Albuquerque, NM B-36 Bomber Crashes, May 1951


Albuquerque, May 7 (UP) -- Air Force officials disclosed today they have a motion picture of the crash of a B-36 bomber here yesterday. The crash killed 23 airmen and seriously injured two others. Kirtland Air Force base officials said a civilian, A. D. Hazard of Albuquerque, was filming the landing of the huge aircraft when the crash occurred.
"Mr. Hazard walked over and handed the films to officials," a Kirtland spokesman said today. The films were rushed through processing and shown to a group of officers headed by Maj. Gen. C. S. Irvine. General Irvine flew here from Fort Worth to lead the investigation into the crash.
No immediate announcement was forthcoming as to the cause of the accident, but it was reported that the fims countered an early report that an engine on the plane was on fire before the crash. The films, according to public information officer Capt. Fred Grinham, substantiated that visibility was not seriously affected by blowing dust.
It was the fifth and worst B-36 crash since the Air Force put the six engined bombers -- the world's largest -- into operation in August 1946. The toll of 23 dead is but three less than the combined deaths in the other four.
Griffith said the flaming wreckage "looked like a burning oil field. Flames shot up almost 200 feet in the air."
"I didn't want to look," said Lt. William S. Knipple. "I turned my back." Knipple is one of three members of the 188th Fighter Squadron who watched the crash.
The two survivors were in critical condition at Sandia special weapons base hospital. Sandia adjoins Kirtland.
Twenty-two men were killed outright. The 23rd died at Sandia a few minutes later. The bomber, almost as long as a city block, had just finished a three-hour flight from Carswell Air Force base, Fort Worth, Tex.
Winds in excess of 40 miles an hour stirred up a billowing sandstorm and fanned the flames quickly to a parked C-54 Air Force Transport and a small, private cargo plane.
The names of dead announced by Carswell base show the plane carried an emergency crew of nine compared with 16 normally used on combat flights. There were 16 passengers. Carswell said the passengers all were service men who were to attend school at Kirtland base.
The crewmen all were killed.
None of the men aboard was from New Mexico.

The New Mexican Santa Fe New Mexico 1951-05-07

The List of The Casualties.
Two persons suvived the crash the worst in B-36 history.
They are:
S. Sgt. JACK E. ERICKSON, of Mexia, Tex., senior airplane repairman.
Cpl. RICHARD N. FOGWELL, of Los Angeles, apprentice jet engine mechanic.
Crew Members Killed:
Maj. EDWARD L. WARNER, JR., of Buffalo, Mo., aircraft commander.
Capt. GRANT H. FENN, of Chicago, pilot.
Capt. ALBERT J. GREGG, JR., of Cosway, N.H., navigator.
Capt. GEORGE W. LEE, of Forth Worth, Tex., radar observer.
1st Lt. MITCHELL J. BUCKALEW, of Forth Worth, Tex., flight engineer.
Sgt. KENNETH R. COTA, of South Paris, Me., radio operator.
S. Sgt. ARTHUR I. BOTTEN, of Silvania, Washington, senior gunner.
S. Sgt. ROBERT A. BAKER, of Boulder, Colo., senior gunner.
1st Lt. JOHN L. CORLEY, of Mineola, Tex., flight engineer.
Passengers killed were:
Capt. FRED M. MITCHEM, of Charles, Mo.
S. Sgt. THOMAS C. GUSTAVSON, of Pitts, N.H.
Sgt. HENRY C. DOX, of London, Ky.
S. Sgt. ESTILL MYRICK, of McKennet, Ala.
Sgt. LLOYD L. GOOLSBY, of Spanish Fort, Tex.
S. Sgt. DALE F. CURTIS, of Richmond, Ind.
Sgt. GEORGE F. SOROE, JR., of New Orleans, La.
M. Sgt. JOHN RITZ, of Bryant, Tex.
T. Sgt. JOHN T. THOMPSON, of Tripp, Tex.
S. Sgt. JAMES MARGOEE, of Lundale, W. Va.
Sgt. CHARLES E. LINN, of Fort Sell, Kan.
Sgt. BERRY HAYS, of Sandy Hook, Ky.
Cpl. WILFRED S. LECLAIR, JR., of Exeter, N.H.
Pfc. WILLIAM J. POWERS, of Westhaven, N.Y.


B-36 crash, Kirkland AFB, Albuquerque, NM

In 1951 I was stationed at Sandia Base New Mexico, which was located adjacent to Kirtland AFB, and was driving off base with a friend the day of the crash. We heard a B-36 fly low over us as if on a landing approach to Kirtland with its distinctive low frequency rumble and we commented that the sound was different from any other airplane we had heard. A minute or two later we heard an explosion and shortly after that a large cloud of smoke showed up in the direction of Kirtland and we knew what must have happened. We drove to the fence line of Kirtland and could see the wreckage and fire. Soon after the Air Police showed up and chased us away. We never heard any official word about the crash. Local news mentioned there had been a crash but no details were given. It appears newspapers outside of Albuquerque published details as shown on this site.

B-36 Crash

I was a kid in the north valley and remember seeing the smoke but not knowing for sure till the next day. My dad and I used to out to the airport and watch planes take off and land. Probably why I ended up spending 40 years as an aircraft mechanic.

B-36 crash at ABQ

I was six at the time. We had just arrived home from church and as we got out of the car, my father said we should go to the airport to watch it land. It may have been circling, waiting for the winds to die down. The wind was blowing and the sand was up.

As we drove south on Yale Blvd. we saw the pane getting into position to land. We were barely parked and out of the car when it was on short final. I don't remember any great details except the terror as it seemed to turn and break in two. Then the fire was burned into my memory.

Many years later, in graduate school, I mentioned an Air Force Major that I had seen seeing a B-36 crash. He scolded me for not even knowing what a B-36 was. But upon describing that windy Sunday afternoon he said he allowed I was there. This was the first Air Force accident investigation that he worked on. Pretty much a junior officer carrying the luggage for a senior officer. He eventually became that officer's replacement.

During these years it was normal to see the B-36s that were stationed there. The sound can only be experienced and is now a thing of the past. It was sad as the last wing departed Albuquerque for the scrap yard. They gave Albuquerque a fine low level fly-by.

I was 5 at the time

My dad had taken us to the airport to watch planes. I recall the B-36 coming in above and slightly to the left of us. It appeared that a gust of cross wind caught the left wing. At any rate the right wing dipped and the outer prop hit the ground. I vividly recall seeing part of the prop flying off and disappearing into the distance and flames coming from the engine. The B-36 then continued on to the military portion and crashed. It may have cart wheeled but as I recall it it looked to me as if the plane went into a vertical climb, stalled, and came down tail first and then burst into flames.

B-36 Crash

My father, LtCol (retd) Gilbert Davis was stationed at Sandia Base for Weapons Assembly training in the early fifties. He is 95 now, but recalls the day Lake Resort Airlines had been chartered to ferry 236 Lieutenants and other officers to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then deployment to the UK. Their flight was due to leave in the evening, but the B-36 crashed and left debris all over the runway. Lake Resort flew C-46, twin engine cargo planes. When they saw that the B-36 had crashed, they knew they would be delayed, so they all went over and hung out at the officer's club. Their flight was later able to take off about 2am after the runway had been cleared.

B-36 landing at Kirtland AFB

I was in training at Sandia Base in 1954 and can recall seeing B-36's landing at Kirtland AFB. I can remember saying I rarely saw them come in with all engines going. I just supposed that they were practicing landing on 4 or 5 engines. I also recall seeing them come in with smoke trailing from one engine. You didn't have to look up to see if a B-36 was in the neighborhood as the drone of the engines could not be mistaken. I lived in town and can remember telling my wife that the noise she heard was a B-36. They were amazing and of course, greatly needed during the Cold War era.

God Bless the men who flew them so the rest of us could be free.