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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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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Quoting Floodman:
Howdy, folks...
A very good, Good Morning to ya Mr. Flood
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Howdy, folks...
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This is what i just posted as my Forecast at my Blog site:

TampaSpins Winter Weather Update

THERE could be a NEW YEAR Bang for the Deep South coming. About January 2nd a Low appears to develop by Computer models and a Dome of very cold air will be in place in the deep south as the Jet stream dips very far south and "STAYS" in place for nearly 7 days at least. The combination of this develping low and the Temperatures below freezing is going to make a total mess from Tallahassee Northward into Southern Georgia and along the Northern Gulf coast states. If this confirms out as i am forecasting we could easily see 3inches plus into parts of Florida. What a way to bring the New Year in. Very cold temperatures into the deep South will remain the rest of the week but, an even colder air mass is coming to the South around Sunday Nite and will stick around for nearly 7days it appears as the Jet Stream gets stuck with this Dip in the SouthEast and allowing areas of low pressure to ride it........GAng we could see hit an miss Snow in Southern Georgia and Northern Florida for nearly a 7 day stretch. GET YOUR FIRE WOOD READY!

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Quoting seflagamma:
Oh reporting from SE Florida, Broward County, we are currently 47 degrees and that is very Cold for us!


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.

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Local met here in North Carolina said this:


Early January Outlook

As of this writing, Dec. 28, 2009, my early guess is that the first two weeks of January will be remembered as cold and potentially active.

From looking over the long range models for the past few days, they continue to indicate a cold weather pattern. Colder than anything we have seen so far this year. I also see a chance for significant precipitation near the 7th and 10th. Both of these could be Winter Storms. The first perhaps bringing winter weather all the way to the coast.

Again, we are weeks out from this time period, but it looks interesting!
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GFS showing some snow all the way down to the Panhandle of Florida, across to Jacksonville. Something I mentioned a month ago, with this current pattern, we can see a 1989 event here in Florida and I'm still holding on to a very light snow event sometime this winter.
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Dam is it cold in Tampa this morning.......GEESH i live in Florida for a reason!
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Also believe the large amount of snow cover in the midwest will not allow artic air mass to modify as much as it normally would moving over bare ground. And computers models tend to underestimate cold waves as i dont think they factor snow cover very well into the equation?
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good morning all nice and cold this am



latest runs up on my blog
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Quoting Grothar:


I still never got an answer as to who that lady was?


Re Post 234:

You have e-mail
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Quoting IKE:
Ice on the top of my 99 Pontiac Sunfire.

If it has been there since you got it in '99 you might want to turn the A/C up a notch.
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Morehead City:

LONG TERM /FRIDAY NIGHT THROUGH MONDAY/...
-- Changed Discussion --DRY WEATHER EXPECTED THROUGH THE LONG TERM HOWEVER TEMPS MUCH
BELOW NORMAL WILL PREVAIL AS COLD HIGH PRES CENTERED NEAR THE
HUDSON BY BUILDS SE INTO THE REGION. LOW LEVEL THICKNESSES AROUND
1270M WILL BRING THE COLDEST AIRMASS OF THE SEASON. TEMPS WILL
STRUGGLE TO REACH 40 EACH DAY AND MANY LOCATIONS WILL LIKELY
REMAIN IN THE 30S. MIN TEMPS EXPECTED IN THE L/M20S AWAY FROM THE
COAST TO AROUND 30 COASTAL SECTIONS.-- End Changed Discussion --
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324. unf97
Yeah, Jeff you are right. If that GOM Low deepens, my oh my what a surprise event this would be. But, in this El Nino pattern, something like this can happen if the right factors (Arctic air and moisture) collide together.

That is why I am really eager to see the new model runs on this possibility later today.
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
MOBILE NWS

LONG TERM (FRIDAY THROUGH MONDAY)...DRY CONDITIONS FOLLOW THROUGH
SUNDAY AS A LONGWAVE TROF OVER THE EASTERN STATES MAINTAINS A COOL
NORTHWESTERLY FLOW OVER THE REGION. A WILDCARD FOR THE FORECAST IS
THE POSSIBLE DEVELOPMENT OF A GULF LOW OVER THE NORTHWESTERN GULF
THAT TRACKS EASTWARD ACROSS THE NORTHERN GULF THROUGH MONDAY. WHILE
TONIGHT`S OPERATIONAL MODEL RUNS HAVE DROPPED OR SIGNIFICANTLY
WEAKENED THIS FEATURE...GEFS/NAEFS/CMCEPS DATA MAINTAINS THIS AS A
POSSIBILITY WHICH WOULD CERTAINLY MAKE FOR INTERESTING WEATHER OVER
THE FORECAST AREA CONSIDERING THAT 1000-850 MB THICKNESSES ARE BELOW
CRITICAL LEVELS AT LEAST DURING SUNDAY NIGHT THROUGH MONDAY MORNING
AND MONDAY NIGHT. HPC HAS KEPT THE GULF SYSTEM IN THEIR DAY 6
GRAPHICS AND FOR NOW HAVE DECIDED TO KEEP SMALL POPS IN FOR MONDAY
AFTERNOON AND REASSESS TOMORROW. TEMPERATURES TREND STEADILY COLDER
THROUGH THE PERIOD. /29
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Hit 30.4 here a little while ago.
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318. unf97
Jeff9641,

Actually we were discussing the GOM Low possibility shown by the ECMWF in posts from last night.

I am awaiting the new model runs later today to see how ECMWF and even the GFS have this potential ssystem analyzed. If this GOM Low verifies, yes indeed, we could be seeing a very unusual winter weather event along the Gulf Coast and other areas of the Deep South. Definitely very cold air will be in place over the region next week when the moisture spreads northward.

Next week really looks interesting with the Arctic air funneling southward in the CONUS and the possible snow in the Deep South.
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
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Oh reporting from SE Florida, Broward County, we are currently 47 degrees and that is very Cold for us!
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Good morning my friends....

and by the way, I'm not banned.. I have not even been outside my own blog much in past 3 weeks and have not posted here since Dec 23rd Christmas greeting.

Haven't been to my blog yet today so I assume it is still there!


And it is COLD here in SE Florida ,right onw 45 and sunshine...

we are so not use to that kind of cold!

Hope everyone stays warm and
Have a great day

Gams
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As of 2100 KST (1200 UTC), the temperature in Seoul is 29.9F (-1.2C).
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312. unf97
Good morning!

Finally registered the first freeze of the sewason here at the ponderosa in Norrh Jax, albeit barely. Currently redaind 32.3 degrees on the thermometer. There was enough decoupling of the winds overnight to allow some frost to settle on my car and roof tops in the neighborhood.

Next week really looks very cold from what I saw from late last night. I will examine the new model runs later today.

Have a great day everyone!
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
Quoting aquak9:
g'morning my florida mafia.

frost on the car, eh ike? that's the worst. And that's probably the the ONLY good use I get from my credit card, is scraping the ice.

Decent here.



What about your South Carolina mafia?!??!?!?! Hhhhhmmmm?!?!?!?!?! You too good to speak to your South Carolina mafia?!?!?!?!?! We're freezin' our tails off here, too...Ya Know?!?!?!?! I see how it is....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10490
310. IKE
Quoting aquak9:
Ike, it's the only credit card I have, and there's no interest- cause there's no balance.

I ONLY use it as an ice scraper! :)


lol:)
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Ike, it's the only credit card I have, and there's no interest- cause there's no balance.

I ONLY use it as an ice scraper! :)
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25925
308. IKE
Long-term from Memphis,TN....

DRY WEATHER ALONG WITH BELOW AVERAGE TEMPERATURES WILL PERSIST ON
FRIDAY THROUGH SATURDAY. A CLIPPER TYPE SYSTEM IS FORECAST TO MOVE
ACROSS THE SOUTHERN STATES SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY NIGHT.
THIS SYSTEM MAY BRING A PERIOD OF LIGHT SNOW TO THE AREA NEXT
WEEKEND. PRECIP TYPE SHOULD REMAIN ALL SNOW AS TEMPERATURES SHOULD
REMAIN UNSEAONABLY COLD. THIS SYSTEM WILL ALSO USHER IN AN ARCTIC
AIRMASS FOR MUCH OF NEXT WEEK. TEMPERATURES SHOULD BE THE COLDEST
OF THE WINTER SEASON AND WILL LIKELY REMAIN 15 TO 20 DEGREES BELOW
AVERAGE. IN FACT...TEMPERATURES MAY REMAIN BELOW FREEZING FOR AN
EXTENDED PERIOD NEXT WEEK. SO EXPECT A RETURN TO DRY BUT VERY COLD
WEATHER FOR THE EXTENDED FORECAST PERIOD.
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307. IKE
Jackson,Mississippi....

SUNDAY THROUGH MONDAY...IT IS LOOKING MORE LIKELY THAT THE NEXT
SHORTWAVE TROUGH MOVING THROUGH THE WRN CONUS WILL AFFECT THE AREA
AT SOME POINT FROM LATE SUNDAY INTO MONDAY AS IT DIGS SOUTHEASTWARD
ACROSS THE SRN PLAINS AND TOWARD THE GULF COAST REGION. MODELS ARE
VARYING FROM RUN TO RUN ON AMPLITUDE OF THIS WAVE AND INTENSITY OF
THE SURFACE LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM...BUT WHAT IS OF PARTICULAR INTEREST
IS THE STRENGTH OF THE POLAR VORTEX OVER THE NE CONUS AND HOW MUCH
COLD AIR IT WILL FORCE SOUTHWARD TO MIX WITH THIS POTENTIAL SYSTEM.
HAVE TAKEN A BLEND OF GFS/ECMWF TEMPERATURES AND LOW GUIDANCE POPS
FOR NOW...AND WILL MENTION A SLIGHT CHANCE FOR R-/S- AT THIS POINT.
THERE IS CERTAINLY A POSSIBILITY THAT MODELS WILL TREND WARMER AS
HAS BEEN THE CASE WITH RECENT LOW PRESSURE SYSTEMS...BUT THE
STRENGTH OF THE POLAR VORTEX SHOULD SUPPORT MORE OF TREND TOWARD A
COLDER SUPPRESSED SOLUTION IF ANYTHING.

THE JURY IS STILL OUT ON WHEN TRUE ARCTIC AIR MAY SURGE INTO THE
AREA...BUT THERE CONTINUE TO BE SIGNALS IN THE MODEL GUIDANCE THAT
VERY COLD AIR WILL EVENTUALLY MAKE IT THIS FAR SOUTH...PERHAPS AS
EARLY AS NEXT WEEK SHOULD THE 00Z GFS/ECMWF VERIFY.
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306. IKE
New Orleans...LONG TERM...
REGARDLESS OF ANY WINTRY PRECIP...SOME OF THE COLDEST AIR OF THE
SEASON WILL BE MOVING SOUTHWARD. ONCE THE FRONT MOVES THROUGH SUN
NIGHT...HIGH TEMPS MAY NOT GET OUT OF THE 30S FOR THE NORTHERN
HALF OF THE AREA AND MAY STRUGGLE TO GET INTO THE 40S OVER THE
SOUTHERN HALF ON MONDAY. MON NIGHT MAY BECOME THE FIRST HARD FREEZE
FOR THE NORTHERN 2/3RDS OF THE AREA AND THE FIRST FREEZE FOR THE
SOUTH SHORE. ANOTHER INTEREST TO WATCH WILL BE THE AGRESSIVENESS
OF THE CONTINUALLY STRONG SUBTROPICAL JET OUT OF THE SW. MODELS
STILL SHOWING THIS FEATURE KEEPING LIFT AND MOISTURE LOCKED UP
OVER THE GULF BUT WANTS TO BRING MOISTURE FAR ENOUGH NORTH THAT IT
FLIRTS WITH OUR INNER COASTAL WATERS. PLENTY OF TIME BETWEEN NOW AND
THEN TO WATCH THIS.
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305. IKE
Quoting aquak9:
g'morning my florida mafia.

frost on the car, eh ike? that's the worst. And that's probably the the ONLY good use I get from my credit card, is scraping the ice.

Decent here.


I got rid of all those credit cards about 6 years ago. Got a Firestone card that I keep active with my sales job in case my car needs some medicine.

Hate them credit cards and that darn interest.

It's cold this morning.
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g'morning my florida mafia.

frost on the car, eh ike? that's the worst. And that's probably the the ONLY good use I get from my credit card, is scraping the ice.

Decent here.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25925
303. IKE
I finally reached the freezing mark at my house.

Morning low of 31.6...so far.

Ice on the top of my 99 Pontiac Sunfire.
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Can't believe I'm up this early, 31.2*F in Macon Georgia this morning. Forecast low for tonight is 27. Still not as bad as KOG's 2*F. Coffee is ready, BBL.
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The Cold Wave in 1989 was short lived. It was -1F on 12-24-89 and 66F on Christmas Day. It was very potent, so just keep in mind this is going to be a 4 day event. You may have lows in the mid 20's and highs struggling to make 40F for 4 days straight.
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Quoting btwntx08:

snow for me in deep south tx wow!!!! :0


This is a Siberian/Arctic airmass that is bottled up over Siberia at this moment. The Polar Vortex is a powerful L pressure area that will develop, move from Siberia, over the N Pole into N Canada. This is going to create a very large trough to develop over E Canada, gobble up the Hudson Bay L and literally "Open the Floodgates" and allow this air to spill S into Central Mexico, into S Florida, the Bahamas all the way towards the USVI/Puerto Rico.

I rate this up there with the Dec 22-24,1989 Siberian incursion. DFW dropped to -1F
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X
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53827
The ECMWF and the GFS models have agreed that the 1-4-10 through 1-10-10 time frame will allow the Siberian/Arctic air to reach all the way down to the Dallas-Ft Worth, TX. The ECMWF model run has been calling for this cold blast for several days now. Although 1-4-10 is 6 days away, let's see how the runs go over the next 2-3 days.

Anyway you slice this up, the Eastern 2/3 of the USA will see below normal temps. Many meteorologists are kinda skittish, and rightfully so. I believe by 1-2-10 we will see "mets" making there final forecasts. IF things pan out, which I believe they will, people need to watch out for some of the coldest air since the 12-22/12-24-89 Arctic incursion.
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292. Skyepony (Mod)
Tropically the only thing that remains is the angry looking blob..David. Seeming to endlessly wander, now forecasted to dissipate within the next few days.

Slumming the weather wire Roofs collapsing from snow in Ohmaha, NE. Roof rakes may be a hot item this year.
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When dealt lemons, make lemonade. When dealt snow, go buy a sled and a nice thick coat. Then, find a hill. Have fun southerners!
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KOG, you guys have waited, waited and waited some more for the cold and the snow. And you are gonna get plenty of cold, probably some snow to go with it. And it appears that the EMCWF and the GFS have finally agreed that a good portion of the Siberian/Arctic air will enter the Eastern two-thirds of the US next week. This is going to a very interesting 7-15 day period in this winter's weather.

Europe suffered for weeks under a blanket of Arctic air outbreaks, with snow throughout Europe, into place like Madrid, which normally never sees any snow. Records tumbled and unfortunately, many people perished. And NOW it's North America's turn. Cold air is forecasted to seep into North Central Mexico next week.
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Quoting Bordonaro:
KOG, at least the snow squalls have stopped but OMG it is freaking freezing up there in Toronto, CA tonight!
yes very cold its the wind that makes it feel so bad just took a walk around the building checking on things and ya its real cold tonight but thats ok cause inside the building its real warm
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model runs updated on my blog

Link
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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.