VP-17 Crew - In Memorium - VP-17 Crew
10 Die In Navada Plane Crash
"Eternal Father Strong To Save"
The Navy Hymn
Sailor Aviators Version
Eternal Father, Strong to Save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its' own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In dark'ning storms or sunlight fair.
O, Hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air.
But when at length our course is run,
Our work for home and country done,
Of all the souls that flew and sailed,
Let not one life in thee be failed,
But hear from heaven our sailors cry,
And grant eternal life on high.
May all our departed shipmates rest in peace.
Eternal Father by the U.S. Navy Band's Sea Chanters (668 kbytes - WAV file)
Navy Gives More Details of Crash that Killed 10
By Lyle Nelson
August 3rd, 1970
Article submitted by Ed Cox Nep147967@aol.com [28JUN98]
The Navy said yesterday .hat the plane from NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii that crashed in Nevada Monday killing 10 was serving as a "backup" plane for Adm. John J. Hyland, Pacific F1eet commander.
But today a spokesman for Hyland said the P3-A Orion's 'backup" status was coincidental and that the primary purpose of the flight to Nevada was for navigational training.
HYLAND was in San Diego over the weekend to attend a ceremonial function, the changing of command of the 1st Fleet headquartered in San Diego.
The Barbers Point plane flew a cross country training mission to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
IT WAS RETURNING to San Diego for a night flight to Barbers Point when the crash occurred. The antisubmarine warfare plane apparently was struck by lightning.
The Navy said the Barbers Point plane, which is specially built to track submarines, was flown to Nevada to give the crew cross-country navigational training.
Such training is not available in the Islands.
Antisubmarine aircraft from Barbers Point are deployed continually to the Aleutians, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia for coastal operations near mountainous terrain.
ANOTHER REASON for the trip to San Diego, a spokesman said, was to drop off naval personnel planning to attend special schools located in the San Diego area.
Four members of the crew had families living in Hawaii.
The crash made 10 children fatherless.
The Navy identified the crew as:
LT Timothy D. Bailing
New Kensington, Pa.,
LT(jg) Henry J. McGreevey
His wife Rose lives in Waipahu
LT Norman L. Johnson
His wife Susan and two daughters live in Ewa Beach
I. G. Ambrose Ordonia
His wife Annette, two sons and two daughters live at Ewa Beach
I. C. Johnny D. Shelton
His wife Frances, three daughters and a son live at Ewa Beach
Third Class Petty Officers
Bruce E. Weaver
Coral Gables, Fla
Cletus L. Morrison
Union City, Okla
John W. Schmitz IV
John D. Maas
North of Minneapolis
Michael A. Silvera
It fell to three chaplains on the base to break the news to wives of the lost fliers.
Right behind the chaplains came Cmdr. Robert, commanding officer Patrol Squadron 17, and other close friends.
The P3-A .antisubmarine warfare aircraft that crashed was one of nine in May's squadron.
"It was a bad night," said May solemnly after going through the procedure of notifying the families here.
It was an experienced crew, May said, although McGreevey was fairly new to the squadron.
For a while May and other Navy officials at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii were unsure that the crashed plane came from the base.
But they knew they had an aircraft in that vicinity and befoe long they had enough information checked out to know it must have been the plane flown by Bailing.
"We made sure the wives would not be left alone and that the children were taken care of," May said. "Some of the children were quite small."
10 Die in Crash of Isle-Based Plane
Auguest 3rd, 1970
Article submitted by Ed Cox Nep147967@aol.com [28JUN98]
SEARCHLIGHT, Nev. (AP) - Ten Hawaii-based Navy men died when, witnesses said, a bolt of lightning apparently shattered their antisubmarine patrol plane and sent it raining in fiery pieces onto a rocky ridge near here.
The P-3B patrol plane stationed at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii, was on a training flight yesterday with its crew of three officers and seven enlisted men.
The Navy today released the names of the four victims whose families live here. They are:
Lt Norman L. Johnson, 29, of Quinnessec, Mich., whose wife, Susan, lives at 5678 Dovekie Ave., Ewa Beach.
Lt. (j.g.) Henry J. McGreevey, 25, of Newark, O. His wife, Rose, lives inthe Royal Poinciana Apartments in Waipahu.
Jet Mechanic 1.C Johnny Shelton, 37, of Sugualak, Miss. His wife, Frances, lives at 6252A Ibis Ave., Ewa Beach.
The plane was about 50 miles south of Las Vegas on a flight from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas to the North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego when it entered an area of thunderstorm activity.
"I saw a flash of lightning in a black cloud and then saw this burning debris fall out of the clouds," said Harvry Swan, a resident of the southern Nevada desert hamlet.
A power company lineman, Beryl Jarvis, said his eye was drawn to the plane by a flash of light.
"It looked like it was hit by lightning" said Jarvis. "It went down in pieces. When it hit the ground, there was a big ball of fire and a big puff of smoke. That was all."
Sheriff's deputies said the remains of the four-engine turbo-prop plane was spread over about a half mile of rugged ridge line. Despite on-and-off rain, parts of the plane were still burning three hours later.
Air Force authorities at Nellis said there would be an investigation to establish the cause of the crash, but first indications supported the reports that it was struck by lightning.
Barbers Point Mourns Loss
Article submitted by Ed Cox Nep147967@aol.com [28JUN98]
Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. today in the station chapel for the ten men of Patrol Squadron 17 who lost their lives Monday when their P-3A Orion crashed near a small town in Nevada while on a routine navigation training flight.
Taking off from Nellis Air Force Base, the plane was enroute to North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego when it entered into an area of thunderstorm activity.
Eyewitnesses report that they saw a flash of lightning in a dark cloud then burning debris falling to the ground.
The wreckage, which was strewn over a quarter mile area in hilly terrain smouldered for more than three hours after the crash.
Lt. Timothy D. Bailing
Pilot of the plane was Lt. Timothy D. Bailing of New Kensignton, Pa. A graduate of Penn State University, he received his commission in 1966 and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1967. A member of VP-17 since May 1968, Bailing was patrol plane commander of Crew Nine and Squadron NATOPS Officer. Under his leadership the squadron attained an overall score of more than 86 percent on their NATOPS testing last week.
Lt. Henry J. McGreevey
Navigator for the flight was Lt. Henry J. McGreevey of Newark, Ohio whose wife Tracey was staying at the Royal Poiciana Hotel in Waipahu. A Naval Academy graduate who was active in sports, McGreevey reported to the squadron in June of this year. The Classified Material Control Officer had previously been selected for lieutenant and posthumously promoted.
Lt. Norman L. Johnson
Lt. Norman L. Johnson of Quinnessec, Michigan, was a Tactical Coordinator and Assistant Administrative Officer for the Squadron. He had been with the squadron since December 1968. His wife Susan and daughters, Jill, 5, and Nancy Lisa, 3, live at Iroquois Point. Johnson was a graduate of Michigan Technological College.
ADJ1 Ambrose Ordonia
ADJ1 Ambrose Ordonia, whose mother resides in San Francisco, joined VP-17 in April 1969. His wife Annette, and fourt children, Wanda, 11, Steven, 10, Tracy, 8, and Andrew 5, live in Iroquois Point.
ADJ1 Johnny D. Shelton
ADJ1 Johnny D. Shelton, a native of Chester, Miss., reported to the squadron in May 1970. His wife, Frances, and four children, Cathy, 15, Ann, 12, Nancy, 7, and Darren, 1, reside in Iroquois Point.
AW3 John W. Schmitz
AW3 John W. Schmitz, IV, of Madera, Calif., joined VP-17 in May of this year. He attended Fresno State College before entering the Navy and was an avid sportsman.
AW3 Bruce E. Weaver
AW3 Bruce E. Weaver, a native of Englewood, N.J. came to VP-17 in November 1969. He was a graudate of Vanderbilt University.
ATN3 Cletus L. Morrison
ATN3 Cletus L. Morrison, a native of El Reno, Oklahoma, jointed VP-17 in November 1969. Before entering the Navy he attended Oklahoma State University.
AW3 Michael A. Silvers
AW3 Michael A. Silvers, a native of Oakland, Calif., joint VP-17 in June of this year. Prior to entering the Navy, he attended the University of Idaho.
AW3 John D. Maas
AW3 John D. Maas, a antive of Minneapolis, Minn., came to VP-17 in May of 1969. He was an avid sportsmen who excelled in baseball in high school.
"...I investigated and wrote the attached story back in 2007. I just updated it, I'm including both the full story and the text only version..." Contributed by David Trojan firstname.lastname@example.org [31AUG2015]
P-3A Orion 152159 Accident Investigation
P-3A Orion 152159 at NAS Iwakuni, Japan, courtesy VPNAVY
June 2007, updated August 2015
Navy P-3A, BuNo 152159, belonging to Patrol Squadron 17 (VP-17) stationed at NAS Barbers Point Hawaii crashed 3 August 1970 in Nevada. The aircraft was on an extended navigation flight to the west coast and back when it ran into a thunderstorm after leaving Nellis AFB Nevada en route to San Diego CA. Witnesses on the ground saw a flash in the clouds and burning debris falling to the ground. There were no survivors among the ten crewmembers aboard the plane. The Navy concluded that the aircraft was struck by lightning, but Lockheed determined that the breakup of the aircraft in flight was caused by structural overloading of the right wing from a positive high angle of attack condition. Lockheed concluded that it was the uncontrollable flight and the resultant stresses that caused the aircraft to disintegrate in flight. I wanted to come to a conclusion about what may have caused the plane to crash using modern accident investigation methods as well as historical data about the same type of aircraft that were not available at the time of the original investigation. I also had the benefit of having the completed original accident investigation report with its completed tests and conclusions. After reviewing all the data and visiting the crash site to see for myself first-hand the evidence at the site, I came to a new conclusion for the cause of the accident.
VISIT TO THE CRASH SITE:
The wreck site was rediscovered a few years ago by an ex-Navy man researching VP-17 squadron history. He put me in contact with locals who guided me to the site. The search for the crash site began at 8am, 22 June 2007 on a very hot dusty morning in the town of Search Light Nevada, located about 70 miles from Las Vegas. We headed out in into the desert in a Dune Buggy and an old Chevy Blazer.
Dune Buggy (Wreck Chasing Vegas Style) and an old Chevy Blazer
As we drove to the site we passed by Mormon Tea bushes, Joshua trees and Pinon pines. I spotted a pair of Red Tailed hawks in a Joshua tree and hairless ground squirrels running to get out of the way of our dune buggy. Lucky no rattle snakes. I guess it was too hot for them. After about 15 miles from town and an hour of wild driving we reached the crash site main impact area. The elevation in the town of Search Light was 3400', at the wreck site the elevation was 4600'. The temperature in town was 105 degrees and the temperature at the crash site was about 95 degrees. I spent only about two hours on site due to the heat.
Scattered wreckage at the main impact site, photo by Dave Trojan
Wreckage is scattered over a mile and a half across the desert floor according to the accident report. I explored the main impact area that included the center crew compartment section of the wreck. By looking at the site wreckage, it definitely looked like the aircraft broke up in flight and was burning at the time it fell to the ground. Splattered aluminum droplets were found on some rocks as evidence of the in-flight breakup. I found it strange that the crash site still contained a number of crew seats, steal aircraft parts, parachutes, fabric, and fiberglass, but little aluminum fragments. The aluminum must have been picked up by the recovery crew or aluminum scavengers. Interesting things found at the wreck site included an unbroken vacuum tube and an ASW equipment dial. The largest piece found was an engine nacelle. It made me wonder what else is out there undiscovered in the desert.
Scattered parts near the main impact site, photo by Dave Trojan
#1 or #4 engine nacelle at the crash site
Memorial in Searchlight NV
Dream catcher memorial at the crash site
Thirty five years after the accident, family members gathered in the town of Search Light Nevada to remember the crew and place a permanent memorial to the crew members in the town. Family members of the crew also placed a ceremonial hoop at the crash site in a tree that contained the names of all the men who had been aboard the plane. Each crewman's name was painted onto a separate feather and attached around the hoop with leather ties. It was made with respect for the men that they had lost and was prayed over before it was then hung in their memory. The families knew that over time the feathers would break loose from the leather ties by the wind and blow away. When I visited the site all of the feathers had been blown away. I think this was the most sentimental memorial tribute that I have ever seen.
Class ring found at crash site
Another interesting story concerning this crash site is about how the ex-Navy man who first rediscovered the crash site found a High School class ring at the site. After much research by himself and another family member they determined the ring belonged to crewman John Maas. After more research they located John Maas' sister, Suzanne. He mailed the ring to her and she wears her brother's ring on a chain around her neck every day.
I did not remove anything from the crash site, but I did leave an American Flag as my own memorial to the lost crew.
A report was submitted in an effort to explain some of the known facts concerning the P-3A accident that occurred on 3 August 1970 using current investigative techniques and to speculate about a possible cause for the accident. I am no expert in accident investigation and trying to determine a possible cause without seeing all the evidence first hand after so much time is subject to much speculation. However, I do have some things that they did not have more than thirty years ago. I have increased knowledge about the history and operating characteristics of the aircraft. I have reports of other similar aircraft accidents with their conclusions. Lastly, I have a better understanding of weather phenomenon. For this report I am speaking for myself, but the opinions expressed were in agreement with other Tech Reps who reviewed, discussed and reached the same conclusions. After visiting the crash site, carefully reviewing the accident report and crash site photos I have reached the following conclusions.
I discount the Navy's lightning theory as being the major cause of the accident because of the analysis completed by Lockheed determined wing overstress was the cause of the breakup. There was no solid evidence of a lightning caused explosion, even though lightning was reported in the area. There was a difference of opinions by the witnesses; some reported a lightning strike and some did not. If lightning had struck the aircraft, then most likely it may have caused a fire, but not necessarily an explosion. Other known lightning strikes upon aircraft have caused fires, but not explosions. The accident report stated that parts had no heat damage or soot on them indicating that the aircraft started breaking up before ignition of the fuel and the fireball. The Lockheed analysis concluded that none of the aircraft fuel tanks exploded from combustion of a fuel vapor mixture.
The following circumstances are known about the accident. The P-3A aircraft was ascending during a very hot day near thunderstorms and mountains on the right hand side. It is now understood that these conditions were suitable for a wind shear condition. The wind shear phenomenon was not understood at the time. Wind shear would not have been picked up on radar at the time and the crew would have had no way of knowing they were flying into wind shear conditions. From the official report, "The pilot could have been forced to turn to the right by some mechanical or control problem, or for other unknown reasons," I believe that reason was wind shear. The wind shear theory explains the known actions by the crew and maneuvers by the aircraft.
The aircraft probably encountered wind shear phenomenon on the right side that caused the right wing to drop, which in turn caused the plane to descend, roll and turn very rapidly to the right. The sudden maneuver caused an increase in airspeed. The crew would not have had time to call on the radio because they would have been too busy trying to control the aircraft and just hang on. The pilot in command would have most likely tried to overcorrect for the condition which also contributed to the stresses on the airframe as the aircraft tumbled out of control. The steep descent and turn caused the fuel in the wing tanks to slosh and move rapidly inside the wing further stressing the wing. Lockheed analysis determined that the breakup of the aircraft in-flight was caused by structural overloading of the right wing from a positive high angle of attack condition. It was the uncontrollable flight and the resultant stresses that caused the aircraft to disintegrate in flight. As stated in the report "wind gust loads" could have caused the condition and contributed to the wing failure. I believe these wind gusts were most likely what we now understand to be wind shear.
Notes on the wind shear phenomenon:
Wind shear phenomenon is commonly observed near weather fronts, and near mountains. It is a key factor in severe thunderstorms. An additional hazard is turbulence often associated with wind shear. When winds blow over a mountain, vertical shear is observed on the lee side. If the flow is strong enough, turbulent eddies known as rotors associated with lee waves may form, which are dangerous to ascending and descending aircraft. Strong outflow from thunderstorms cause rapid changes in the three-dimensional wind velocity just above ground level. Initially, this outflow causes a headwind that increases airspeed, which normally causes a pilot to reduce engine power if they are unaware of the wind shear. As the aircraft passes into the region of the downdraft, the localized headwind diminishes, reducing the aircraft's airspeed, and increasing its sink rate. Then, when the aircraft passes through the other side of the downdraft, the headwind becomes a tailwind, reducing airspeed further, leaving the aircraft in a low-power, low-speed descent. This can lead to an accident if the aircraft is too low to affect a recovery before ground contact. In most cases wind shear accidents and incidents result from the fact that the wind shear phenomenon is not understood by the pilot due to his training and the cockpit instrumentation. In such situations the pilot is not able to act in the correct way. This problem is illuminated by the fact that some of the correct safety procedures in wind shear contradict the pilot's feeling of how to control an aircraft.
In the U.S., a string of fatal accidents near thunderstorms downed passenger airliners during final descent and initial ascent. As the result of the accidents in the 1970s and 1980s, in 1988 the U.S. FAA mandated that all commercial aircraft have on-board wind shear detection systems by 1993. The result of these efforts was immediate. Between 1964 and 1985, wind shear directly caused or contributed to 26 major civil transport aircraft accidents in the U.S. that led to 620 deaths and 200 injuries. Of these accidents, 15 occurred during take-off, three during flight, and eight during landing. Since 1995, the number of major civil aircraft accidents caused by wind shear has dropped to approximately one every ten years due to the mandated on-board detection, as well as the addition of Doppler radar units on the ground.
Note on a similar aircraft accident during the same time period:
An Electra accident in 1968 provides an example of stressing the aircraft induced by turbulence associated with a thunderstorm. The Lockheed Electra L-188 was the design basis for the P-3 Orion.
On 3 May 1968, Braniff Flight 352 departed Houston (IAH) at 16:11 for a flight to Dallas (DAL) and climbed to FL200. Some 25 minutes into the flight, the L-188A Electra was approaching an area of severe thunderstorm activity. The crew requested a descent to FL150 and a deviation to the west. ARTCC then advised the crew that other aircraft were deviating to the east. The Electra crew still thought it looked all right to the west and were cleared to descend to FL140 and deviate to the west. At 16:44 the flight was further cleared to descend to 5000 feet. At 16:47 the aircraft had apparently encountered an area of bad weather, including hail, and requested (and were cleared for) a 180 degree turn. Subsequent to the initiation of a right turn, the aircraft was upset. During the upset, N9707C rolled to the right to a bank angle in excess of 90 degrees and pitched nose down to approximately 40 degrees. A roll recovery maneuver was initiated and the aircraft experienced forces of 4.35 g. Part of the right wing failed and the aircraft broke up at an altitude of 6750 feet and crashed. The probable cause: "The stressing of the aircraft structure beyond its ultimate strength during an attempted recovery from an unusual attitude induced by turbulence associated with a thunderstorm. The operation in the turbulence resulted from a decision to penetrate an area of known severe weather."
In conclusion, I am left with the following thoughts. The aircraft crashed not because of what the Navy concluded and what Lockheed and everybody else did not understand at the time. The aircraft was built to the standards of the time and operated in a safe manner for the known conditions. The probable cause was an act of nature, or you could say an act of God. Wind shear phenomenon almost certainly was the major cause of the accident. As in all accidents there were a number of other contributing factors that all added up to the final outcome. Other factors included the fuel mixture, the altitude and direction of flight, the way the aircraft was constructed and the training of the crew.
Changes to the P-3 aircraft were made as a result of this accident. New lightning proof fuel filler caps, fuel quantity probes and access doors and were installed to prevent sparking. Later model P-3B aircraft wing structures were beefed up to strengthen them. In the end, it was not the fault of the crew because the wind shear phenomenon was not understood at the time. This analysis was presented in an effort to try and answer some of the unanswered questions surrounding this accident and should in no way take anything away from the brave actions by the crew. They are and will always be heroes for serving their country.
"...On Sep 26, 2014 a group of 14 family & friends visited the crash site of the VP17 P3 ZE6 BN152159. That AC crashed with loss of all 10 crewmen on Aug 3,1970 near Searchlight, Nevada. This was a similar visit to one done in 2005 when near 40 family members & friends visited the crash site. Several new family members had been located and participated in this visit. A photo is attached showing the group at the ZE6 Memorial located in Searchlight and another group photo near the crash site..." Contributed by Larry Forney (AW3) email@example.com [30SEP2014]
"...Photos I received of a recent visit (June 22nd, 2007) to the 1970 crash site of ZE-6..." Forwarded by McLAUGHLIN, LT Bob firstname.lastname@example.org [15JUL2007]
Pictures (Left to Right) Row 1: Parachute Cord, Parachute, ICS Cord, Engine Access Door and Dream Catcher.
Pictures (Left to Right) Row 2: Crew Seat, Brake Tension Regulator, Avionics Racks, #1 or 4 Engine Mount and Vacuum Tube.
VP-17 Mishap "...Searchlight residents remember lost crew of Zulu Echo Siz - Laughlin Nevada Times - Wednesday March 15, 2006 - Page 9..." Contributed by McLAUGHLIN, LT Bob email@example.com [25MAR2006]
My uncle was Johnny Dair Shelton. He was killed when VP-17 went down in the area of Searchlight, NV (SEE: In memory of lost friends 03AUG70). I think this Memorial is awesome. His Brother and three Sisters plan to visit in March. If you have more info or need some, please contact me...Stephen M. Shelton Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org..." [25FEB2006]
VP-17 Mishap "...Bright Light on Searchlight - Wings Of Gold FALL 2005..." Contributed by McLAUGHLIN, LT Bob email@example.com [05JAN2006]
Searchlight, Nevada, is a small desert town with a big heart. That as evident last October when town residents hosted 33 outsiders who gathered there to remember ten Navy aircrew members who died nearby in 1970. The high desert and a U.S. Navy patrol plane may seem like incongruous entities. But in August 2004. Searchlight residents Carl and Jane Overy showed great compassion in when they heard of the fatal crash of aircraft Zulu Echo Six from a former squadron member who, by chance, inquired ifthere had ever been a plaque erected in the town to commemorte the lost crewmen. Neither Carl, a USAF veteran, nor his wife, a Navy veteran and the town historian, had ever heard of the crash. There was no memorial in the town, and for the most part, older residents had forgotten about the crash site 15 miles outside the old mining community along Highway 95. Bob McLaughlin of Pocatello, Idaho, a former Naval Aviator with Patrol Squadron 17, then inquired of Carl Overy whether or not he would help in the placement of a memorial plaque in town if funds for the project could be generated from past squadron members. Not only did Overy and his wife say they were willing, they enlisted the help of six other town residents who volunteered either materials or services for free. A bronze plaque with the names of the aircrew men was produced at a Utah foundry and sent to Overy in early 2005 for placement on a large prominent stone in the Mining Park of the Searchlight Community Center. Later on, former squadron members purchased an additional bronze bas-relief outline of the illfated Lockheed P-3A Orion that was placed above the plaque by Overy.
With the plaque in place, a concerted effort was begun by former squadron mates to and surviving family members of the deceased aircrew. A future gathering at the site of the memorial was the goal, and in a short time over 25 survivors from four of the ten families were contacted. The gathering took place on October 1, 2005 at Searchlight with family members and friends coming from as far away as Florida, New Jersey, Minnesota, Montana, Iowa, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The Ordonia family from Florida, survivors of Flight Engineer Ambrose Ordonia, had over 15 present. The family of Petty Officer John Maas had four members in attendance. Susan Johnson, the widow of Lieutenant Norm Johnson, was present along with one of her daughters, and her sister. A hike into the crash site was planned and accomplished for early the next day under the guidance of Larry Forney, a Navy veteran who had researched the aircraft accident and had been to the crash site several times over the past years. In an incredible chance find last year at Thanksgiving time, Forney visited the crash site and unexpectedly uncovered a gold high school class ring in the remaining debris. He later identified it .and returned it to the sister of crewman John Maas. The airplane was lost with all hands on August 3, 1970 after taking off from Nellis Air Force Base enroute to San Diego. The flight had originated days before from its home base at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii, and was on an extended navigational training flight to the west coast and back. At 14,000 feet near Searchlight the pilot radioed a request for a flight path deviation away from thunderstorms. Without any further radio contact the aircraft was lost from radar. Eyewitnesses on the ground reported seeing a lightning flash in a dark loud, followed by burning debris falling to the desert floor. The mile long wreckage pattern led investigators to speculate the aircraft either had been hit by lightning, or disintegrated in-flight due to structural failure. There were no survivors, and all the bodies were recovered. Thirty-five years later the gathering of families and friends of those who died on flight Zulu Echo Six brought comfort and solace to a sad chapter in all their lives. Seeing the crewmen's names on the memorial plaque in Searchlight ensured they would not be forgotten. CAPT Brian McGuiness, USNR (Ret.)
Editor's note: Please see page 70 for photos of the Searchlight memorial and additional iriformation on this remarkable and moving project. Capt McGuiness can be reached in Clearlake, Washington (360) 856-4010. Additional contacts: Bob McLaughlin, Pocatello, Idaho: (208)220-1469 and Larry Forney, Co 10, Iowa (515) 7083441.
"...The following move comprehensive follow-up article to the one you received recently from Bob McLaughlin of Pocatello, ID, on the dedication of a plaque to the memories of the crewmen of VP-17's aircraft Zulu Echo Six, lost on August 3, 1970 outside Searchlight, NV..." Contributed by McGUINESS, CAPTAIN Brian Retired (360)856-4010 [18NOV2005]
Small Desert Town Hosts Navy Memorial Gathering
Searchlight, Nevada, is a small desert town with a big heart. That was evident in early October of this year when town residents hosted 33 outsiders who gathered there to remember ten Navy aircrew members who died nearby in 1970.
Though the high desert and a U.S. Navy antisubmarine warfare aircraft seemed totally incongruous, Searchlight residents Carl and Jane Overy showed great compassion in August of 2004 when they heard of the fatal crash of aircraft Zulu Echo Six from a former squadron member who, by chance, inquired if there had ever been a plaque erected in the town to the memories of the lost crewmen. Neither Carl, an Air Force veteran, nor his wife, a Navy veteran and the town historian, had ever heard of the crash.
There was no memorial in the town, and for the most part, older residents had forgotten about the crash site 15 miles outside the old mining community along Highway 95. Bob McLaughlin of Pocatello, Idaho, a former Naval Aviator with Patrol Squadron 17, then inquired of Carl Overy whether or not he would help in the placement of a memorial plaque in town if funds for the project could be generated from past squadron members. Not only did Overy and his wife say they were willing, they enlisted the help of six other town residents who volunteered either materials or services for free.
A bronze plaque with the names of the aircrew men was produced at a Utah foundry and sent to Overy in early 2005 for placement on a large prominent stone in the Mining Park of the Searchlight Community Center. Later on, former squadron members purchased an additional bronze bas-relief outline of the ill-fated Lockheed P-3A aircraft that was placed above the plaque by Overy.
With the plaque in place, a concerted effort was begun by the former squadron mates to find surviving family members of the deceased aircrew. A future gathering at the site of the memorial was the goal, and in a short time over 25 survivors from four of the ten families were contacted. The gathering took place on October 1, 2005 at Searchlight with family members and friends coming in from as far away as Florida, New Jersey, Minnesota, Montana, Iowa, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The Ordonia family from Florida, survivors of Flight Engineer Ambrose Ordonia, had over 15 present. The family of Petty Officer John Maas had four members in attendance. Susan Johnson, the widow of Lieutenant Norm Johnson, was present along with one of her daughters, and her sister. A hike into the crash site was planned and accomplished for early the next day under the guidance of Larry Forney, a Navy veteran who had researched the aircraft acCident and had been into the crash site several times over the past years. In an incredible chance find last year at Thanksgiving time, Forney visited the crash site and unexpectedly uncovered a gold high school class ring in the remaining debris. He later identified and returned it to the sister of crewman John Maas.
The Navy aircraft, call sign Zulu Echo Six, was lost with all hands on August 3, 1970 after taking off from Nellis Air Force Base enroute to San Diego. The flight had originated days before from its home base at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, and was on an extended navigational training flight to the west coast and back.
At 14,000 feet near Searchlight, the pilot radioed a request for a flight path deviation away from thunderstorms. Without any further radio contact, the aircraft was lost from radar. Eyewitnesses on the ground reported they had seen a lightning flash in a dark cloud, followed by burning debris falling to the desert floor. The mile long wreckage pattern led investigators to speculate that the aircraft either had been hit by lightning, or disintegrated in-flight due to structural failure. There were no survivors, and all the bodies were recovered.
Thirty-five years later, the gathering of families and friends of those who died on flight Zulu Echo Six brought comfort and solace to a sad chapter in all their lives. Seeing the crewmen's names on the memorial plaque in Searchlight ensured they would not be forgotten.
Written by Capt. Brian McGuiness USNR (Ret.), Clearlake, W A
Tel: (360) 856-4010
VP-17 Memorial Plaque "...On Saturday, October 1st, 41 family members, friends and fellow squadron mates gathered in Searchlight, Nevada to see the memorial plaque mounted on a large rock at the memorial park. A bronze sculpture of a P-3 (ZE-6 /152159) has recently been added to the memorial rock. On Sunday a nine car caravan with all visitors ventured into the Nevada desert to visit the site. The people of Searchlight have done an outstanding job in preparing this memorial. Their efforts and the memorial to the ten lost crewmen was very much appreciated by all in attendance. Attached are photos of the rock/plaque/P-3 sculpture and a group of family and friends at the memorial rock. Best wishes..." Contributed by McLAUGHLIN, LT Bob firstname.lastname@example.org [08OCT2005]
VP-17 Memorial Plaque "...ZE -6 memorial plaque mounted on a rock in the Museum Mining Park located at the Searchlight Community Center. Carl Overy (and his wife Jane) made all the arrangements to provide the rock and attach the memorial plaque. Thank you to Carl Overy, Jane Overy, Vista Rock (who donated the rock), Mike Bolton, Scott Jones, Skip Reindel, Chris Denning and Ed Milliren. All donated their time, effort, equipment and material to complete this memorial..." Contributed by McLAUGHLIN, LT Bob email@example.com [06MAY2005]
VP-17 Memorial Plaque "...Photo of a cast bronze plaque remembering the lost crew of VP-17's ZE-6 on 3 AUG 70 near Searchlight, Nevada. The city of Searchlight is working to find a suitable location to display the plaque..." Contributed by McLAUGHLIN, LT Bob firstname.lastname@example.org [23MAR2005]
"...VP 17 Crash Site Visited after 32 Years..." Contributed by Larry Forney (AW3) email@example.com [15SEP2002]
On August 3, 1970, US Navy Patrol Squadron 17 P-3A, Bureau Number 152159, crashed while enroute from Nellis AFB, Nevada to NAS North Island. All 10 crew members on board were lost. This was a sad day for the VP Navy and especially the families and shipmates of the crew.
On August 21, 2002, some 32 years after the crash, I had the opportunity to visit this crash site. No large pieces of the plane remain at the site as the Navy and Lockheed recovered all the large pieces for analysis of the accident. The plane broke up in flight while flying through a thunderstorm. Wreckage was scattered for over a mile. The main fuselage impact area was where I visited. I have attached a number of photos taken at the site. These are a small email size format but have all these in a larger digital format if anyone is interested. I found many items that I could identify and many I couldn't. The largest piece I found was a Coordinator unit off one of the engines. My hat may show in the photos as a reference for size of these pieces. The photos also show a seat frame and a parachute (unopened), and an unfired cartridge for a Pencil Flare gun. Of particular interest is a still fastened seat belt buckle, indicating someone was wearing it at the time of the crash. The fuselage impact area has significant amounts of debris scattered over an area approximately 100 feet wide by 200 feet long. Two personnel items found were a wrist watch face and a 3rd Class Petty Officer Crow/Chevron hat pin. Surprisingly, many of the wreckage pieces look almost new even after sitting out in the environment for 32 years. There is a lot of melted aluminum chunks lying on the ground. I understood that the main fuselage was almost completely consumed by fire.
The crash site is located in the desert approximately 70 miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada. With respect to these Naval Aviators that died in this crash, I will not list the exact location of the site here. I would prefer to protect the site from souvenir hunters. I would be happy to provide specific location information and directions to anyone with a valid interest or connection to the crew.
So what is my interest in this accident. In August 1970, I was a new P-3 aircrew, radar operator, serving in VP-22 at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii. I have a vivid memory of the VP-17 accident news hitting our squadron as we reported in the next day. Previously, I have posted several comments on the VPNavy web site concerning the cause and circumstances of this crash and won't go into that here. Seeing those comments about two years ago, the widow of Lt. Norman Johnson who died in this accident, contacted me to see what else I knew. Well not much at the time but with the help of an old Navy Shipmate, I was able to obtain a copy of the Naval Safety Center accident report. After reading it and making a copy, I sent the report on to Mrs. Johnson. The Navy shared very little information about the details and cause of the crash with the families, nor did they follow up with addition information that might have become available. While at the crash site, I recovered a few small pieces of BN 152159. I have sent those pieces on to Mrs. Johnson.
I hope this information helps to keep the memories alive of those who were lost in this accident. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me.
Larry Forney firstname.lastname@example.org
"...The wife of one of that planes crew contacted me to see if I had any additional information. I didn't, but did a little more research and through some valuable contacts, came up with a copy of the official Naval Safety Center Accident Report (which I will forward to the widow who contact me). The report makes no mention of a "declared medical or any other emergency" from the aircraft prior to the crash, as I thought I remembered from 30 years ago. The report also does not provide a positive conclusion as to the cause of the crash. Interestingly though, the Naval accident review team and the Lockheed review team ( their report a part of the final report) came up with very different conclusions on the probably cause. Each conclusion has merit but I was more impressed with the analysis done by Lockheed to support their findings. The Navy team puts the cause, without a lot of hard evidence, on a lightning strike to the left wing causing the internal fuel tank to explode outboard of engine #1 and subsequent wing failure. The Lockheed analysis determined the right wing failed due to overstress of the airframe in turbulence of the thunderstorm area. They strongly discount lightning as the cause. Lot of very interesting reading in the report but it still leaves some unanswered questions...Larry Forney (AW3) email@example.com..." [06JAN2001]
"...How wonderful to find a Memorial to Norm (LT Norman L. Johnson) and the Crew from VP-17 NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii. They have been gone thirty years now. Thank you for remembering...Susan Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org..." [27JAN2000]
"...I was Mr. Morrisons roommate. It really shocked us all when his plane (VP-17 Crew - In Memorium - VP-17 Crew)went down in Nevada...Dave Crosier email@example.com..." [19FEB2000]
"...Reading through the narratives on the VP accidents I noted something on the VP17 P3 that crashed on Aug 3, 1970 in Nevada. That happened while I was in VP22 so we immediately heard rumors about it when it happened. None of the narratives mentioned it and it may not be true but what we heard right after the crash was that someone on the plane had a medical emergency of some kind (heart or something). In an attempt to get medical help as fast as possible the crew tried to return to Nellis AFB and punched through a thunder storm flying too fast (above NATOPS Guidance) and the turbulance was too much for the plane. Lighting may have hit the plane and been a contributing factor as the other narratives noted but there was a strong rumor shortly after the crash that the crew was lost trying to save one of their own..." Contributed by Larry Forney (AW3) firstname.lastname@example.org [18DEC98]
"...You have a P3 lightning strike listed for 28 Aug. 71. That accident happened Aug. 3, 1970. My crew had Ready Alert that day, and we caught it on T.V. when it was first reported. I still have the newspaper clippings, and a copy of the Crossfeed Accident Review magazine. It was a very sad time within the squadron. All those men were very well liked by everyone. My best friend was Ord. in that crew, and opted to not make the trip, as it was not necessary for him to make the trip. I don't think he ever got over losing his whole crew. He did, however, continue to fly..." Contributed by Ed Cox Nep147967@aol.com [14JUN98]
Aircraft History of MISHAP BUNO: 152159: P-3A 30-04-65 NAS Moffett Field, California Pool; 19-05-65 VP-47; 13-03-66 VP-46; 08-09-66 NAS Moffett Field, California Pool; 10-04-67 VP-48; 10-10-68 VP-17---BOOKs: TITLE: "P-3 Orion" by Marco Borst and Jaap Dubbeldam...booklet on the P-3 Orion which was published in February 1996, with b/w photo's, 111 pages full of history of every P3 produced, etc. Contact Marco P.J. Borst email@example.com WebSite: http://p3orion.nl/index.html [30DEC97]
"VP-17 Mishap Summary Page"