Tucumcari, NM (near) Crash Of Spy Plane, July 1958

Lockheed U-2 plane.jpg



The Lockheed U-2, high altitude weather research airplane, two of which have crashed in the past 48 hours, are being grounded pending investigation into the accident causes. This is according to Brig. Gen Austin J. Russell, Commander of the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, Texas.
Laughlin was the home base of two U-2s which crashed within 100 miles of each other in the Texas panhandle and eastern New Mexico, one on Tuesday and the other Wednesday. The accidents were fatal to both pilots.
General Russell's statement grounding all U-2s of his wing said in part: "Although the U-2 is a time tested airplane which has been in use by this wing for more than a year and by other government agencies for the past three years, flying suspended complete investigation of the two serious accidents. Pending investigation by experts on the scenes I have suspended U-2 flying."
Accident investigation teams from Laughlin are being joined at the wreckages by experts from the Air Material Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, the Air Force Office of Flying Safety, Office of the Inspector General at Norton AFB, Calif., Air Research and Development Command and industries which manufacture the aircraft and component parts.
The investigation is not a question of security, reiterates General Russell, rather that of fact-finding to determine the cause of the fatal accidents. The grounding order is merely a precautionary measure.
The General further reiterated that both pilots, Squadron Leader C. E. WALKER, an exchange pilot from the British Royal Air Force who was killed Tuesday and Captain ALFRED V. CHAPIN who was killed Wednesday were highly qualified jet pilots.
Squadron Leader WALKER was one of Great Britain's top young jet pilots with hundreds of hours in the Canberra which was the forrunner of the USAF B-57 Reconnaissance airplane.
Captain CHAPIN was a veteran U-2 pilot who has been with the aircraft since the Laughlin AFB mission's inception early last year. He was decorated May 23 with the Distinguished Flying Cross for an outstanding job of bringing in a disabled U-2 last year.
Upon completion of investigations at the scenes, one about 30 miles SE of Amarillo, Tex., and the other 23 miles SW of Tucumcari, N.M., the teams, including the outside experts will join at Laughlin AFB to determine what future precautions can be taken.
Captain CHAPIN resided with his wife and small baby at 203 Dignowity Street in Del Rio. His home was in San Angelo and he had attended Sul Ross College. He sang in the choir of the FIrst Methodist Church here and on May 23 he received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Major General Richard M. Montgomery, deputy commander of the Second Air Force.
His decoration was presented for successfully landing his aircraft after a power failure and loss of pressurization at high altitude Aug. 29, 1957. Although his circumstances were extreme and a bailout was possible, CHAPIN, a lieutenant at the time, continued to fly the craft to the successful landing.
He served overseas in England prior to coming to LAFB.
Joint memorial services for Squadron Leader WALKER and Captain CHAPIN will be held Friday at 4 p.m. in the Base Chapel with Chaplain Curtis Johnson officiating.

Del Rio News Herald Texas 1958-07-10