See how a B-58 Hustler crew averted disaster after a takeoff went wrong

We often think a lot about the risks that service members take during combat. However, the routine day-to-day peacetime operations, and training are also fraught with danger.

The example of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) is just the latest prominent incident where peacetime ops proved deadly.

It’s been that way for a long time. One incident that got very dangerous involved a training operation involving a B-58 Hustler with the 43rd Bombardment Wing out of Carswell Air Force Base in Texas. The trainees had 32 flight hours and six sorties in their plane.

Convair B-58A Hustler in flight (S/N 59-2442). Photo taken on June 29, 1967. (U.S. Air Force photo)

But the plane’s seventh flight went bad from the moment it began to take off. The left main landing gear failed and damaged a fuel tank, sending aft a train of flame as the afterburners of the B-58’s four J79 jet engines ignited the fuel. Miraculously, the plane didn’t explode, and was able to take off.

The navigator noticed the flames, and advised the pilot. The pilot reported the plane’s situation to ground control. A plane was sent up, but couldn’t tell how badly the Hustler was damaged until they flew over the city of Fort Worth.

A Convair B-58A Hustler crew with aircraft B-58A-10-CF, S/N 59-2447 “Rapid Rabbit.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

Eventually, the decision was made to send the B-58 to Edwards Air Force Base to make an emergency landing. What was supposed to be a routine training mission ended up lasting 14 hours, and involved multiple pit stops with Air Force aerial refueling planes, during which the pilot had to come up with a technique to maintain speed and directional control using the Hustler’s engines.

The B-58 eventually made a safe landing. You can see the Air Force documentary on this incident below.

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