Fort Worth, TX Supersonic Bomber Crashes, Sep 1959

B58 Hustler.jpg


Fort Worth, Tex. (UPI) -- Air Force authorities today began an investigation that may show whay a B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber crashed and burned on takeoff Wednesday night, killing two Carswell Air Force Base crewmen.
The third crewman, the pilot, Maj. KENNETH LEWIS of Denver, Colo., pulled himself from the mangled, flaming wreckage. He was hospitalized at the base for treatment of second and third degree burns on his hands and a leg.
The Air Force identified the dead crewmen as Maj. WILLIS A. EDGCOMB, 39, of Gary, Ind., and Capt. LEE N. BARNETT, 32, of Knox, Pa.
Air Force spokesmen said the giant, delta-wing bomber was making a routine takeoff when one of its pod-like jet engines spewed flame around its housing.
LEWIS attempted to stop the racing aircraft, "but something went wrong," a spokesman said.
The surging, needle-nosed bomber roared into arresting chains near the end of the runway. The chains were put there to stop aircraft in trouble before they run onto a highway near the end of the runway.
But the B-58 was going too fast and the chains ripped off its spider-like landing gear, sending the craft sprawling on its belly. The fuel-heavy bomber burst into flames.
Fuel for the craft is carried by a revolutionary new method developed for today's speedy airplanes. Instead of in regular tanks, fuel is stored in the wings of the plane, protected by the ship's "honey-comb" skin structure. The doomed craft exploded and the Air Force said two crewmen were not able to get out of the cockpit. Both men were seated in tandem behind Maj. LEWIS.
Base firefighters spewed foam on the flames that shot 100 feet into the air and illuminated a large area.
Although the Convair-manufactured B-58 is the nation's fastest bomber and is designed to carry atomic and hydrogen bombs in a pod nestled under the fuselage. No nuclear weapons were aboard the craft that crashed Wednesday night.
The Convair plant is housed in a sprawling mile-long building across from the principal runway from the Strategic Air Command's Carswell Air Force Base.
Carswell's basic mission involves long-range flights with Boeing built B-52 bombers. But the base also includes a B-58 Test Force to adapt the new plane to routine air force work. The base used the now-retired B-36 Peacemaker until earlier this year.
Wednesday's B-58 crash was the third disaster to hit the new Hustler. One crashed Dec. 15 and killed one crewman. Another exploded on the flightline of Convair May 15 and killed two men and injured several more.

Santa Fe New Mexican 1959-09-17


B 58 Hustler Crash Carswell AFB, TX. Sept 17, 1959

I remember that evening I was in the base hospital, my first son had been born on the 14th of September. I noticed out the window that many crash and emergency vehicles were racing toward the runway's south end. It was terrible. I was an aircraft maintenance guy and at one time I worked on the B58 egress systems in the plant across the runway. Oh yes, the B58 was a magnificent aircraft to watch takeoffs and landings. In recent years the Air Force had donated a B58 to the Meacham Field museum in Fort Worth, however a few years ago I tried to find it with no success. I think it was transported to California.

Hello. I wish I would have

Hello. I wish I would have found your Internet comment before your father died. My name is Glenn Diamond and I am so sorry to hear that your father passed as I worked the crash scene you talk about in your comment.
My wife and I come to Florida for a couple months to escape the Michigan cold. As a friend and I were near McDill AFB a low flying C130 flew over us and we started discussing types of airplanes. He knew I was in the Air Force and I was a crash rescue firefighter. He asked me if I ever saw a plane crash. I told him I did. I told him it was a B58 Supersonic Bomber at Carswell AFB in Fort Worth Texas. He Wanted to know what the plane looked like so I searched the Internet and found this article and your comment. I believe I still have the original Fort Worth newspaper article of the crash. It's a little different than the Internet article. If you get this comment and want a copy please contact me. If I can find it I will send it to you.

Briefly here is what I saw: I was walking through the truck-bay area at the same time this B58 was going down the runway for takeoff. I walked out a bay door to watch the lift-off as these planes were beautiful to watch take-off and land. Near the end of the runway the plane seemed to be 20 feet or so into the air and I saw a large ball of fire blow out the right engine and the plane dove right and crashed at the end of the runway. I always thought, and still do that the pilot was a hero as he nose dived his plane to the right to keep from crashing into houses and the heavily traveled highway that was very close to the end of the runway.

I wish he was still alive and I could make contact with him.

Hope you see this comment and contact me as I have more information.

Glenn Diamond
February 14, 2015

A correction to the previous comment

I am the eldest daughter of Maj Kenneth K Lewis (retired Col. Kenneth K Lewis in March 1965, deceased November 1998) and I am not sure who RCR is, however, my father never resigned from the Air Force due to this horrific accident. I remember this night very well when we had a dear friend come to our home to inform my Mother of this accident. My father told me that the wheels caught on fire, he aboarded the take-off, that the other two pilots ejected from their seats while the plane was still on the ground (ejection seats were new back then) and sadly when their seats landed they were killed. My father got an axe and forced his way out of the plane through the front cockpit window. I do not know what the wheels were made of, therefore, I don't dispute that they may have been made of magnesium. I do know that the B-58 Hustler was my father's favorite plane to fly and he flew many. Yes, we did lose friends on that flight and our family was deeply saddened. PMLS

error in reporting

The pilot, Maj. Kenneth Lewis, was my uncle (now deceased). I recall at the time of the accident that he told my father that the problem was that the wheels were made of magnesium (which my Uncle was not told until after the wreckage). The mag wheels caught fire and sent the whole plane up in flames. My uncle was lucky to escape from the cockpit. In the hospital, his superior officer told him "not to worry, new wheels, not of magnesium, were due to arrive next week", and my uncle resigned as the air force knew those wheels were dangerous. None of the reports mentions that those wheels were the problem. Later, they talked him into staying in the Air
Force. He had lost friends in that wreck. RCR-