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The Day the FB111A Crashed

JANUARY 30, 1981

"The good Lord was nice to us," one witness said, and she was right. No one was seriously injured when an Air Force bomber going 450 mph crashed into the one of the most populated neighborhoods in Portsmouth, NH. The date was January 30, 1981. Portsmouth dodged a bullet and the story faded – until now.




FB111A Crashes in Portsmouth, NH
January 30, 1981

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part report prepared with researcher John R. Goterch. The concluding piece, "Was It Really Pilot Error?", will appear in the Portsmouth Herald and on Monday July 28.

EXCLUSIVE Never Before Seen Photos of Crash Sites

JUMP to Part Two: What Caused the Crash?

READ AN eyewitness report

Officer Albert Pace was nearing the end of an uneventful eight-hour shift when he turned his Portsmouth cruiser onto Circuit Road at 2:55 pm on Friday January 30, 1981. Suddenly the sky fell. Pace heard a loud crackling noise overhead as a large ball of fire ripped by him to the left. The deafening explosion ruptured his inner ear.

"There was a cascading liquid fire burning across the tops of the buildings." Pace recalls today, "It looked like a great wave at the beach coming in only it was all flames of liquid fuel. It was pretty spectacular."


Spectacular indeed. A $10.5 million FB-111A jet bomber ripped into the earth at a densely populated apartment complex. According to a Boston Globe report, 2,500 people then lived in the low-rent units at Mariner’s Village, formerly Sea Crest Village. Today known as Osprey Landing and Spinnaker Point, the gentrified housing development is roughly half way between downtown Portsmouth and the Pease Air Force Base, a former strategic air command post. The 11,500 foot runway was not the biggest in the Air Force, but big enough to qualify Pease as a backup landing site for the Space Shuttle. The bomber missed the runway by roughly two miles. Exactly what happened remains a mystery.


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