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I Saw the FB-111A Crash in Portsmouth

Fb11A_crash as seen on SeacoastNH.com
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

Talk about a flash back. I was watching some show on TV about a fighter jet crashing and instantly thought of the one I witnessed with my own eyes in New Hampshire when I was a kid. After the show was over, I decided that I'd use Google to see if there were any stories or photographs from other people that saw it that day. There was! (Read Mike’s Story below)

 

 

As luck would have it, I happened across the article at SeacoastNH.com. After reading the articles and looking at the photographs, I noticed that some things were denied and some things weren't accurate, from my viewpoint. There were two explosions that came from the plane that day and the plane did not drop straight down from 4,000 feet. In my opinion something was wrong with the jet and it wasn’t the pilot’s fault. I thought I would do my best to set the story straight from the perspective of someone who was there that day and was up-close and personal. Here is my story the same way as I have told it many many times over the years.

Fighter Bomber Crash: Up-Close and Personal

It was pretty much clear skies that day on January 30, 1981 in Seacrest VillageNew Hampshire. I remember it well, almost as if were yesterday. It was about 3 pm and I was eleven-and-a-half years old at the time. The school bell at WentworthSchool had just sounded the end of the school day and a bunch of us kids were just stepping out of the school’s front door when we heard the sound of a low-flying jet overhead. Looking up, I see a fighter jet which I later find out was an FB-111Aardvark, a fighter bomber out of Pease Air Force Base, a few miles away from the apartment buildings of SeacrestVillage where I lived.

All of us kids stopped dead in our tracks and, looking westward, all of us saw this fighter jet just above the treetops of SeacrestVillage, the apartment complexes where most of the kids at my school lived. I remember it was moving really slow -- too slow, was my first thought. It was flying level for a little bit right near the village’s water tower and just above the trees, maybe a few hundred feet above the trees.

Then I heard the jet throttle up like it was boosting its engines. Right after that a small explosion came from somewhere near the back of the jet, and then I saw the jet start upward like it was going to do a loop-to-loop, and a split-second after that another smaller explosion.

 

FB11A_Seacrest_Village-Crash


This second explosion occurred when the capsule was nose-up into the loop, and I saw the [escape] capsule that the pilot and navigator were in go flying up and away westward from the jet. The fighter jet, now without a pilot, finished the loop by nose-diving straight into the ground. At least from my vantage point it looked like it nose-dived, but apparently now, many years later when looking at the crash photos, it must have completed the loop behind the trees and did a belly-smacker into the apartment complexes.

A huge dark mushroom-shaped cloud rose into the air and a second later you heard the explosion. At that point -- and I'm not really sure why -- but most of us kids went running full tilt in the direction of the crash, which was only a few blocks away from where the school was.

As we got close to the crash site, I remember the burning smell and started to see scorched trees and burnt ground. I started to see small pieces of plane debris lying all over the place and proceeded to pick some up as I went; a lot of us kids did. I believe the pieces I picked up were a ten-inch long piece of fuel line and a small six-inch piece of the skin of the plane. As I got closer, I remember seeing the apartment buildings on fire and a big chunk of one of the buildings was missing and was pretty much completely on fire, I'm guessing from where the jet had slammed into it. I also noticed that part of the other building next to it was on fire and that some of the area and trees around the crash site were burning too. I was probably 100 feet away from the crash at this point.

I remember seeing some military trucks and personnel getting out of the trucks and hearing popping sounds. It was at this point that I got scared and I decided that I should leave, since somehow I knew having a couple of parts to the plane in my hands was not good. I ran home as fast as I could, which was only a block or so away, where I told my Mom what had just happened.

I’ve got to say that this was a very memorable moment in my life and I have told this story so many times throughout the years, it seems like only yesterday as I sit here typing it out. I was quite surprised to find the SeacoastNH.com web site yesterday Rare Photos of the FB-111A CRASH. I have always thought people thought I was just making this story up so it’s very cool to see the articles and the photographs of the crash online.

Fb111a crash in Portsmouth, NH by Mike Chwalek

After reading the article about the crash the other day, I was motivated to make a graphic of what I saw that day to help you get an idea of what I and others saw and have included it in my email.

About Author Mike Chwalek

I'm a single father of 43 years of age who currently lives and works in Grand Haven, Michigan. I guess there's something about large bodies of water that draws me to them. I've been lucky enough to have traveled all across this country, visiting almost every state. I lived on Dearborn Street near downtown Portsmouth, NH when I was about five. My family had just come from Chipiona, Spain where my dad, a radio man on the nuclear submarine USS Tinosa, was stationed. My mother, who worked at the Yankee dog track, my sister, and I moved to SeacrestVillage when I was about eight. I have some very fond memories of Portsmouth -- the tall ships, the piers, jumping off the bridge to Pierce Island, and jumping off a rope swing into the Piscataqua River (and being partially covered and stung by jellyfish), and the fighter jet crash, of course. I was a regular Tom Sawyer back in those days. But best of all I remember Moe’s Subs in downtown Portsmouth, best darn sub I have ever had. Every once in a great while I'm lucky enough to journey back that way and have been known to go 100 miles out of my way just to get a Moe's.

© 2012 Mike Chwalek as seen on SeacoastNH.com. All rights reserved.

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