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Was 1981 NH Bomber Crash Pilot Error?

HISTORY MATTERS  (Part 2 of 2)

The official USAF Mishap Report determined that the 1981 crash of an FB-111A was caused by "incorrect" actions of the pilot. But questions still linger. Could mechanical failure have caused the near catastrophic accident in a crowded housing complex in Portsmouth, NH?





(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part Herald report with extensive research provided by Jack Goterch of Derry, NH.)

CLICK HERE for FB-11A Part One 
ALSO SEE exclusive amateur photos

USAF Mishap Report Suggests Pilot Was Incorrect

There is no smoking gun. No indisputable evidence contradicts the US Air Force conclusion that pilot Captain Peter Carellas, then 33, was technically responsible for the FB-111A that slammed into a wooded area just yards away from a crowded Portsmouth, NH housing complex on January 30, 1981.

No one was killed or seriously injured, although three apartment buildings at the former Mariner’s Village (now Spinnaker Point and Osprey Landing) were destroyed or heavily damaged by fire. Repairs and reparations were quickly handled and the debris quickly cleaned up. The ejection module that carried the pilot and navigator to safety 1,750 feet away from the crash site was immediately trucked to nearby Pease Air Force Base.

The base has since closed and the FB-111A has been retired. Three reports – a mishap report, a safety report and a legal report were completed. Only the first two have since been made public. The testimony in the USAF JAG (Judge Advocate General) Legal Report could not be obtained.

Almost three decades later, the near catastrophic crash is largely forgotten. No memorial marks the spot. But nagging questions remain about the engines, the mission, the flight path, the performance of the bomber, and the sequence of events that caused two seasoned crewmen to ditch a $10.5 million bomber into the heart of a crowded city. One and a half minutes after impact a Boston tracking station reported that "Salic 16," the code name for the bomber, was missing.

"I’ve lost him," the controller announced.

"O.K.," the Pease tower responded two seconds later. "We’ve just had a report that an FB111 crashed three miles east of Pease. We believe it might be him."


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