F-105 Losses, George AFB 1978

1978 was a bad year for the Thud drivers at George AFB.  It was said you could go down to Thud Ops and watch pilots push each out of the door.

Pilot A: “You fly the Bitch!” [shove]

Pilot B: “Oh Hell no! I flew this morning. You fly the Bitch!” [shove]

The truth was by 1978 the F-105G was getting long in the tooth.  They had patches on the patches that fixed wing cracks.  The sheet metal shop and hung a huge sign.

I became involved when I volunteered to help the Thud guys transition into the F-4G Advanced Wild Weasel.  I was in the 563rd so we had fewer F-105’s and didn’t lose one while I was there.


SN 63-8321 Pt Mugu, CA TACAN 043/11

Lost instruments in low clouds

Pilot: Maj. Charles T. Fulop Killed

EWO: Capt. William A. Stone  Ejected

561 TFS


Call sign “Thud 71” was on a routine instrument training mission, shooting approaches at NAS Point Magu, California.  On the return to George AFB, CA they were in heavy clouds.  At this point they suffered a failure of the primary attitude indicator.  This was followed shortly by the failure of the secondary attitude indicator.  Major Fulop initiated a climb to get above the clouds.  During this manuver, the aircraft lost all electrical power.

“Thud 71” exited the cloud  base at approximatly 1000 feet.  Inverted.  Captain Stone in the back seat then saw the violent side to side motion of the control stick.  Recognizing it as the comm out ejection order he ejected.

Finding himself over a densely populated area, Major Fulop elected to stay with the aircraft.  He was killed when the aircraft crashed in a wooded area near Newbury Park, CA.  Prior to the arrival of the Crash Response Team, his body was looted of his helmet.  Live 200mm cannon ammunition was also taken.

This is the story told to us at George AFB in a mass briefing by the 35th TFW Safety Officer.


SN 63-8340  1962′ from end of Runway 21, George AFB

Aborted Takeoff

Pilot: Capt. John A Comstock

EWO: 1Lt Christopher C. Soto

Successful Ground Egress

562 TFS


I personally witnessed this mishap.  As the aircraft rotated, the whole ass end burst into flame.  This was followed by a massive explosion at the departure end of runway 21.  The F-105 had punched a hole in the perimeter fence.  the fire trucks chasing it punched two more holes.

Meanwhile, in the cockpit Lt. Soto in the back seat (this was his familiarization  flight) was waiting for the front canopy to open or be blown away.  If he opened his own canopy first, the flames would suck down into his cockpit.  This wouldn’t be a good thing.  The front canopy began to rise and Soto got the fuck out. He turned back to see what Captain Comstock was doing and saw him semi-conscious.  He had banged his head on the instrument panel.  Soto returned to the aircraft, pulling Comstock from the cockpit.  The aircraft then exploded.

Soto was awarded the Daedalian trophy for this action.


63-8334   12 m from George AFB CA

Flameout high final

Pilot: Capt. John A. Comstock

EWO: Capt. William C. Knight


562 TFS


Don’t know much about this mishap.  The pilots were kinda jumpy by this time.  The engine flamed out and the crew ejected.


63-8263   George AFB TACAN 007/104, CA

Centerline tank hit A/C, Lost control

Pilot: Capt. Eddie M. Graham

EWO: Capt.  Frank S. Hartman

Ejected 562 TFS


Yeah the tank just fell off.  The Thud was prone to this.  In this mishap, the tank took the stab right off.  The crew got the fuck out.  Then Murphy grabbed them by the balls.  Neither seat locator beeper worked.  One injured his back in ejection, the other broke his leg on landing.  They crawled together and huddled in desert waiting for rescue.  Back at George, pairs of F-4’s took off at intervals going out to look for them.  They were found the next day.  Shaken but not stirred.


63-8350  42 NNE China Lake, CA

Flight Control Failure

Pilot: Capt. William L. Carroll JR Killed

EWO: Capt. Michael R. Carlson Ejected

562 TFS


On 5/15/79, a flight of three F-105Gs departed George AFB, California on a local training mission. The mission, second of the day for the six flight crew members, was to include Low Level Training and Air Combat Tactics. After completion of the Low Level Training, the flight climbed to medium altitude and set up for the briefed Air Combat Tactics engagement. Number one, the mishap aircraft, was attacked by number two and maneuvered to the six o’clock position of the attacker. As he slid behind the attacker the aircraft rolled off and entered a steep driving spiral. Both crew members ejected. The Electronics Warfare Officer, Capt. Michael R. Carison successfully ejected, but suffered major injury upon landing in rugged terrain. The pilot, Capt. Will H. Carroll Jr. ejected but was fatally injured on ground impact. The aircraft was destroyed on impact with the desert floor.


28 thoughts on “F-105 Losses, George AFB 1978

  1. Mostly correct. I don’t remember any of us pushing each other out the door hesitant to fly. The JP-4 in the water tank happened to a TDY bird–at Holloman, I think. We lost a total of 12 aircraft, F-105s and F-4s, during the 5 years I was at George, 77-82.

  2. Soto’s mishap with the water tank happened at George. Watched it happen. The next day they switched to the long runway. That’s when yet another Thud failed to take off. Pickled off the wing tanks. They bounced ahead and Thud went into the fireball. Came out of the fireball and departed the runway. No real damage so it’s not counted as a mishap.

  3. Not totally correct. The first event, where Charlie Fulop was killed, did not have William Stone eject early, It was a sequenced ejection at around 2,800 feet in a very high speed dive. William was injured due to the high speed ejection and Charlie was too low when he went out of the aircraft. They almost made it through the clouds before losing control of the aircraft.

  4. I left in 1977 before the run of losses. The only 105 loss I recall while I was there was (I think) 8301 in late 74 or early 75. Engine failure on a training mission at Cuddeback. The crew ejected safely. I was recently out of tech school, and several of us from the EW shop went up to recover any recognizable bits of the still classified electronic warefare equipment. I was amazed at seeing what the violence of a high speed impact could do. I remember we found burned circuit boards from the ALQ-105 pod with TO-3 transistors squashed absolutely flat, and the panoramic display unit from the EWO’s center panel rolled up in a ball.

  5. Question: I know water injection is used for the takeoff but isn’t fuel used in the afterburner otherwise?

  6. Yes Paul, both. Water injection cools the airflow within the engine and adds mass to the exhaust. (very little) Cooler air is denser. (Water included) The denser/cooler air would allow for more fuel to be introduced into the engine to produce more thrust.

    So the water does two things. One, it fakes out the engine’s fuel control making it believe the air is denser than it really is so that more fuel will be added to the engine/afterburner to maintain fuel/air ratio. Two, it adds to “mass-flow” by adding mass to the air (very little), and increasing the mass of fuel being burnt. (This over-rich condition is the reason turbojets with water-injection smoke like freight-trains during takeoff.

  7. For the water injection I was at George AB and I thought it was on a cross-country and the crew at the base made the mistake. The other three I was there when they happen. The center line fuel tank coming off I heard the sway bolts were not tighten down correctly and that is why it came off

  8. I’m sorry to hear of the losses in ’78. I do remember the one that Jim is referring to in 74-75. The largest recognizable piece was one of the canopy bows. Everything else was just a twisted piece of metal.

  9. The Thud was getting very long in the tooth when it was retired. Parts were being hand made in the shops of the Air Logistic Centers or robbed off crashed birds. It had been ridden hard too. A bomb release at close to 60-degree dive, 650-knots, and 6,000-feet with a full back stick pull (well, full back with as much force as a one-arm could pull) put a lot of stress on the bird along with lengthy burner runs at supersonic speeds with high-G turns.

  10. I saw the result of the 4/20/78 incident. It was the day before my 19th birthday and I was driving down Air Base road and saw the smoldering wreck. What a mess that was.

  11. In 1979, my Bride and I found an apartment in Adelanto. $100 per month, furnished, with utilities paid. As we were trying to decide, a four-ship of F-4’s went over the house. She said at that price she could live with the noise. After a couple of months, she asked me “if the airplanes always take off?”.

    Sure Honey. Ignore the 60-foot trench in our backyard.

  12. At George, I was a Thud Weasel pilot ’76-’78 and a command post controller ’78-’81. We NEVER refused a chance to fly! The Thuds were so patched up and worn out that it was rare to get a 4-ship flight airborne. We were scheduled to fly a 4-ship flyby for the national cemetery dedication at Riverside. We scheduled 6. After two ground aborts and one air abort, only 3 got there. They had one fly the #4 position, leaving a gap to lead due to having a stability augmentation failure. The nation-wide live TV coverage showed. Not knowing about our problems, the commentator said it was perfect to have a missing man formation for the event.

  13. Hey Chuck,
    I’m a crew chief. I was pulling your chain. It was was short anecdote with a humorous ending. It was a joke! Weasel crews had balls of steel to fly those jets.

    love ya,


    PS: First In, Last Out

  14. 62-4427 water tank was filled with contaminated JP-4 at Littlerock AFB as I recall. Comstiostock’s engine flame out on approach to George was due to running out of fuel. I was assigned to the 561st 1976-79. I also witnessed Comstock’s roll off the short runway, no chute, no brakes, no tail hook. I was around the 7000 foot marker of a 10,000 foot runway. Nose came back down around 8000′ to 8500′, main grar never left the ground.. I heard numerous run ups, burner light ups prior to take off roll. My thought was a low EPR (power) engine.

  15. Correction to my previous post, the water tank issue was 62-4416. This aircraft was repaired, test flown (FCF) and released. A few days later, TCTO for wing attach angle fittings grounded the aircraft. Fuselage attach fittings were found cracked. Aircraft is now static display at Joe Davis air park, Palmdale, CA. I apologize for all the typos in my previous post. Grar should read gear and ERP should read EPR.

  16. Who knows about the wrench in the water tank? And for the life of me I can’t figure out how you can service fuel into the water tank.

  17. I’ll add my notes as I recall them to a few of these reported incidents. I was with the 561st from 1976 to 79, Yellow section, F-105’s.
    63-8340- there was no engine explosion. This seemed to me to be a low powered engine based on the multiple run up’s I heard before take off. I was at the 8’000′ marker on A row at the time of the accident. What looked like an explosion was in fact the center line fuel tank rupturing when the gear was sheared off. I observed no braking, no chute, no tail hook actuation prior to running off the runway. The aircraft only got the nose up but was on it’s way back down at the 8-9000′ mark. Lt. Soto, this was his initial ride as a WSO in an F-105.
    63-8334- Maj. Comstock ran out of fuel on approach just months before crashing 63-8340.
    63-8263- although the pilots know the center line fuel tank did not transfer and empty after take off, they continued to fly with the aircraft in that configuration instead of jettisoning the tank. During their high G maneuvers the full fuel tank tore away as designed. However this was ultimately blamed on maintenance. I know, I was part of the team that hung that tank the night before.

  18. The aircraft that was serviced with contaminated fuel was F-105F, 62-4416. This was done by Littlerock AFB T/A. I remember that aircraft arriving on a flatbed truck. The Right intake, wheel well and part of the right wing were badly burned. The aircraft was repaired my Dyna-Corp. It passed it’s FCF and was released back into service. The TCTO for the 45 degree attach angle inspection permanently grounded the aircraft a few days later. This aircraft never flew again after the FCF. This aircraft became a display aircraft at the front gate at George AFB. It was moved to Joe Davies Air Park at Plant 42, Palmdale CA. when George AFB closed.

  19. Ok guys (if anyone is still reading this), here’s the real story on the contaminated fuel in the water tank accident. The aircraft was 316. It happened at Holloman. We went there on a Saturday to show the bird as part of a static display for a General Aviation Fly-In. I asked TA for water (a hot day in October; high pressure altitude). The AGE driver brought out the wrong trailer. TA didn’t notice the CONTAMINATED FUEL markings. I was the EWO.

  20. Does anyone have any more information on the crash location of 63-8334. I have the report and the only clue is “12 nautical miles north of” GAFB. I have a few other F-105 reports if anyone is interested.

  21. No. It only happened once. It wasn’t a problem with the tank it was an error by the AGE driver and the T/A crew by pumping contaminated fuel into the water tank.
    When I got back to the squadron a friend who had spent time in Hanoi asked me what it was like. I told him it felt like the Jolly Green Giant was beating the aircraft with a sledgehammer. He said, “that’s just what an Atoll feels like”. He’d been shot down by a MiG-21.

  22. R. Ruiz is almost correct. I was in POL at the time (1975-77) the 105 was (mis)serviced at Holloman. Here is how it happened: Airman M was sent out to hook up to the demin water trailer and tow it out to the aircraft and service with water. Dispatcher failed to inform M that the trailer was in the garage overnight to prevent the water from freezing in the pump. M went to the parking area where several trailers of the same type were normally parked and failing to read the marking on the CONTAMINATED FUEL trailer of the same type as the water trailer, attempted to hook up. He had difficulties with the tow coupling and called for his supervisor to assist. Supervisor, aware of the call for demin water for the 105, assisted with the hook up also failing to note the marking on the trailer with the wrong product. It gets worse. M arrived at the transient pad and the ground crew assisted with the loading of the product on the 105. M and crew chief both signed on the delivery form that they had visually confirmed the markings on the container (and of course, they had not). Nobody seemed to notice the odor of fuel coming from the water tank either. (BTW, the nozzles for both trailers were idendtical overwing type nozzles). M left the area and parked the trailer back on its spot unaware of his error until the kimchee hit the fan. Commencing his takeoff roll, the pilot opened the “water” and got contaminated fuel. The rear end went up in a ball of fire but the aircrew made it out alive jumping out of the cockpit and running for their lives. I know because I not only worked with M but I was the guy who had to put the water on the 105 almost a year later when the bird had been repaired and was ready to fly out. There was more brass tasting my water than you could shake a stick at. I will always remember this event. I’ve run into ex-AF pilots years later who remember seeing the bulletin and wondering how it could ever have happened. BTW, Airman M got a suspended demotion one grade but lost pay and had the reprimand on his record. M’s lawyer protected him from a worse fate by harping on the number of people involved and the lack of proper management at POL. The AF was unwilling to hang everyone, so the NCOIC and OIC were transferred out and had the thing on their records. Those are the facts and yes, it did happen.

  23. I was a pilot in the 562nd TFS until I separated in Aug 1978. I remember both of CA Comstock’s accidents. On the high speed abort we were told that he was braking so hard that the tail hook raised up and failed to catch the departure end cable.
    On the second one on 6/14/1978, he was on final approach and tried to lower the flaps. Nothing happened, so he reached for the red covered switch for the alternate flap system. He accidently got the wrong switch and switched off the fuel supply. He was too low and slow to restart the engine, so they both ejected successfully. The word we got in the squadron was that after the ejection he slammed his helmet on the ground and said he would never fly again.


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