Cold War Era

B-58 navigator recalls his pilot turning in his wings after their Hustler went in a nose-high stall during a night training Mach 2 bomb run over Dallas

The B-58 Hustler

The US Air Force’s first operational supersonic bomber, the B-58 made its initial flight on Nov. 11, 1956. In addition to the Hustler’s delta wing shape, distinctive features included a sophisticated inertial guidance navigation and bombing system, a slender “wasp-waist” fuselage and an extensive use of heat-resistant honeycomb sandwich skin panels in the wings and fuselage. Since the thin fuselage prevented the carrying of bombs internally, a droppable, two-component pod beneath the fuselage contained a nuclear weapon — along with extra fuel, reconnaissance equipment or other specialized gear. The B-58 crew consisted of a pilot, navigator/bombardier and defense systems operator.

CLICK HERE to see The Aviation Geek Club contributor Linda Sheffield’s T-shirt designs! Linda has a personal relationship with the SR-71 because her father Butch Sheffield flew the Blackbird from test flight in 1965 until 1973. Butch’s Granddaughter’s Lisa Burroughs and Susan Miller are graphic designers. They designed most of the merchandise that is for sale on Threadless. A percentage of the profits go to Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base. This nonprofit charity is personal to the Sheffield family because they are raising money to house SR-71, #955. This was the first Blackbird that Butch Sheffield flew on Oct. 4, 1965.

When my Dad, Richard “Butch” Sheffield, was flying the B-47 as navigator/bombardier, he volunteered for the then brand new B-58. He lost his spot promotion and had to go back to being a lieutenant. He writes about it in his book “The Very First” he left for his family.

‘I entered the B-58 Combat Crew Training School (CCTS) as a student. The school was about two months long with academics and simulators. I was crewed with Captain Sparks (Sparky), aircraft Commander (AC), and Lt. Patrick, Defense Systems Officer (DSO).

The first crew to pass Central Evaluations Group

‘We soon started flying, and I loved the B-58. The bombing and navigation system, plus the cockpit, were excellent. We became combat-ready fast and were one of the first crews checked out in the aircraft, number fourteen, I believe.

‘General LeMay wanted all SAC crews to be changeable. Each crew and crew position were to have procedures alike for the aircraft they were flying in. The Central Evaluations Group (CEG) visited each wing and tested and evaluated the crew force to see if all wings performed the same procedures. To pass CEG was a big deal in B-47’s.

‘The CEG people wanted to get their foot in the door on this new program, so they decided that they should come in and give a check ride to one of the crews. We were selected.

‘It was a joke; they didn’t know anything about the aircraft, but they went through the motions and checked us; it was a piece of cake; we passed. So, we became the first B-58 crew ever to pass CEG.’

B-58 Hustler nose-high stall over Dallas

He continues;

Richard Butch Sheffield (in the middle) B-58 crew.

‘About six months after we became combat-ready, we flew a Mach 2 bomb run on Dallas at night. When the run was over, and we went to start our descent from fifty thousand feet, Capt. Sparks pulled back the power but FORGOT to take the altitude hold off.

‘The aircraft went into a nose-high stall, and we began to drop quickly; the engine’s compressor stalled, and the generators all went offline. We lost all electrical power; I had only a tiny battery-powered light in the cockpit. The only thing I could see was the airspeed and altimeter. I called the pilot, who said the flight controls had locked up.

‘It took one hundred and fifteen pounds of pressure to override the autopilot. He was a petite guy trying to override it, not knowing that altitude hold was on. It was a wild ride down. We were falling tail first with very little forward motion.

‘I decided to eject at fifteen thousand feet as we were trained. At about twenty thousand feet, I felt the nose of the aircraft starting to drop, and he said, I think I have got it (he had overridden the autopilot). Once the nose came down, the engines could be re-started, and we recovered at about ten thousand feet; we landed at Carswell. No one said a thing.’

The pilot quits

Sheffield concludes;

‘The following day, when I went into the Squadron, everyone was saying, did you hear about “Sparky?” I said no. They said he went into the commander (CO) office this morning and threw his wings on his desk, and said, “I quit!” He then went around the Squadron bad-mouthing the B-58 and telling the other crews they should quit the program, too, because the aircraft was unsafe; the CO told him to get out.’

Dad stayed with the B-58s until he was hired away to the SR-71 program in 1964. He had to pass the astronaut physical at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas and then he arrived at Beale Air Force Base in 1965.

Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Twitter X Page Habubrats SR-71 and Facebook Page Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder Habubrats for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.

Photo credit: Linda Sheffield Miller and U.S. Air Force

Linda Sheffield Miller

Grew up at Beale Air Force Base, California. I am a Habubrat. Graduated from North Dakota State University. Former Public School Substitute Teacher, (all subjects all grades). Member of the DAR (Daughters of the Revolutionary War). I am interested in History, especially the history of SR-71. Married, Mother of three wonderful daughters and four extremely handsome grandsons. I live near Washington, DC.

Recent Posts

Airline captain explains why arguments between pilots and ATCs are more frequent at New York JFK than in other airports

Arguments between pilots and ATCs Pilots and air traffic controllers (ATCs) don’t usually argue, but… Read More

3 hours ago

SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3 spy plane’s titanium parts made in summer corroded while those made in winter didn’t. Here’s why.

The Blackbird The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” was a long-range, Mach 3+, strategic… Read More

1 day ago

When a B-52 pitched up and collided with a KC-135 over Palomares: the story of the most famous Broken Arrow accident

Operation Chrome Dome Operation Chrome Dome was Strategic Air Command's unprecedented nuclear deterrence operation, a… Read More

1 day ago

B-52H crew earn award for skillfully recovering at 1,200 feet after 4 engines flamed out on one side

B-52H crew earn Air Force Global Strike Command General Curtis E. LeMay award The Air… Read More

2 days ago