Losses and Aviation Safety

The sad story of the 1969 Loring Air Force Base B-52 Crash

“The B-52 had crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board and, because it was fully loaded with hundreds of thousands of pounds of fuel, creating a massive conflagration off the end of the runway,” Jay Lacklen former B-52 pilot

Jay Lacklen is a former B-52 pilot with 12,500 flying hours and the author of two books, Flying the Line: An Air Force Pilot’s Journey and Flying the Line: An Air Force Pilot’s Journey Volume Two: Military Airlift Command. He’s working on the last book of the trilogy.

1969 B-52 Crash.

“Three years before my arrival, on an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) to test the base operational mission capability, Loring had suffered a horrendous disaster. A B-52 had crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board and, because it was fully loaded with hundreds of thousands of pounds of fuel, creating a massive conflagration off the end of the runway. The fireball reportedly lit up the cockpit of an airborne Loring tanker twenty miles away. In the insular, close-knit base community, this presented a devastating loss. Over the five years I flew out of Loring, I would see the remnants of the crash site and be reminded of how quickly I could die in this business.”

Clyde Sikorsky, then Sergeant in the Fire Dept at Loring Air Force Base, recalled:

“On 4 September 1969, during an ORI, I witnessed the crash of B-52G 58-0215 at Loring AFB as a Sergeant in the Fire Dept working at the Crash Station.

As MITOs progressed my partner and I stood by in our P-6 pickup about 50 yards in front of the alert bombers. 58-0215 was having difficulties with one or more inboard engines on the port wing, so we were radioed to continue to stand by on that aircraft until it taxied to the south end of the runway. We were then to hustle down to the north end and standby there as they took off. After several failed attempts to start and run up the engine, they finally got it going, or so it appeared. During this time I could see the Aircraft Commander and, I assume, the Wing Commander talking and gesturing to each other. Finally I saw the Wing Commander wave them on…to proceed the south end of the runway, and go.

“At the north end we observed the aircraft approach on it’s take off run. As the plane neared us, it lifted off much farther down the runway than normal. As it passed us, the plane struggled to gain altitude. I believe it never gained more than a few hundred feet of altitude. I did not hear any unusual engine noises, just the usual roar. Finally we observed it slowly disappear beyond the tree line, and after a few silent seconds we heard the inevitable. It was the beginning of a long night.

“I was never privy to any official information concerning the accident, but it appeared several ejections were attempted. I do not know the source of the engine(s) problem, or why they were ordered to go, except that it was an ORI.
One personal thought: I was deeply moved by the loss of those men, and that I was unable to help. That was my job.

Clyde Sikorski
USAF 1966-1974”

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. B-52H Stratofortress 2nd BW, 20th BS, LA/60-0008 “Lucky Lady IV”. Barksdale AFB, LA

Here’s the list of Crew Members involved in the crash: 
Pilot/Commander:Maj Nils O A Oxehufwud USAF killed. 
Co-pilot:Capt William N Payne USAF killed. 
Nav: Capt Theodore A Burbank USAF killed. 
EWO: Maj Robert M Murray USAF killed. 
Rad/Nav: Lt Col Robert C Smith USAF killed. 

AG: M/Sgt Earl J Barnes USAF killed. 
Obs: Col Homer C Bell Jr USAF killed. 

The Nav and R/N both ejected but their chutes did not fully deploy. The crash site was about 2 or 3 miles north of the runway. In 1980 you could still see the tree tops sheared off, followed by a large clearing with quite a bit of debris, although there were several mounds where the bulldozers had plowed some large pieces under.

According to Aviation Safety Network, possible cause of the disaster was a total failure of all electrical power or the water injection system failed to activate and the Aircraft did not have enough thrust to make it airborne.

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • Close-knit? I'll give you close-knit. My family was stationed at Loring when this happened. As a matter of fact, my father had been the co-pilot on this crew up until a few months before the crash. He got upgraded to AC, got his own crew and was in Southeast Asia when the crash occurred. Teddy Burbank, the nav on this crew, was our next door neighbor and had been for a few years. Nils Oxehufwud was a close friend of my fathers and his mentor of sorts. The first person to reach the crash site was a LtCol Boeman who also lived in our building (fourplex). His children and I were close friends. Finally, the maintenance officer (Capt. Elmer Creveling) working to get that airplane off the ground was also a close personal friend of the family and we were in touch until he passed away a few years ago. He and his family lived in the next building over from us. You could say we were effected.

    • I babysat for "Oxy". We lived right next to him on Loring Drive. My dad was his AC before he retired and we left Loring. He was a nice guy with a beautiful family. DLWalt do you know what happened to his kids?

      • I am Lisa, Nils' (Oxy's) daughter. My brother and I are doing well. We moved to Kansas after the crash . My brother remains there. I live in Idaho. Erik is retired and I work as the Executive Director of a nonprofit agency. We struggled in many ways after the crash, but got through it. Like many of the other children who lost their fathers in that crash, it still weighs heavily on us. Some of us have reached out to each other.

  • I remember that night though I was only a child. My Father was a MSgt stationed at Loring. I remember my father rushing to get dressed and out of the house. We didn't know until later but my father had only been called in to help search for survivors. We spent the night worrying because among other things Loring was the northern most base between the USSR and the Eastern Seaboard. For all we knew war had broke out. A similar accident happened at McCoy AFB in 72 where coincidently we had been stationed before Loring.

  • This is Brice Payne, son of Capt William Norton Payne. I was 10 months old at the time dad passed in this tragic avoidable accident. Mom, Bev Payne, and I are well. She is in Colorado Springs while I am in North Carolina. Bill's brother and sister live in CA and are doing well.
    Are there any other complete or active groups for the survivors of this crash that I should be aware of?

    • Dear Mr Payne, we are not aware of any group for the survivors. If we should have to know anything we'll leave a comment here. Thanks for following us!

  • My father, Robert M Murray, was killed in this crash. After years of trying to get answers they sent me the accident report but withheld the conclusions section that would have explained why the crash occurred. Tragic.

  • I was the navigator onboard the tanker mentioned in this article. My memory is clearly seeing the fireball from our initial approach fix, 30 miles south. The talk at the time seemed to involve the instructor pilot on board, overriding the copilot, abruptly pushing the throttles to military power and causing the engines of flame out. Whether this is true or whether it even makes any technical sense, I've no idea. The two navigators ejected at 200 feet downward and everyone else up. The gunner was thought to have had the best chance to survive but his chute caught the tail section.

    Around this time, there was another B52 crash in Florida which seemed to resemble this "flame out" theory.

    Again, its only my memory.

  • Hello~ I am the middle child of Lt. Col. Robert C. Smith, the Radar Navigator on this B-52, and am trying to connect with other children who lost fathers in this crash at Loring AFB. I am trying to plan a return visit to Loring AFB, in September 2023, and hope I can get as many surviving family members as possible to join me. I am on FB, https://www.facebook.com/bentriderdeb and you can message me there.
    My personal email is bentriderdeb@gmail.com.
    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Deb

  • I left Loring for civilian life in December 1966. Oxy was my pilot and Burbank took my seat as the navigator on the crew. I also knew Bob Smith. Oxy was my best friend on the base and his family and ours were very close. There has to be more to the story than we've heard. Oxy was a former Command Post officer and knew all the regs involving safety of flight during ORI's. There is a tremendous amount of pressure during an ORI to get the airplanes off the ground and since OXY was chief of standboard, I'm sure he felt it the most. The IG was on board. Still, OXY had used "safety of flight" as a relief from doing something dangerous as I experienced in one of our ORI exercises. It's never made complete sense.

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