B1B crew earn Distinguished Flying Cross

| July 18, 2018

2-BIT sends us a link to the story of a Dyess Air Force Base B1B crew when their aircraft caught fire and their ejection seats failed over the Texas desert.

When the first crew ejection seat failed to leave the plane successfully, the aircraft commander ordered the crew to immediately stop the escape procedure and managed to fly the damaged and burning aircraft with a crew hatch missing and the cockpit open to the surrounding wind blast to the Midland Air and Space Port near Odessa, Texas where the crew made a successful emergency landing.

Last week at Dyess Air Force Base, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander formally recognized the heroism and extraordinary aerial achievement of that B-1B Lancer aircrew. The quick-thinking actions of the aircrew resulted in the first-ever successful emergency landing of a B-1B experiencing this series of serious malfunctions.

USAF General Robin Rand, Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale AFB awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross medal to B-1B crewmembers Major Christopher N. Duhon, Air Forces Strategic – Operations Division chief of future operations at Barksdale AFB, and an instructor pilot with duties at the 28th Bomb Squadron; Captain Matthew Sutton, 28th BS weapon systems officer instructor; 1st Lieutenant Joseph Welch, 28th BS student pilot; and 1st Lieutenant Thomas C. Ahearn, then 28th BS student weapon systems officer who has since completed training and is currently assigned to the 37th BS, Ellsworth AFB, S.D.

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Category: Air Force

Comments (20)

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  1. jim h says:

    wow. scary. wonder what went wrong. congrats to all for their coolness there. talk about nerve wracking.

  2. Roh-Dog says:

    Knick-knack paddywhack, way to land a burning BONE!
    Good job Gentlemen,once you’re done crapping yourselves, drinks on me.

  3. Club Manager, USA ret. says:

    Talk about an aw shit moment. What is particularly significant is by landing the aircraft successfully, they may be able to determine why the fire started and why the ejection seat failed and prevent future failures. I miss my days on the flight line.

  4. ChipNASA says:

    Yeah I went through this in 1987 La Junta Colorado.
    It wasn’t until the second day we were doing the “bag and tag, (additional duty with the Mortuary affairs team) that they came to us and explained that they had an ejection seat failure and not to touch anything with black and yellow tape on it or any metal orange tubes (the seat rockets). Needless to say we were a little pissed but we pressed on.
    Probably the biggest thing that brought it home to me was when I (the walking team) found one of the crew’s flight jacket just sitting on the ground on the side of a hill and a wallet and checkbook. Everything was in decent shape but the nylon cuffs and the collar had melted from the flames. The other thing that was painful to see was the Base Commander bawling his eyes out as he carried the (wrapped up) torso of his friend to the back of the truck to bag it. He had come down from Peterson to kind of oversee the operation because two of the crew (one who passed and one who survived) were USAFA buddies.

    31 years ago and I still remember it plain as day.

    • Roh-Dog says:

      Peace has a price too.
      RIP Airmen.

      • Chip, I can relate, I did 1 field walk while at Cannon AFB. back in 1977 about a month before I PCS’ed, we had an F-111D fly into the ground at Melrose Range, NM., The only thing left of the plane was the tail. I came across a piece of helmet with some skull bone and brain matter on it, other than that the largest human remain found was a boot with a foot in it, they eventually put the 2 crew members into about a 1/4 of a body bag.

        Another event 5 months later in 1978, I was witness too, was at Lakenheath, we lost an F-111F into the Thetford forest just outside of the base perimeter it was struck numerous(3)times by lightening and during go arounds after each attempt to land after the last one nothing worked and it pitched down, they attempted to eject out of the envelope but ended up slamming thru the trees, all I can say is it was ugly, being from the survival equipment shop we got to go too all the crashes, those were the only fatal ones during my enlistment, but their were a few other non-fatal incidents.

  5. AW1Ed says:

    Ballsey call by the pilot to land instead of command ejecting, which would have been a death sentence for the stuck crewman.
    Bravo Zulu, Air Force!

    • ChipNASA says:

      If you read the article, “the aircraft commander ordered the crew to immediately stop the escape procedure and managed to fly the damaged and burning aircraft with a crew hatch missing and the cockpit open to the surrounding wind blast”,/i>

      If I’m not mistaken, and this was our experience at La Junta, there were 4 in the aircraft ejection seats and two in jump seats.

      When they had a significant bird strike ripping through the wing, they attempted to eject. One of the seats failed and then the two in the jump seat’s only option was to attempt to use the escape hatches located in the crew area floor.
      At 600+ mph and 600 feet off the ground, they never had a chance.

      https://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/21/us/final-seconds-in-a-b-1-s-cockpit-are-pieced-together-by-air-force.html

  6. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Below the linked story are a series of other related articles. The first one,dated 18 June, is titled, “Heroism: How a Young…” I highly recommend it. It really puts the situation in perspective.

  7. Ex-PH2 says:

    Damn good piloting. Any safe landing is a good landing.

  8. Dave Hardin says:

    Such a wonderful story about heros in the Blue Sky.

  9. Mason says:

    Excellent flying and leadership there. BZ to all involved!

  10. Mike Kozlowski says:

    …The thing to keep in mind here is that the fire was in the #3 engine – someplace on the B-1 that is so full of various systems that the actual manual says that if the fire extinguishers don’t put it out, GET OUT OF THE AIRPLANE.

    They knew the airplane could come apart on them at any moment, but they stayed with it rather than leave one of their friends behind to die.

  11. OWB says:

    Those 1Lt’s surely were considering career changes. Being helpless PAX during the operation had to be grueling.

    Well done, all.