL. Out for now.


LOL.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
460. tampahurricane
6:09 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
So what do you think the chances are for use to see snow here in Tampa. if none what are the temps going to be thanks. P.S I have been waiting for snow here in Tampa since i was born lol.
Member Since: May 28, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 288
459. StormChaser81
6:08 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:

Slim. If the cold air funnel is to the east of us, it would have to be very powerful, and very broad, and there would have to be some incredible timing between the moisture, cold air, and forcing of any precip. (we have a better chance of icing, to be honest)


Man if it ice's Florida would be shut down, and I would leave work way before that, dont want to get stuck at work. yuck.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
458. atmoaggie
6:06 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting Drakoen:


A lot...

I think he wanted that in cubic centimeters...

LOL. Out for now.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
457. atmoaggie
6:05 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:

Slim. If the cold air funnel is to the east of us, it would have to be very powerful, and very broad, and there would have to be some incredible timing between the moisture, cold air, and forcing of any precip. (we have a better chance of icing, to be honest)

The placement of the cold air and the associated high will dictate a very dry airmass for us in SE LA, too. Lacking in both water vapor and lift. Snow very unlikely for us if it is centered anywhere east of the middle MS coast.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
456. NRAamy
6:04 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
my abs, btw,, i lost two,, dangit,, now. if it snows , i can make snow angels , and try to get up, 100 times

how did you lose two abs???

:(
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
455. larryvillega
6:04 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
A little question for everyone and please cut an paste so this continues......But, what temperture does everyone keep the thermostat set at for heat...

TampaSpin---70....im a whimp

Floodman 68-70 daytime, 66 overnight

BobinTampa -- Heat??? Who turns the heat on in Florida?? It was 52 inside my house this a.m. Slept with the windows open.

Grothar: When the temperature gets this low, I have a setting on my thermostat that is set at "hysterical". I keep it there until the outside temperature reaches a resonable 75 deg; a temperature at which life is sustainable.

T-Dude: Well during the nice and cold winters here, I usually keep it around 65, it feels just fine after coming in from the frigid temps!


larryvillega; 62 if its less than 50 outside, otherwise off
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7
454. Drakoen
6:04 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting Bordonaro:
Drak, how much of that Siberian/Arctic air mass in post #424, that is over the North Canadian Archipelago, will dump into the Central/S plains, the Deep South and SE US?


A lot...

The cold air dives south and east with the core moving into the Tennessee River Valley.

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
453. jeffs713
6:02 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Quoting Canekid98:
uhhh... for Houston would there be a chance for snow and what temps will it likly be?
I know the cold air funnel is supposed to be East of us, but what are the chances?

Slim. If the cold air funnel is to the east of us, it would have to be very powerful, and very broad, and there would have to be some incredible timing between the moisture, cold air, and forcing of any precip. (we have a better chance of icing, to be honest)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5871
452. gregpinehurstnc
5:58 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
that was funny amy,, i meant my city codes,, lol.. like , sop,and all the others,, my abs, btw,, i lost two,, dangit,, now. if it snows , i can make snow angels , and try to get up, 100 times
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 88
451. atmoaggie
5:57 PM GMT on December 29, 2009
Just beyond 7 days out the 12 Z GFS is forcing some heaters to come on in FL...and a light snow for a solid day for about the northern half of the state...maybe a bit more of it than that.



SUBJECT TO GREAT BIG CHANGES by the next run, of course, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the run after that...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
I want to ask since you all are much more knowledgeable than me. I usually just lurk. I am in Coral Springs, FL.. This AM it was 44 degrees. I remember very well the 1989 Christmas Freeze and Snowstorm. That was the only time they ever predicted a chance of snow in SFL. I was only 1 during the 1977 event that my parents talk about. What are the chances of snow and if so what time frame in SFL?
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449. unf97
Quoting FirstCoastMan:
unf97...what is the chance of jacksonville,seeing snowfall with this system,if it was to happen.


Well, when it comes to forecasting snow for this area, I'm the eternal skepticist! LOL.. However, even I have to admit that for the first time in a very, very long time, I think if the models continue to show more consensus for the next few days, there is a modest chance for it to happen here in Jax. The ingredients for the white stuff to occur in North FL are there with the El Nino pattern, and the ECMWF and the GFS are coming into more agreement with the development of the GOM Low and the massive Arctic air mass for next week.

It takes a very extreme pattern for snow in these parts, and thanks to El Nino, we just may have a shot at seeing the white stuff early next week. BUT, the models can quickly change, so the skepticism isn't allowing me to be ready to jump completely with excitement just yet. If this trend continues with the models and more consensus is there by New Year's Day, then my interest in this really will be at a high peak for sure.

That's why I love following the weather!
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
uhhh... for Houston would there be a chance for snow and what temps will it likly be?
I know the cold air funnel is supposed to be East of us, but what are the chances?
Actually can any of you post the GFS rain/snow precip model at that time, that would be very interesting to see, also the snowfall depth as well.. Thanks.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7340
unf97...what is the chance of jacksonville,seeing snowfall with this system,if it was to happen.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
436. gregpinehurstnc 9:36 AM PST on December 29, 2009
grother, my abbs are off,


dude, so are mine...too many holiday snarf fests....
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
IF it snows, it would most likely be at night when the temps are the coldest.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7340
Quoting BobinTampa:
A little question for everyone and please cut an paste so this continues......But, what temperture does everyone keep the thermostat set at for heat...

TampaSpin---70....im a whimp

Floodman 68-70 daytime, 66 overnight

BobinTampa -- Heat??? Who turns the heat on in Florida?? It was 52 inside my house this a.m. Slept with the windows open.


I had the heat on this morning in my house. It was set to 76. I'm not sure I could survive at any less.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
442. unf97
Quoting FirstCoastMan:
If this arctic blast happens to happen, what would the high temps in jacksonville,fl likely be?


I'm here in Jax as well. If the ECMWF verifies, I can see the max temps here in Jax only in the low 40s at best. I wouldn't be surprised that interior areas of North FL and SE GA would have max temps only in the upper 30s.

Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
Drak, how much of that Siberian/Arctic air mass in post #424, that is over the North Canadian Archipelago, will dump into the Central/S plains, the Deep South and SE US?
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
If it was only the GFS showing the Arctic intrusion I wouldn't have bothered to mention it, but it seems the ECMWF is doing this as well and even more robust.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29886
438. unf97
Quoting Drakoen:


Upper 40s to lower 50s


I agree with that Drak. That how I see the max temps down there as well if the ECMWF verifies next week. Definitely no warmer than the mid 50s at the best.
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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