6th December 1988


Boeing B-52H
The Black Widow"
410 BW
K I Sawyer AFB, Mi
Exploded during touch‑and‑go approach      


Crash site the morning after

Capt. Mark Hartney
1Lt Mike Debruzzi
Maj. Will Kroeger
Capt A. Derral Phillips
Radar Navigator
1Lt Jim Hermann
1Lt Dan McCarrick
A1C Joe Vallie
1Lt Greg Smith
10th man extra Co-pilot

"The flight consisted of 8 crewmembers. Crew R-44 - call sign Havoc 39 boarded A/C Balls 40 named "The Black Widow" for a 7 hr mission consisting of routine high altitude refuelling, 2 hr drone to low level for 2 more hours, the drone back to base for scheduled 2.5 hrs. of transition, doing multiple touch and go's. Well as it turned out, we only did 3 T & G's but on the 3rd one we lifted off but didn't go. At about 75 ft airborne the #30 fuel boost pump overheated due to lack of fuel to cool it down, and, because, the spark arrester was missing from the shaft of the boost pump allowing sparks into the empty tank. The fumes then combusted and exploded inflight causing the tail section to separate from the fuselage. We went crashing to the ground over the runway. Upon hitting the ground the wing section separated from the cockpit. Both went skidding down the runway and came to rest just 3400 ft from impact. The cockpit was blocking the alert ramp for the tankers. All 8 crewmembers survived, each with varying degrees of injury. The Pilot, copilot and IP sustained the more serious injuries, while the rest of us had multiple broken bones and burns but nothing terribly serious."

Anthony D. Phillips, RN, BSN
in email 2nd July 2011