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 mara0921:
Its looking like for South Florida there will be 2 possible freezes, one towards Thursday Jan 7th and then a Siberian Express around Monday the 10th? I see what the Greenland Block and the big ridge out west means now. This is just like Jan 1977 except theres an El Nino. So there may be multiple shots at snow so dont worry if we dont get any next week. We may be quite sick of the cold in 2 weeks


or quite sick from the cold bundle up!!!
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54639
Its looking like for South Florida there will be 2 possible freezes, one towards Thursday Jan 7th and then a Siberian Express around Monday the 10th? I see what the Greenland Block and the big ridge out west means now. This is just like Jan 1977 except theres an El Nino. So there may be multiple shots at snow so dont worry if we dont get any next week. We may be quite sick of the cold in 2 weeks
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not as cold as last night and winds have diminish to light breeze

<
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54639
Quoting PensacolaDoug:


The further out in time you go, the more the temperatures are "weighted" towards their climatological averages. The raw model numbers are colder and as the event draws near, the numbers will come down. Assuming the siberian low does come over to our side.


Truthfully, I don't blame them for being conservative. The EMCWF, the European weather model and the GFS, an American model sort of came into agreement on the 00Z run earlier today. The 18Z run lessens the severity of the cold Arctic/Siberian outbreak.

The EMCWF model shows the core of the Siberian/Arctic air moving into far Northern Canada this weekend. I remember the winter of 76-77 on Long Island, NY, it was brutal, the Dec 82 Arctic outbreak in Arlington, TX and the Dec 89 Arctic outbreak in 89.

IF all that Siberian air moves into the US, it is going to be almost as cold as the 89 outbreak. Dallas Ft Worth, TX hit -1F.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting louisianaboy444:
Hey Sugarsand i think your handle would sound better the opposte way....Sandsugar hmmm?


Sounds backwards "Sandsugar", but whatever.
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Hey Sugarsand i think your handle would sound better the opposte way....Sandsugar hmmm?
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Quoting sugarsand:


You know what "ASSUME" stands for.LOL.



Sho nuff!
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 581
Quoting PensacolaDoug:


The further out in time you go, the more the temperatures are "weighted" towards their climatological averages. The raw model numbers are colder and as the event draws near, the numbers will come down. Assuming the siberian low does come over to our side.


You know what "ASSUME" stands for.LOL.
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Plus Monroe is much further East than Dallas and will be closer to the colder axis of air
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Quoting sugarsand:
All the forecast lows I see for Destin next week are right around freezing or above. Nothing in the 20's, maybe inland, but not along the beaches. Am I missing something?


The further out in time you go, the more the temperatures are "weighted" towards their climatological averages. The raw model numbers are colder and as the event draws near, the numbers will come down. Assuming the siberian low does come over to our side.
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 581
Quoting Bordonaro:


The DFW area of N TX mets are calling for highs near 42F, lows near 28F, about 9F below average. They haven't said too much about the Polar Vortex since Sunday, 12-28-09.


I think they might be playing it a big conserative for now which wouldn't be a bad call knowing that this event is 6 to 7 days out...our forecast is trending colder but less of a chance of wintery precip
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Quoting louisianaboy444:
The Forecast is out for my area in Northern Louisiana Temperatures next week will be stuck in the 30s with lows possibly in the mid to upper teens


The DFW area of N TX mets are calling for highs near 42F, lows near 28F, about 9F below average. They haven't said too much about the Polar Vortex since Sunday, 12-28-09.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting gregpinehurstnc:
i miss charleston, worked at folly beach, at the WONDERFUL ATLANTIC BEACH RESTURUANT,, gone,, but not forgotten,, lived on peas island,, worked for the evil hans and franz,, on the front,, seen snow and ice once.. drove to north c, a great city , almost as good as denver co


I am looking right now at a beautiful framed photo of Atlantic House...walked over the pilings just yesterday...
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After listening to y'all, I am not complaining!
Daytona Beach (Ponce Inlet), FL, Daytona Beach, Florida (PWS)
Updated: 2 sec ago
51.6 °F
Clear
Humidity: 82%
Dew Point: 46 °F
Wind: 1.0 mphfrom the NNW
Wind Gust: 5.0 mph
Pressure: 30.31 in (Steady)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Clear -
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 12 ft
Goodnight!
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Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 581
Quoting charlottefl:


I knew that was the date section just couldn't figure out the order. LOL.(Long day at work today) Heading to Tennessee in a few days for about a week and a half. Ever seen a Floridian Frozen Solid? That's me in 3 days. LOL


Oh, cool, my daughter lives in Nashville, TN. The Arctic/Siberian blast will visit TN next week, be prepared, bring a sweater, heavy jacket, hat and gloves.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
You need more anti-freeze. You know, Jetty juice is about the same color....works wonders

yes it does!...I need to come get some soon!..lol
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All the forecast lows I see for Destin next week are right around freezing or above. Nothing in the 20's, maybe inland, but not along the beaches. Am I missing something?
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The Forecast is out for my area in Northern Louisiana Temperatures next week will be stuck in the 30s with lows possibly in the mid to upper teens
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Here in Arlington, TX it snowed from around 3PM to 5:45PM. We had about 0.2", just enough to coat the grass, rooftops, windshields/top of autos. This was the third time we saw snow this month. Dec 2, 23 and 29TH. What a weird El Nino!!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting presslord:
Interesting, somewhat relevant, trivia...

Link


That's the time to be on the beach, with the full moon shining on the water.
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i miss charleston, worked at folly beach, at the WONDERFUL ATLANTIC BEACH RESTURUANT,, gone,, but not forgotten,, lived on peas island,, worked for the evil hans and franz,, on the front,, seen snow and ice once.. drove to north c, a great city , almost as good as denver co
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Quoting presslord:
'sposed to go to 29 tonight...we walked out to Morris island lighthouse tonight...the beach was stunning....but chilly...


by monday next week its going to be
Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 20s. Wind chill values as low as 15.
for ya press
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54639
Quoting Bordonaro:

1-5-2010 @ 12Z or 7AM CST

VALID 10 01 05
10 is 2010
01 Jan
05 5th day of the month
1200V is 12Z or UTC=7AM EST
168= 168 hrs into the future



I knew that was the date section just couldn't figure out the order. LOL.(Long day at work today) Heading to Tennessee in a few days for about a week and a half. Ever seen a Floridian Frozen Solid? That's me in 3 days. LOL
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Interesting, somewhat relevant, trivia...

Link
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Quoting charlottefl:
Drak-

What date is that for?

1-5-2010 @ 12Z or 7AM CST

VALID 10 01 05
10 is 2010
01 Jan
05 5th day of the month
1200V is 12Z or UTC=7AM EST
168= 168 hrs into the future

Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting AllyBama:
Hi sugar...just came in from doing out to dinner and near about froze to death walking to and from the car..so happy that we only had to walk 10 ft!..lol


You need more anti-freeze. You know, Jetty juice is about the same color....works wonders.
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Link

I have learned so much today about forecast models. I hope this shows up. We are all talking about possible snow next week, but its looking like around 10 days out we may have a repeat of Jan 1985.
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15 degrees, ouch.
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Hi sugar...just came in from doing out to dinner and near about froze to death walking to and from the car..so happy that we only had to walk 10 ft!..lol
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My house...

41 F
Clear
Windchill: 41 F
Humidity: 76%
Dew Point: 34 F
Wind: Calm

Pressure: 30.36 in (Rising)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16


Daughter in CT


15.5 F
Clear
Windchill: 5 F
Humidity: 48%
Dew Point: -1 F
Wind: 8.0 mph from the WNW

Wind Gust: 8.0 mph
Pressure: 30.18 in (Steady)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Clear -

I'm having a heat wave compared to her!..lol
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Quoting AllyBama:
well, I am 57 and falling!...oh, ya'll were talking about the temps!..lol


Ally, you're so funny.
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'sposed to go to 29 tonight...we walked out to Morris island lighthouse tonight...the beach was stunning....but chilly...
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Black ice is a very generic term typically used to describe slippery road conditions. Black ice, sometimes called "glare ice" or "clear ice", typically refers to a thin coating of glazed ice on a roadway. While not truly black, it is transparent, allowing the usually-black asphalt/macadam roadway to be seen through it, hence the term. It is unusually slick compared to other forms of roadway ice, and is a factor in some car accidents
Thanks Keep.
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National wu Temperature animated map
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128879
well, I am 57 and falling!...oh, ya'll were talking about the temps!..lol
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It's the humidity that makes the cold go right through you, right, Pat?
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Just went to get some dinner. 49 Degrees here in SWFL.
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Current Conditions

Uptown, New Orleans, Louisiana (PWS)

Updated: 55 sec ago

Overcast

47.0 °F

Overcast
Windchill: 47 °F
Humidity: 65%
Dew Point: 36 °F
Wind: Calm
Wind Gust: 0.0 mph
Pressure: 30.27 in (Falling)
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128879
Quoting presslord:
53 and falling


We're at 48 and falling. It was 34 this a.m.
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53 and falling
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Quoting presslord:
I'm so cold I can't type...


How cold is Charleston???
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Quoting presslord:
my wife doesn't know it yet...but we're about to have a BIG fight over who walks the dog in the morning...

LOL!

Evening Wubloggers and bloggettes!
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I'm so cold I can't type...
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Quoting sugarsand:

NIG?


BIG!!!!!!!!!!!
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Quoting presslord:
my wife doesn't know it yet...but we're about to have a NIG fight over who walks the dog in the morning...

NIG?
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Quoting Chicklit:

yes, i believe that involves turning on a switch.


Exactly!
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Quoting sugarsand:


Ergonomic, indeed!

yes, i believe that involves turning on a switch.
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my wife doesn't know it yet...but we're about to have a BIG fight over who walks the dog in the morning...
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Quoting Chicklit:
hi sugarsand...thinking gas is more ergonomic.
i cannot afford anything at present, just wondering.


Ergonomic, indeed!
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Quoting presslord:
I'm cold...somebody gimmee a hug...
ya may need a heavier coat longjohns maybe as well 82 days till first day of spring
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54639

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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.