Today in 1970: the saga of the “Cornfield Bomber,” an Air Force craft that landed without a pilot.
It wasn’t on autopilot, either; it just sort of found its way to the ground.
This was not what was supposed to happen, as you might expect.
Four pilots took off from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana for a mock dogfight, two pilots training against two others.
One of the planes deployed its drag chute on the ramp, so that pilot withdrew and it became a two against one session.
One of the two was Captain Gary Faust, who was pursuing Major Tom Curtis around 38,000 feet in the air.
Curtis had climbed to get Faust and the other pilot, Major Jim Lowe, to follow him.
Then he did something called a high-G rudder reversal.
He moved the plane in a way that would reduce its airspeed.
That meant the two planes chasing him would shoot right past.
Faust saw what Curtis was up to and tried to stay with him, but his plane started to stall.
And while he tried all of the tricks of the trade to get it back online, the plane didn’t respond.
It went into a flat spin, heading down, with no way to get it back under control.
Faust had to eject; he would later be rescued by snowmobilers.
But all the recovery procedures he had tried beforehand seemed to put the plane back on track.
Instead of continuing the flat spin, the jet started making a slow, smooth descent.
Major Lowe reportedly cracked to Faust over the radio, “Gary? You better get back into that thing!”
Even if someone could have taken the controls, they couldn’t have done much better than the plane did completely on its own.
It landed near the end of an alfalfa field, dodging both a road and a rock pile.
Its landing gear was up, so it did have some damage on its underside, but that was repairable.
The so-called “Cornfield Bomber” even returned to active service, though from then on pilots did all of its landing.
Groundhog Day is when people put aside high tech weather equipment and turn to wildlife to get the extended forecast.
But once, some people tried a high-tech way of communicating with the groundhogs.
Weird Universe posted about a time in 1947 that people in Quarryville, Pennsylvania known as the “Hibernating Groundhog Lodge” built a contraption which they called “ultra-secret.”
Its goal was contacting not just one groundhog about the winter weather, but 10,672 registered groundhogs.
But how did they get the groundhogs to register?
“Gary, You Better Get Back In It!” (Air Force Magazine)
Groundhog Detector (Weird Universe)
Photo: US Air Force – National Museum of the United States Air Force: Convair F-106A Delta Dart, Public Domain, via Wikicommons