The B-52 that Lost its Tail

January 10, 1964 was supposed to be an ordinary day for the Wichita-based Boeing flight test group. As you may have surmised, it wasn't.

Cruising at 500 feet over a mountainous stretch of Colorado, their B-52H hit turbulence. Pilot Chuck Fisher climbed to 14,300 feet in hope of smoother air. He got the opposite. A monster gust whacked off the plane's vertical tail fin.

Fisher told the crew to prepare to abandon the plane. He descended to about 5,000 feet where they would bail out. Meanwhile the Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control centers at Denver and Kansas City cleared the air around the troubled plane, and emergency responders all over the Midwest raced to help.

Then a funny thing happened. The B-52 continued to fly without significant impediment. Fisher landed it in one piece—minus the tail—at Blytheville Air Force Base in Arkansas.

"The B-52 is the finest airplane I ever flew," he said.

Here's an Air Force video regarding the incident: