Boeing B-47E Stratojet
52-1414      31 March 1960
Little Rock, Arkansas

     On 31 March 1960, a Boeing B-47E (sn 52-1414), suffered an inflight explosion and structural failure over the city of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Three of the four crewmembers and two civilians on the ground lost their lives.  The aircraft was based with the 384th Bomb Wing (SAC), 545th Bombardment Squadron, Little Rock AFB.

Boeing B-47 similar to the one that exploded over the city of Little Rock.  Courtesy of the Boeing Airplane Company

    Most of the information regarding the cause of the crash has been redacted from the publicly releaseable portions of the accident report.  However, the following passage was found in SACP 62-1 "Headquarters SAC Analysis of B-47 Accidents":

    "A B-47 was climbing after takeoff in day VFR weather.  There had been an extended period of no interphone communication,  during which the copilot had been concentrating on receiving 'Noah's Ark' traffic.  At about 15,000 feet, the copilot suddenly realized that the aircraft was in a very steep left bank, that the nose was well below the horizon, and that the airspeed was excessive.  He pulled the throttles to idle, punched the interphone button and shouted at the aircraft commander. Almost immediately, the nose came up, the wings leveled, and the aircraft disintegrated.  In the cockpit section, which had separated intact from the rest of the aircraft, the copilot tried to eject, but the clamshell initiator pin had not been removed.  The copilot then unfastened his seat belt.  The canopy blew off at about 10,000 feet.  The unconscious copilot was thrown out at 4,000 feet and his parachute opened automatically.  The aircraft commander ejected at 2,000 feet, but his parachute had been fused by fire and he died upon impact.  The fourth man was found near the wreckage and did not survive.  The navigator was killed in his position.  The falling wreckage killed two civilians and caused serious damage to property."

     Surveying this crash site (well, actually there were four of them!) proved to be a study in how the scars of a disaster can be healed without leaving any traces of the catastrophe for those who follow.

     The scene of the worst destruction, at the intersection of Maryland and Summit streets, is now a parking lot for Arkansas Children's Hospital.  Nearby, Interstate 630 nearly obliterated the spot where the right wing destroyed two houses.

The 1 April 1960 edition of the Arkansas Gazette contained front page articles on the crash.
Copyright Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


Scenes From The Crash Site

Personal Photographs Courtesy of Mr. George Blythe

Above (left and right) and Left:  A woman was killed and her home heavily damaged when the nose section of the bomber struck the rear of the house.
Above (left and right):  When the main section of fuselage came down, it exploded, creating a crater nearly 6 1/2 feet deep and 35 feet in diameter.  The blast destroyed or damaged several houses and left one civilian man dead.

Aerial photograph of the site near Maryland and Summit streets.  Destroyed and damaged houses can be seen around the intersection.  The crater was believed created by the tail section, and was 45 feet around and 25 feet deep.  This photograph looks north; the top area shown is now part of the Arkansas Children's Hospital parking lot.  (UPI Photo via Craig Fuller at AAIR)

This house on Maryland Street was struck by portions of the bomber and set ablaze.  Fire also destroyed the 1953 Mercury behind the tree in the background.  (UPI Photo)
(UPI Photo)


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