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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Quoting atmoaggie:
377: You should put some attribution to those words you copy and paste, lest someone accuse you of plagiarism...though I expect your intent was not that we really think you typed all of that...


Thanx good point, 377 brought to you by METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
GFS 12z, 192-204 hours, a 1989 snowstorm hitting Florida. Snowing all the way down to Daytona Beach.
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Only seen snow a couple times, and stick really once, in the 2.5 years I've lived in New Bern. Perhaps a second time is in order.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1462
385. unf97
Good morning Bondonaro.

The 144Hr GFS run is interesting in that it is depicting a much better moisture field in regards to the GOM Low, as compared to yesterday's runs. This is an indication that the GFS is now beginning to line up more and more in time with the ECMWF. We will see if this trend continues as time progresses.
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377: You should put some attribution to those words you copy and paste, lest someone accuse you of plagiarism...though I expect your intent was not that we really think you typed all of that...
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12Z GFS RUN Surface Temps/Winds for 1-4-10 12Z 144 HRS out. 1051 MB H over N Central Canada

Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting atmoaggie:

Just catch a forecast for Barrow, Alaska...below 0 and flurries.

Really, so long as there is some water vapor and a mechanism for lift, it can be done.

A full answer here: http://www.theweatherprediction.com/habyhints/222/


Exactly right. If it got "too cold" to snow, how does the Antarctic get snow on the continent?


Aleksandrovskoe, Russia -22F and heavy snow
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GFS 12z hammers the Northeast and Appalachian region with snow come New Years Day morning.



Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30620
Quoting atmoaggie:

How is the Indian Nation Turnpike?

(My mother is actually driving from SE LA to Tulsa today...flying to Wyoming tomorrow.)

Yesterday I traveled the Muskogee Tpke and it was mostly clear. There were still a few patches of ice. The further west you go, the worse it gets.
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Quoting Grothar:
If there is anyone on here at the moment who can settle a little argument. I have two friends here who insist that is can be too cold to snow. That it only snows when the temperature is in the teens, 20's or low 30's. atmoaggie, if you are there take you hands out of your warmers and please help me answer this question. I can not give them the technical explanation.


It snows in the negatives, teens, single digits, and even above 32 degrees.

One phrase that is heard from time to time is that, "it is too cold to snow today". In actuality, earth's troposphere is not too cold to snow but rather it is "too dynamically stable to snow". Dynamic stability may be present due to low-level cold air advection, a lack of upper level divergence, and/or a lack of low level convergence. Also, if dynamic lifting does occur it may not produce precipitation that reaches the surface due to low relative humidity values in the lower troposphere.

The ingredients for snow are: (1) a temperature profile that allows snow to reach the surface, (2) saturated air, and (3) enough lifting of that saturated air to allow snow to develop aloft and fall to reach the surface. In a situation when it is said "it is too cold to snow" there is in reality not enough lifting of air that causes snow to reach the surface.

The phrase "it is too cold to snow today" probably originated as a misapplication of the relationship between temperature and the maximum amount of water vapor that can be in the air. When temperature decreases, the maximum capacity of water vapor that can be in the air decreases. Therefore, the colder it gets the less water vapor there will be in the air.

Even at very cold surface temperatures significant snowfall can occur because: (1) intense lifting can produce significant precipitation even at a very low temperature, (2) the temperature aloft can be much warmer than the temperature at the surface. The relatively warmer air aloft can have a larger moisture content than air in the PBL, (3) Moisture advection can continue to bring a renewed supply of moisture into a region where lifting is occurring, (4) Even at very cold temperatures the air always has a capacity to have some water vapor.

If the air cools to truly frigid Arctic temperatures such as -40 C and below then the moisture capacity of the air will be so low that likely not much snow can occur. Only at these extremely low temperatures is the phrase "it is too cold to snow" fairly valid.

At the temperature of absolute zero ( 0 K, -273 C, -459 F) all air including water vapor condenses and loses all molecular energy. The temperature can not cool below absolute zero.

METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
Look how Low pressure forms and keeps riding the Dip in the Jet stream and this will continue ...


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Quoting Grothar:
If there is anyone on here at the moment who can settle a little argument. I have two friends here who insist that is can be too cold to snow. That it only snows when the temperature is in the teens, 20's or low 30's. atmoaggie, if you are there take you hands out of your warmers and\ please help me answer this question. I can not give them the technical explanation.

Just catch a forecast for Barrow, Alaska...below 0 and flurries.

Really, so long as there is some water vapor and a mechanism for lift, it can be done.

A full answer here: http://www.theweatherprediction.com/habyhints/222/

I have to go for a bit, my little one has a package for me to open that I can smell from 15 feet away...
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Quoting atmoaggie:

How is the Indian Nation Turnpike?

(My mother is actually driving from SE LA to Tulsa today...flying to Wyoming tomorrow.)
Don't know from personal experiance but have heard main arteries are clear. I live in foothills of Ozark mountains and the entrance to my sub has a major hill which is very slick requiring 4 wheel dr to enter
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Quoting TampaSpin:
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

70 during the day, 67ish at night.
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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

Havnt turned the heat on yet this year and dont plan on it.

It was 59 degrees in my house this morning.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
Quoting hurricane23:


Early morning discussion..

THE GFS HAS BEEN STEADILY TRENDING HIGHER WITH 1000-850MB THICKNESSES THE PAST 2 DAYS...AND THE FCST VALUES FROM THE GFS SUGGEST A FREEZE MAY BE SLIGHTLY LESS LIKELYOVER THE UPCOMING WEEKEND...WHICH WOULD MAKE SENSE SINCE THE SFC HIGH STAYS WELL NW OF THE REGION OVER THE PLAINS STATES RATHER THAN PLUNGING TO THE CENTRAL GULF CST AS IS TYPICAL OF FREEZE EVENTS.

That might be as cool as its gonna get down here across the extreme southeast as the GFS continues to back off even further on the cool down this weekend. Regardless it looks like an extended cool down is instore.



That H pressure ridge eventually will sink S towards the Gulf Coast. Enjoy the cool down.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting eyesontheweather:
Hey, did anybody see the new TWC last night (formally "The Weather Channel" now known as "The Wedding Channel") Kim Perez was engaged on air.


Glad I dont watch TWC.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
Quoting TampaSpin:
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

Daytime...66
Sleeping...62 (use a blanket)

...I like it cool.
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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
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356. Grothar 11:07 AM EST on December 29, 2009
Quoting atmoaggie:

*visions of this taking off and guys all over wearing a bra just to keep the hand warmers in a most effective location*


ATMO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



If you all start talking about Jock Straps and Thongs we are really in trouble.......LOL
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Quoting eyesontheweather:
Cheroke County

How is the Indian Nation Turnpike?

(My mother is actually driving from SE LA to Tulsa today...flying to Wyoming tomorrow.)
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Screw the GW and Climate Change people.....LOL.....just kidding of course!
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Quoting Grothar:


ATMO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GROTHAR!!!!!!!

Guten Morgen
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Quoting atmoaggie:

*visions of this taking off and guys all over wearing a bra just to keep the hand warmers in a most effective location*

Oh, the places I could run with this...

Also, for the potential snow event in the deep south, what would the western limit of the snow be? (I can't keep links to the different models here at work)
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Can't believe how far South the Jet Stream dips on Sunday and stays in place for so long....nearly 7days.....that is unheard of...
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Quoting largeeyes:
What's our snow chances in next couple weeks here in eastern NC?


100% chance in the next 2 weeks....
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Quoting SQUAWK:


Where in OK are you? I just left Tulsa. Couldn't take the snow and unplowed roads anymore!
Cheroke County
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Quoting atmoaggie:

*visions of this taking off and guys all over wearing a bra just to keep the hand warmers in a most effective location*


OMG......we really got issues here!.....LMAO
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Quoting eyesontheweather:
Men, remember, chivalry is not dead, if you happen to notice a.....ummm...errr...a cold woman offer her your hand warmers!


Where in OK are you? I just left Tulsa. Couldn't take the snow and unplowed roads anymore!
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What's our snow chances in next couple weeks here in eastern NC?
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1462
Quoting atmoaggie:

*visions of this taking off and guys all over wearing a bra just to keep the hand warmers in a most effective location*
Men, remember, chivalry is not dead, if you happen to notice a.....ummm...errr...a cold woman offer her your hand warmers!
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352. GBlet
Had to resort to old beater van and honestly could not tell if the heater was actually working as it never got warm enough inside to know. Nothing felt warm that day.
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Hey, did anybody see the new TWC last night (formally "The Weather Channel" now known as "The Wedding Channel") Kim Perez was engaged on air.
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Quoting Floodman:


I know all about the forzen hair...grew up in central Missouri; we nearly always had one or two cold snaps in the single digits or below every winter...anyone remember the movie The Great Race? When Max broke half of Professor Fate's mustache off? Yeah, like that...
I usedto live in Michigan and when I would go skiing I would wear a full face knit hat with eye and nose and mouth holes that I would wear backwards leaving hair poking out the holes. One time hair was frozen poking out holes when I pulled goggles off and broke the hair off. I looked pretty silly with bald patches on back of head. New ski cap was on adgenda that day
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Quoting GBlet:
I must say hand warmers work better in bra than in pockets!

*visions of this taking off and guys all over wearing a bra just to keep the hand warmers in a most effective location*
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348. GBlet
I must say hand warmers work better in bra than in pockets!
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347. GBlet
I should add that in a couple of months SUV will be converted to propane as I am poor and will need to save both money and the planet.
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Quoting GBlet:
Good morning to all of my fresh and FROZEN friends. It has been about 2* colder than a penguin's butt for days here. It was so cold on Christmas Eve that my damp hair froze while trying to start my car! The car would not start so it is going to a new home and I am buying an SUV. I keep dreamin of HEATED SEATS!!


I know all about the frozen hair...grew up in central Missouri; we nearly always had one or two cold snaps in the single digits or below every winter...anyone remember the movie The Great Race? When Max broke half of Professor Fate's mustache off? Yeah, like that...
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345. GBlet
HELLO, HELLO, hello, is there anybody in there?
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Quoting eyesontheweather:
Sir???? It is currently 20 here in NE OK and snow still on ground from Christmas storm. Calling for more snow in next 24 hours or so.


Yep, you're going to get it worse than us...I still have a little of the Christmas snow in my back yard....covered in dachshund tracks of course...the dog cannot get enough of the stuff LOL
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343. GBlet
Eyes, I feel your pain. I am in Great Bend,Ks. That Christmas snow missed us by about 60 miles just to our southeast.
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342. GBlet
Good morning to all of my fresh and FROZEN friends. It has been about 2* colder than a penguin's butt for days here. It was so cold on Christmas Eve that my damp hair froze while trying to start my car! The car would not start so it is going to a new home and I am buying an SUV. I keep dreamin of HEATED SEATS!!
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Quoting Floodman:


The same to you sir...
Sir???? It is currently 20 here in NE OK and snow still on ground from Christmas storm. Calling for more snow in next 24 hours or so.
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NOLA-native mom is going home today...and Wyoming is warming up today to the warmest it has been in weeks. All the way up to 25, maybe even 27! (She is excited, they had some single digit highs earlier this month.)

Currently:
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Quoting eyesontheweather:
A very good, Good Morning to ya Mr. Flood


The same to you sir...
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31 here in lovely Fort Worth...freezing rain/sleet followed by snow inbound, about 50 miles out. It will be a short day here at the office as I'll drive snow all day but I do not do ice
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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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