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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model runs updated on my blog

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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54340
KOG, at least the snow squalls have stopped but OMG it is freaking freezing up there in Toronto, CA tonight!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting unf97:
Bondonaro,

Yeah, the Arctic plunge looks poised to plunge straight down into the the Eastern 2/3 of the USA. I am beginning to believe the runs earlier today of the ECMWF for next week. If the ECMWF verifies, we are in store for some extremely cold weather next week.

Also, I am anticipating the new ECMWF runs on a potential GOM Low early next week. That model shows that system could bring a potential significant winter weather event to areas of the extreme deep South early next week!

We could be in store for quite a wild period of weather with this current pattern for the next 10-14 days at least.


GFS tries to produce a L in the GOM, but it get suppressed into the Southern GOM/N Mexico. IF that L does develop, it will produce an unusal, heavy snowfall from TX, LA, AL, MS, FL Panhandle and up the E Coast.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
X
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54340
284. unf97
Bondonaro,

Yeah, the Arctic plunge looks poised to plunge straight down into the the Eastern 2/3 of the USA. I am beginning to believe the runs earlier today of the ECMWF for next week. If the ECMWF verifies, we are in store for some extremely cold weather next week.

Also, I am anticipating the new ECMWF runs on a potential GOM Low early next week. That model shows that system could bring a potential significant winter weather event to areas of the extreme deep South early next week!

We could be in store for quite a wild period of weather with this current pattern for the next 10-14 days at least.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
SeFlGamma hasn't been banned as far as I know.

Looks like we will barely get our first freeze tonight.


I was wrong, I apologize. IF the latest 00Z GFS run pans out DFW, TX will spend 102 hrs/ 4 1/4 days below freezing. The ECMWF and GFS finally agree on that portion of the forecast. It's going to be nasty cold!!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
From what I gather by browsing through the 00Z GFS run, 12/29/09, Arctic/Siberian air will nose down from Canada into The Dallas-Ft Worth, TX area from 1/5/10 through 1/9/10 we will experience 102 HRS below 32F! WOW..
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
00GFS SURFACE MAP 1-5-10 @06Z 174HR FORECAST has a 1050MB (31.00") and a 1048MB (30.95") HIGH Pressure Ridge from Central Canada into ND:
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
00Z GFS MODEL RUN 102HRS Forecast 1/2/10 @06Z, Surface Map temps/precip. New England gets HAMMERED:
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Patrap:
What's new at Weather Underground?


All Right I get the picture, I'll start looking things up!!! Geez, you ask a friend for the weather and all kinds of posts go up!!! LOLOLOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
What's new at Weather Underground?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
Peter Cooper Village, New York, New York (PWS)
Updated: 0 sec ago
32.9 °F
Scattered Clouds
Windchill: 22 °F
Humidity: 65%
Dew Point: 22 °F
Wind: 17.0 mphfrom the West
Wind Gust: 31.0 mph
Pressure: 29.44 in (Rising)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0.0 out of 16
Clouds: Scattered Clouds 6500 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 123 ft


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The blogs are a very small part of the wunderground,..the Menu bar offers all that anyone need weather wise.

From Marine weather to Trip Planner,..to anything in between.

Features:

Tropical & Hurricane NEXRAD Radar Regional Radar Ski & Snow Marine Climate Change Tornadoes Weather Radio Sports
Weather Stations Satellite Severe WunderBlogs WunderPhotos Trip Planner History Data Webcams Maps
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
Quoting Patrap:
To get a forecast for ANY city worldwide,just use the search box at the top of the Page



I'm too tired to look on my own Pat! LOL Good idea though, I never think to do that.
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Quoting Bordonaro:


I am not sure. New Year's Eve Weather for NYC, NY:

Thursday: A slight chance of snow before 1pm, then a chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 39. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Thursday Night: A chance of rain and snow before midnight, then snow likely. Cloudy, with a low around 34. Chance of precipitation is 60%.


They can handle that. I thought the cold blast might affect them, too!.
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270
melted snow from this afternoon before sunset it was closer to 30f then temp have dropped 19.5 degrees since sunset and still falling down to 11.3 now forecast says we bottom out at 5 f
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54340
UM-Weather, the original service that Weather Underground branched from
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
KOG, you've received 0.60 inches of precip, is that melted snow, or are you having an ice storm?
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Drakoen:


Latest GFS gives you guys 2 inches.


Thanks, we'll take it :0)
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
NYC wu-forecast
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
Quoting Grothar:


No, I mean who was the lady in the picture that was posted.


I am not sure. New Year's Eve Weather for NYC, NY:

Thursday: A slight chance of snow before 1pm, then a chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 39. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Thursday Night: A chance of rain and snow before midnight, then snow likely. Cloudy, with a low around 34. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
To get a forecast for ANY city worldwide,just use the search box at the top of the Page
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
Quoting TampaSpin:


I did not move to florida until 1984...the only time i seen snow (IN FLORIDA) was the Christmas day of 1985....i remember that really well.


Temperatures down here in 1958 were also very cold. The 70's had a lot of cold winters. Wasn't here for everyone, but the ones I remember were cold.
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X
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54340
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


An open window is the cheapest of all. I can't remember the last time I turned on the heat down here.


Looks like you might need to turn that heat on....i am a total whimp now when it comes to cold.....
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Anyone know what the temps might be for New Years Eve in NYC. Those people in Times Square better keep moving. Only did that once many, many years ago. Never again. Guy Lombardo was still alive. Had to walk to 62nd Street before I could find a men's room.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Hey Tampa, you might know, but isn't this similar to the pattern in 1977 when the South got that cold blast for more than a week. Unusual pattern.


I did not move to florida until 1984...the only time i seen snow (IN FLORIDA) was the Christmas day of 1985....i remember that really well.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Thanks Drak. You have been 100% on our local weather forecasts. Good job.


No problem. Right now i'm leaning towards the ECMWF solution as the GFS hasn't been performing well with handling the winter weather storms.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Yup - just locked myself out of the bldg. Had to call the police myself this time.



U gotta stop dat,LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
Quoting TampaSpin:


Firewood is cheaper than elect. for sure..LOL.....i think.


An open window is the cheapest of all. I can't remember the last time I turned on the heat down here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaSpin:
I still can't believe how this Jet Stream just does not budge much at all for nearly 7 days



Hey Tampa, you might know, but isn't this similar to the pattern in 1977 when the South got that cold blast for more than a week. Unusual pattern.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
11F was the Low here Dec 24th 89,the Big Freeze.


Saw a 10" Sprinkler Main Freeze in a Dealership Garage,and when it started melting..the crashing on the cars below was really spookie till we figured out what it was.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
Thanks Drak. You have been 100% on our local weather forecasts. Good job.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Bordonaro:


SEgamma I believe. I am not exactly sure what happened, somthing about an inappropriate picture??


Latest GFS gives you guys 2 inches.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Looks like low electric bills for us in Fla. the next few months!


Firewood is cheaper than elect. for sure..LOL.....i think.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:


The NAM 00z 2-3 inches of snow for your area


Thanks! It is just so UNUSUAL to see snow three times in one month. Dec 2ND, 23RD and now the 29TH. In the DFW area you normally see snowflakes 1X/season.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Bordonaro:


SEgamma I believe. I am not exactly sure what happened, somthing about an inappropriate picture??


No, I mean who was the lady in the picture that was posted.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I still can't believe how this Jet Stream just does not budge much at all for nearly 7 days

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I could not imagine 11 degrees
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Quoting Grothar:


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


SEgamma I believe. I am not exactly sure what happened, somthing about an inappropriate picture??
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Looks like low electric bills for us in Fla. the next few months!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
station has malfuntioned brb
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54340
Quoting Bordonaro:
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORT WORTH TX
924 PM CST MON DEC 28 2009

.UPDATE...
THE LATEST MODEL DATA COMING IN HAS SLOWED THE APPROACHING LOW
PRESSURE SYSTEM DOWN A BIT WHICH WILL RESULT IN A SLIGHTLY LATER START
TO THE PRECIPITATION. MOST OF NORTH TEXAS...INCLUDING THE
METROPLEX... WILL PROBABLY NOT SEE ANY LIGHT SNOW UNTIL TUESDAY
AFTERNOON. TEMPERATURES TUESDAY WILL BE AT OR ABOVE FREEZING MOST
OF THE DAY. THEREFORE...TRAVEL IMPACTS WITH THIS SYSTEM SHOULD BE
MINIMAL AND THE LIGHT SNOWFALL AMOUNTS EXPECTED WILL BE CONFINED
MAINLY TO GRASSY AND ELEVATED SURFACES.

The THIRD time in one month that we saw snowflakes, I have been here 29 yrs, I think this is a first for Dallas-Ft Worth, TX, at least since 1980.


The NAM 00z 2-3 inches of snow for your area
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
just reloading station now down about an hour
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54340
Its already 46 in Tampa
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U back in town JF?

Watching the NWS discussion on that as well.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
Could be KOTG,your certainly frozen nuff up dere tonight.

Whats yer current in F ?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639

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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.