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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938. catastropheadjuster
8:05 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
You ought to see all the stuff my grandson got he was so happy. Loved playing with Ben, they really hit it off. And Pat took pics and he's so awsome, he played with caleb they all did. Thank you all so very much. You made my Christmas for my grandson wonderful.

God Bless
Sheri
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 21 Comments: 3674
937. nrtiwlnvragn
7:22 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
New Blog
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11075
936. Bordonaro
7:21 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting btwntx08:


Not sure, let me try to find a ECMWF chart. If KOG is lurking, please post the EMCWF 850mb temps please for this next week. Thanks :0)
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
935. Floodman
7:21 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Currently 48 at Fort Worth Alliance Airport. Humidity 66% and the winds out of the SW at 9
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
934. Floodman
7:17 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting unf97:
Thanks Flood.

Sorry Bordonaro on the mistype on your user name on the previous post. I hate typo errors...


No worries! I generate a lot of typos when I'm doing a couple of things once...typically I go back and edit my comments when I see them
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
932. hydrus
7:13 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting Bordonaro:


Thanks, The meteorologists, ECMWF and GFS are waiting for the "trigger mechanism" to move into place, ........................................................ LOL ,the same exact 972 MB low that model was showing 2 days ago.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20998
931. Bordonaro
7:08 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting Floodman:


We got 1" in north Fort Worth...as it stopped thogh the temp rose above freezing and it immediately melted


I receieved about 0.25" of snow on grassy areas, tress, cars and it almost all melted by 1Am this morning.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
930. unf97
7:08 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Thanks Flood.

Sorry Bordonaro on the mistype on your user name on the previous post. I hate typo errors...
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
929. Bordonaro
7:04 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting hydrus:
I believe if there are any surprises in the upcoming cold weather event, you will know about it before most the bloggers here. Your on this like bark up a tree!


Thanks, The meteorologists, ECMWF and GFS are waiting for the "trigger mechanism" to move into place, vefore they pin down the final forecasts into early/middle next week.

Look at the 12Z GFS Run Forecast (surface temps/winds) for @90HRS, 1-3-10 at 00Z (6PM CST). The Huge 972MB L off of ME will open the floodgates for a portion of the Arctic Outbreak. Notice the big blocking H over Greenland:



Then on 1-5-10, 12Z GFS 144HR (surface temps/winds) forecast sends a chunk of Arctic air towards the S Plains, Deep South and FL:



Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
928. Floodman
7:04 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting unf97:
Bordonardo,

How much snow did you end up getting over there yesterday? Based on the warm-up today, whatever that did fall probably has melted away I assume.


We got 1" in north Fort Worth...as it stopped though the temp rose above freezing and it immediately melted
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
927. GBlet
7:03 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Any word from Santa Trap?
Member Since: September 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 435
926. hydrus
6:57 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting Bordonaro:
Enjoying what may be the warmest day for about 2 weeks here in DFW, TX.

Weather at 12:45PM CST 12-30-09, SE Arlington, TX:
Cloudy and 49 degrees here on the plateau. Wind gusts to 20mph.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20998
925. unf97
6:56 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Bordonardo,

How much snow did you end up getting over there yesterday? Based on the warm-up today, whatever that did fall probably has melted away I assume.
Member Since: September 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1193
924. Bordonaro
6:45 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Enjoying what may be the warmest day for about 2 weeks here in DFW, TX.

Weather at 12:45PM CST 12-30-09, SE Arlington, TX:

Mostly Cloudy a few peaks of Sun

Temp: 51F
Rel Hum: 81%
Dew Pt: 46F
Winds: S at 6MPH G 9MPH
Bar Press: 29.99" slowly falling

Looks like we may see near normal temps today, I'd love th have one more 70F day before the "deep freeze" arrives :0)


Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
923. hydrus
6:43 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting Bordonaro:
Today on, "As the Isobars Turn", many are anxiously anticipating the Siberian/Arctic incursions into Florida and the Eastern 2/3 of the CONUS :0).

Will it snow in Florida, will it get down to the 30's in Miami,FL? Will there be a Major New England Blizzard this Holiday weekend? Will there be a Deep South/ N Florida snowstorm develop, that brings snow from Dixie to the home of the "original Boston Tea Party"? How cold will it get in TX? How long will the cold air stay? Will there be record lows tumbling, across the Eastern 2/3rds of the CONUS?

Stay tuned folks, ECMWF/GFS models state there will be an Arctic Incursion, but the ECMWF/GFS disagree on the timing and amount of Arctic/Siberian air mass that injects in the lower 48! Stay tuned, more details are coming on, "As the Isobars Turn"!
I believe if there are any surprises in the upcoming cold weather event, you will know about it before most the bloggers here. Your on this like bark up a tree!
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20998
922. Bordonaro
6:38 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:


LOL


The Meteorologist from MANY of the NWS offices around the US are doing the "fire coals dance" on the latest Arctic/Siberian outbreak.]

I think they're waiting for more agreement between the models. And that probably won't happen until they get a "better handle" on where the Polar Vortex gets set up. The Alaskan models cannot agree past 2 days, from browsing the Area Forecast Discussion's out of Fairbanks, AK earlier this morning. GFS/ECMWF are still arguing about where and when the airmass will go.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
920. hydrus
6:33 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting BobinTampa:
Hydrus,
We have a couple of those down here. On one of them, they had a split screen: one side was a meteorologist giving the days forecast (obviously recorded the day before and not updated), the other side was a live radar shot.


In my travels I have seen these types of (weather stations) and they were actually very good. Unfortunately most of them are not. They have changed the format here,it is a little better .
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20998
919. Floodman
6:29 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting NRAamy:
Jerry...doin' awesome....excited about the Portlight van on its way!

:)


:)
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
918. jeffs713
6:29 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting Bordonaro:
Today on, "As the Isobars Turn", many are anxiously anticipating the Siberian/Arctic incursions into Florida and the Eastern 2/3 of the CONUS :0).

Will it snow in Florida, will it get down to the 30's in Miami,FL? Will there be a Major New England Blizzard this Holiday weekend? How cold will it get in TX? How long will the cold air stay? Will there be record lows tumbling, across the Eastern 2/3rds of the CONUS?

Stay tuned folks, EMCWF/GFS models state there will be an Arctic Incursion, but the EMCWF/GFS disagree on the timing and amount of Arctic/Siberian air mass that injects in the lower 48! Stay tuned, more details are coming on, "As the Isobars Turn"!


LOL
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
917. Floridano
6:27 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting StormW:
COASTAL AND OFFSHORE SYNOPSIS DECEMBER 30, 2009 ISSUED 1:20 P.M. EST


Thank you!
916. Bordonaro
6:27 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Today on, "As the Isobars Turn", many are anxiously anticipating the Siberian/Arctic incursions into Florida and the Eastern 2/3 of the CONUS :0).

Will it snow in Florida, will it get down to the 30's in Miami,FL? Will there be a Major New England Blizzard this Holiday weekend? Will there be a Deep South/ N Florida snowstorm develop, that brings snow from Dixie to the home of the "original Boston Tea Party"? How cold will it get in TX? How long will the cold air stay? Will there be record lows tumbling, across the Eastern 2/3rds of the CONUS?

Stay tuned folks, ECMWF/GFS models state there will be an Arctic Incursion, but the ECMWF/GFS disagree on the timing and amount of Arctic/Siberian air mass that injects in the lower 48! Stay tuned, more details are coming on, "As the Isobars Turn"!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
915. jeffs713
6:26 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting Drakoen:


I was wondering the same thing though the thickness is at 546 and freezing temps at the surface.


It could be a warm slot somewhere between 1000mb and 750mb that is expanding the 500-1000mb layer.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
913. BobinTampa
6:22 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Hydrus,
We have a couple of those down here. On one of them, they had a split screen: one side was a meteorologist giving the days forecast (obviously recorded the day before and not updated), the other side was a live radar shot.

So, I'm watching this at about 10 a.m. and the meteorologist is saying that there would be rain but it wouldn't start until afternoon. Meanwhile, the live radar showed the ENTIRE area blanketed in heavy rain. Last time I bothered watching that.
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 527
912. Drakoen
6:22 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:

156hr comes out to about 7-8am EST. I don't see how that meteogram is getting snow at the end of the period when 750mb-surface is all above freezing.


I was wondering the same thing though the thickness is at 546 and freezing temps at the surface.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
911. NRAamy
6:21 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Jerry...doin' awesome....excited about the Portlight van on its way!

:)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
910. jeffs713
6:19 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting Bordonaro:


1000MB=350 FT.

exactly. if surface temps are above freezing, a good amount of snow falling will have to cool the surface before anything will be cold enough to stick. You might get a little on the tops of cars and some rooftops, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
909. hydrus
6:18 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting StormChaser81:


Exactly
Anytime I could not use the computer, I would switch to twc, but I could NEVER get a weather update. We do have (1) channel that has the local weather, but is rather vague with the forecast information. It really is a bummer.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20998
908. HurricaneHunterGal
6:18 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting StormChaser81:


Its that highs?

No, thats in the morning
Member Since: August 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 249
907. jeffs713
6:16 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting StormChaser81:


Its that highs?

156hr comes out to about 7-8am EST.
Quoting Drakoen:
I don't see how that meteogram is getting snow at the end of the period when 750mb-surface is all above freezing.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
906. Floodman
6:15 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting NRAamy:
eyes, Jerry, and Jeffs...Mornin'!

:)



Mornin', dear...how you doing today?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
905. Bordonaro
6:14 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:

If the freezing level is at 1000mb, then the surface temps will likely be more towards 33-35F. Definitely possible for snow, but nothing will stick at that temp.


1000MB=350 FT.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
904. StormChaser81
6:14 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:
Wow... look at how low the freezing level will get @ 156hr...

(everything in the deep navy blue is freezing @ the surface).



Its that highs?
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
903. StormChaser81
6:13 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting hydrus:
I heard that The Weather Channel is not really The Weather Channel any more. It is The Movie Channel / Al Roker Show.


Exactly
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
902. Drakoen
6:12 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30213
901. jeffs713
6:11 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Wow... look at how low the freezing level will get @ 156hr...

(everything in the deep navy blue is freezing @ the surface).

Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
900. hydrus
6:11 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jipmg:
I find it mind boggling, that these models are showing temps really down there for SFL, yet TWC continues to forecast low to mid 70s, with lows just under 60....
I heard that The Weather Channel is not really The Weather Channel any more. It is The Movie Channel / Al Roker Show.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20998
899. StormChaser81
6:10 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jipmg:


hey atleast its something, I have never seen snow in my life, the only thing close to it was HAIL during the 2007-08 summers


Especially seeing it in Florida is really cool considering the chances on it happen are very low.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
898. NRAamy
6:08 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
bump for Portlight and the Portlight Santas!!!!!!!!

:)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
897. StormChaser81
6:08 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jipmg:
I find it mind boggling, that these models are showing temps really down there for SFL, yet TWC continues to forecast low to mid 70s, with lows just under 60....


I could be snowing in Florida and TWC would say mid 70's with sunshine and warm. There good for nothing now, they werent that good awhile ago , but since they changed its terrible.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
896. jipmg
6:07 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:

If the freezing level is at 1000mb, then the surface temps will likely be more towards 33-35F. Definitely possible for snow, but nothing will stick at that temp.


hey atleast its something, I have never seen snow in my life, the only thing close to it was HAIL during the 2007-08 summers
895. NRAamy
6:06 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
888. catastropheadjuster 10:01 AM PST on December 30, 2009
Quoting NRAamy:
eyes, Jerry, and Jeffs...Mornin'!

:)




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


you are very welcome, Sheri! A little jewelry always makes a lady feel better!!!

:)

Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
894. jipmg
6:06 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
I find it mind boggling, that these models are showing temps really down there for SFL, yet TWC continues to forecast low to mid 70s, with lows just under 60....
893. StormChaser81
6:04 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:

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.


Id rather have cold rain than sleet.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
892. jeffs713
6:03 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jipmg:


1000MB is right at the surface I believe

If the freezing level is at 1000mb, then the surface temps will likely be more towards 33-35F. Definitely possible for snow, but nothing will stick at that temp.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
891. BobinTampa
6:02 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Is snow still possible in Florida next week?

You'd think I'd have learned how to read those charts with as much time as I spend on this site. Learning impaired I'm afraid.

Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 527
890. jeffs713
6:02 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting catastropheadjuster:
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


YAY!

One thing that I have learned about WU is that many of the people here, especially those active throughout the year, are some of the nicest people you can find on the 'net. Lots of warm hearts here, and we take care of our own when someone is in need of help.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5880
889. jipmg
6:01 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting jeffs713:

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.


1000MB is right at the surface I believe
888. catastropheadjuster
6:01 PM GMT on December 30, 2009
Quoting NRAamy:
eyes, Jerry, and Jeffs...Mornin'!

:)



I tried to call you, I love everything it is beautiful.
Thank you
Sheri
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 21 Comments: 3674

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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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