40th Anniversary of the loss of Air Force reconnaissance plane in Typhoon Bess

Satellite picture of Typhoon Bess on Oct. 8, 1974
Satellite picture of Typhoon Bess on Oct. 8, 1974

On October 12, 1974, an Air Force C-130 Typhoon Chaser plane, with its six man crew, was lost during reconnaissance of Typhoon Bess while over the South China Sea.  This was the last such reconnaissance flight to go down in a tropical cyclone and the only C-130 to suffer such a fate.

By most measures Bess was an otherwise unremarkable storm.  Bess had formed east of the Philippines some six days before the fatal mission.  It moved west-northwestward and slowly gathered strength before striking the archipelago on Oct. 10th as a minimal typhoon.  It still brought heavy rains across Luzon and surrounding islands.  Mudslides and flash floods claimed 26 lives with 3 others missing.  Bess then moved over the South China Sea and began to regain strength. It was during a regular reconnaissance mission the following day that the aircraft of the Air Force’s 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flying out of Clark AFB in the Philippines went down with no distress signal sent.  Search and rescue missions were begun and eventually involved five aircraft and the USS White Plains.  Only debris and no survivors were found.  Bess continued westward, weakening before making landfall on Hainan Island and later North Vietnam with little damage.

The crew of Swan 38 were

Capt  Edward R. Bushnell
1Lt  Gary W. Crass
1Lt  Michael P. O’Brien
1Lt  Timothy J. Hoffman
Tech Sgt  Kenneth G. Suhr
Sgt  Detlef W. Ringler