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 NRAamy:
eyes, Jerry, and Jeffs...Mornin'!

:)



I tried to call you, I love everything it is beautiful.
Thank you
Sheri
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Quoting jipmg:


Well, if we look at it, wet snow because the temps around SFL should be in the mid to upper 30s, the upper layers would likely be well under the 32 mark. So the snow wont melt too fast.. so its POSSIBLE based on that model, but not likely.

Maybe. But how high up will the 32F isotherm be? If it is too high, you will just get a cold, miserable rain. You could also get sleet out of that kind of setup.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
I thought I would you all know Pat and Atmo is passing the chickasaw exit like 10 minutes from my house. This makes you cry that they would come all this way for my family. God Bless them and each and everyone of you all.

You all are my WU Angels,.
God Love You All,
Sheri
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885. jipmg
Quoting Floridano:


Thank you very much! LOL, I was following the red dotted line. I've still got much to learn. Thanks, Drakoen. Hey, that precip would fall as rain in SF, right?


Well, if we look at it, wet snow because the temps around SFL should be in the mid to upper 30s, the upper layers would likely be well under the 32 mark. So the snow wont melt too fast.. so its POSSIBLE based on that model, but not likely.
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Quoting NRAamy:
eyes, Jerry, and Jeffs...Mornin'!

:)


Mornin' Amy!

How are things going over there in Cali?
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Quoting Floridano:


Thank you very much! LOL, I was following the red dotted line. I've still got much to learn. Thanks, Drakoen. Hey, that precip would fall as rain in SF, right?


You should follow the red line too...generally precip will fall as snow with a thickness of 540dm on the 1000mb-500mb charts however if the 700mb-1000mb layer is freezing then precip will fall as snow as well.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30727
eyes, Jerry, and Jeffs...Mornin'!

:)

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Quoting Drakoen:


The black line is the 850mb 0C isotherm. You'll also notice that there is moisture off-shore and over parts of southern Florida as a shortwave energy dives into the longwave trough over the eastern United States.


Thank you very much! LOL, I was following the red dotted line. I've still got much to learn. Thanks, Drakoen. Hey, that precip would fall as rain in SF, right?
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Quoting Floodman:


There's plenty of good...we only hear about the bad because it makes better copy
I know , Why? I guess the negative just sells better. I only read the comics now or I get depressed.lol
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22314
Quoting Floridano:
Drakoen, is that the 32 degree line on those maps?


The black line is the 850mb 0C isotherm. You'll also notice that there is moisture off-shore and over parts of southern Florida as a shortwave energy dives into the longwave trough over the eastern United States.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30727
Quoting Floodman:


Oh, I'm not trying to pass a stone so the malls in the DFW area are safe
I have passed 15 in the last 30 years, but it has been about 10 years since i passed the last one. The drugs for pain has gotten better. I have passed 1 in the er waiting room because there was a 8 hour waiting time in the waiting room. The hospital said they would not charge me for that one. I have passed 2 before i got to the hospital.
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Drakoen, is that the 32 degree line on those maps?
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Quoting hydrus:
I posted that just in case the medicine from the recent surgery ran out. Thank you for that comforting post.:).... On a serious note, your surgery sounds like it went wonderfully, I believe you will look and feel so much better.


A little better everyday; still a fair amount of pain, but nothing like before...I had the sciatic limp and constant pain in my leg, whether I was flared up or not...that's gone but I really need to stretch the legs and back especially. I was feeling ill over the weekend and didn't walk much and it's taken til today to get back to where I was. Slippery slope, I'm afraid, for a while...
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Quoting gregpinehurstnc:
i do believe in angels,,and there are no words to say , but you all have made a differance in 1 family,, i dont have a credit card as of now,, but ,if i can send a little cash to help.. i will..i wish it could be a lot,,happy and more happy years to you all,, i knew this world was still good,,


There's plenty of good...we only hear about the bad because it makes better copy
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Quoting hydrus:
Is there a chance that the Appalachians will recieve some snow from this?


Yes
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30727
866.

It has a fair amount to do with it...
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Quoting Drakoen:
This certainly bears watching:

Is there a chance that the Appalachians will recieve some snow from this?
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22314
G'morning/afternoon Senior Chief, how are ya?
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i do believe in angels,,and there are no words to say , but you all have made a differance in 1 family,, i dont have a credit card as of now,, but ,if i can send a little cash to help.. i will..i wish it could be a lot,,happy and more happy years to you all,, i knew this world was still good,,
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 88
This certainly bears watching:

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30727
Quoting Floodman:


Oh, I'm not trying to pass a stone so the malls in the DFW area are safe
I posted that just in case the medicine from the recent surgery ran out. Thank you for that comforting post.:).... On a serious note, your surgery sounds like it went wonderfully, I believe you will look and feel so much better.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22314
Quoting Floodman:


Good, all things being equal...I walk a lot and after 15 years I'm teaching myself not to limp...LOL

The wife says she can definitely tell the difference; I have less lines around my eyes and for whatever reason I'm taller (maybe the framework they put in when they took the discs out?)...go figure

Good to hear you are feeling better! As for being taller, take into account that you are probably walking and standing with a better posture, which will make you seem taller, too.

Quoting presslord:
Much better now...

On the phone with Pat and atmo...they're just north of Biloxi on I 10 enroute...they say they're behavin'...but they might be lyin'...

LOL. yeah, right.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Quoting presslord:
Much better now...

On the phone with Pat and atmo...they're just north of Biloxi on I 10 enroute...they say they're behavin'...but they might be lyin'...


Those two? I ain't saying nuttin...
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Quoting catastropheadjuster:


Press, what you all have done,will put a smile on your face. YOU and Pat,Atmo,Flood,OGal,NRAAmy,Aubie,Ally and many many others Are WU Angels in my eyes. There are no words to describbe what you all have done for me and my family.
I send my love and hugs to each and everyone of you all.

Sheri
I just caught up on reading about the above and must say it brought tears to my eyes. I immeadiatly went to my knees to pray for you and your family Sherrie and all people affilited with Portlight too. May you all be blessed this new year.
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Quoting StormW:


Great!
Question is...how are you??


Good, all things being equal...I walk a lot and after 15 years I'm teaching myself not to limp...LOL

The wife says she can definitely tell the difference; I have less lines around my eyes and for whatever reason I'm taller (maybe the framework they put in when they took the discs out?)...go figure
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Much better now...

On the phone with Pat and atmo...they're just north of Biloxi on I 10 enroute...they say they're behavin'...but they might be lyin'...
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Morning Storm:

Is it gonna snow? Is it huh? Is it huh??


:o) j/k

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Morning, Storm! How are you?
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Quoting hydrus:
Those things really hurt don,t they? Oh yeah, please post right before your next trip to the mall.TIA


Oh, I'm not trying to pass a stone so the malls in the DFW area are safe
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Quoting Floodman:


Good...some pain, but mostly back spasms...I walk quite a bit to keep the spasms down (the muscle relaxants make me very drowsy). I got a great surgeon and a great hospital and things appear to have turned out just as planned

Thanks for asking!


:)
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854. GBlet
Might I suggest a stiff muscle relaxer to help pass the time umm er stone...
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Quoting Floridano:


Hey bud, how are ya? I hope that your back is all but fully healed up already, :).


Good...some pain, but mostly back spasms...I walk quite a bit to keep the spasms down (the muscle relaxants make me very drowsy). I got a great surgeon and a great hospital and things appear to have turned out just as planned

Thanks for asking!
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Quoting hydrus:
Those things really hurt don,t they? Oh yeah, please post right before your next trip to the mall.TIA


One of the worst pains compared to having a baby.
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Quoting presslord:
..well...here's the dark side...I have a sinus infection, I have a kidney stone...I haven't slept in three nights...and in 10 minutes I have a meeting with a retail tenant who hasn't paid a dime in rent in two months...I'm an Irish Catholic in a foul mood...Care to guess who's about to have a really bad morning?



A Republican, lol, just kidding, Press.
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Quoting Floodman:


Geez, press, get that stone looked after...foul mood? I'd be shooting up a shopping mall or something...
Those things really hurt don,t they? Oh yeah, please post right before your next trip to the mall.TIA
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22314
Quoting Floodman:
Mornin', Floridano!


Hey bud, how are ya? I hope that your back is all but fully healed up already, :).
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Mornin', Floridano!
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Quoting TampaSpin:
HERE Is the 1000mb surface temperature forecast for 10 days.....gang it has not changed one bit in the last few days....its got freezing temps all the way to Miami



That's some remarkable cold air there, TS.
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G'morning, all!
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Holiday Forecast Posted:
South Florida StormWatch
(main site)
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Quoting presslord:
plywood...you are so right...


Press, what you all have done,will put a smile on your face. YOU and Pat,Atmo,Flood,OGal,NRAAmy,Aubie,Ally and many many others Are WU Angels in my eyes. There are no words to describbe what you all have done for me and my family.
I send my love and hugs to each and everyone of you all.

Sheri
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting presslord:
..well...here's the dark side...I have a sinus infection, I have a kidney stone...I haven't slept in three nights...and in 10 minutes I have a meeting with a retail tenant who hasn't paid a dime in rent in two months...I'm an Irish Catholic in a foul mood...Care to guess who's about to have a really bad morning?


Geez, press, get that stone looked after...foul mood? I'd be shooting up a shopping mall or something...
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Quoting presslord:
..well...here's the dark side...I have a sinus infection, I have a kidney stone...I haven't slept in three nights...and in 10 minutes I have a meeting with a retail tenant who hasn't paid a dime in rent in two months...I'm an Irish Catholic in a foul mood...Care to guess who's about to have a really bad morning?
You hang in there Press, the sinus infection and kidney stoner will pass, and a good retail tenant prayer works almost every time...:) P.S. Some hot apple- butter rum will help with the sleep thing, or J.D and warm tea ,ect...:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22314
plywood...you are so right...
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Quoting StormChaser81:


the tenant


Bingo!!
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But Press, what you and Portlight have done is what makes all the difference. Might be in a bad mood, but when that present on wheels gets delivered, all those worries and foul moods will go away.
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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.