United States Air Force  

General Dynamics


Saturday 18th November 1978
1400 MDT

27th TFW
522 TFS
1st Lieutenant Rick  McKee
 Capt Lee Bauer


The Loss of Patsy 05

Around 2 in the afternoon, on Saturday 18th November 1978. a USAF F-111D, 68-173 was on a flight from Nellis AFB, NV, enroute to Cannon AFB, NM.

Aboard the aircraft were 1st Lt. Rick McKee and Instructor Pilot, Captain Lee Bauer.

 Shortly after take-off, and now over the Grand Canyon, the aircraft suffered a catastrophic left engine failure and fire, with an explosion in the aft fuel cell.

Rick recalls, "At altitude, conducted level off checks and moments later the left engine fire light came on. I executed the Bold Face procedures, declared an emergency with ATC and because we were over the Grand Canyon I asked Los Angeles Center for a vector to the closest airport, Kingman AZ."

The crew were diverted  toward Kingman.

"The left engine began to come apart, we got many in-cockpit master caution indicator lights, an un-commanded hook down light followed by aft-saddle tank explosions and then a hard over rudder. Moments later the jet began an un-commanded right roll and pitch down"

At 20,000 feet , and 25 miles north of Kingman, AZ, USA, with the aircraft travelling at 350 kias, 20 degrees pitch down and 40 degree right roll  Rick successfully deployed the emergency escape capsule.

The  27,000 lb thrust rocket motor fired in .3 seconds, and all the systems worked perfectly.

Rick again, ".   .   .    I do remember, just seconds after the ejection, looking out the capsule canopy (window) and seeing the fuselage tumbling below me. A very odd scene."

via Rick McKee

The deployed escape capsule that carried
Rick and Captain Bauer to safety from 20,000 ft

Rick “Magellan” McKee
photo from 1992

In the capsule escape Rick sustained a T6 compression fracture



Wing sweep demonstration Melrose Range



All photos via Rick McKee