Big plane = Big splash (1) (4) (3) (5) (6)

Given the A3D Skywarrior (AKA the “Whale) was the largest/heaviest plane to ever operate from an aircraft carrier, it stands to reason that if one hit the water it also made the biggest splash. A3D-2 (#138910) of Heavy Attack Four was no exception.

The aircraft was only a few months old when, on its first deployment, it encountered some unplanned excitement while landing (note hook down, speed brakes open) on the USS Ticonderoga, August 12, 1957. It went like this:

Things were looking ops normal when the aircraft bounced down on deck snagging the #3 arresting wire.

Then the damned wire broke.

Now, that busted #3 wire had held long enough to decelerate the aircraft below flying speed, but unfortunately it did not hold long enough to slow the plane’s speed to where it could stop before running out of deck.

Too fast to stop, but now also too slow to fly, the now highly agitated pilot briskly ascertained that his only available option was to fire-wall the throttles and hope for the best. However, what with the Whale’s less than amazing thrust-to-weight ratio, the outcome was never in doubt: The hapless A3D ambled off the deck and wallowed towards the waves.

The effect of a 25-ton aircraft smashing into the sea is apparent.

Having impacted the water, the crew did not loiter about the cockpit pondering what to do for the rest of the day. In fact, that decision had already been made for them: the aircraft’s nose had sheared off. Fortunately for them, policy dictated that the overhead hatch would be open for landing. What with the hatch already open, and the nose gone, egress was relatively simple if not somewhat frantic. You can see the crew floating in the Pacific Ocean sunshine with a fish-eye view of their aircraft carrier as the Ticonderoga draws abeam the wreck. Skywarrior 138910 is on its way to the bottom of the sea.



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