USAF B-57C 33857

One fine day in 1968, my navigator and later to be brother-in-law Major Ed Hull and I (Capt. Philip K. Dunn b57driver at were airborne bound for Ramy AFB, Puerto Rico from Albuquerque (Kirtland AFB, PRD's birthplace - son of Philip K.) when during a routine cockpit check I noticed that the hydraulic pressure had fallen to zero (the gauge is near my left knee - 3rd picture). A check of the emergency hydraulic system (a hand pump) revealed that there was no back pressure in that system. This meant that several aircraft systems would no longer operate: landing gear uplock release, landing gear extension, flaps, speed brakes, rudder boost - this airplane was no longer equipped with bombay doors which would have been hydraulic. The basic flight controls (elevator, ailerons, rudder) were mechanical, so basic flight was sustainable - as should have been obvious since we were tooling along at 33,000 feet or so with two good J65 engines.

The Front Office

Sunset was approaching as we diverted towards England AFB Louisiana having declared an emergency and discussed our options: bail out or land the airplane on its belly. In just about every retractable gear airplane in the world the landing gear can be lowered by freefall or by some kind of mechanical intervention. This was not a design feature on this airplane - one of the first jet powered airplanes in the world having been designed and built in the early 1950s. It took hydraulic pressure to release the gear door uplock.

The hydraulic gauge is above the landing gear handle - which is the one with a white wheel. Just above the T-handle marked PULL. (This handle is for emergency gear extension. I don't recall just what it was supposed to do (blow down bottle?), but obviously it did not help.) The needle is pointing to zero pressure. Click on photo to enlarge. By the way, can you guess what the funnel shaped device to the right of the gear handle is?

There was no way to dump fuel from the airplane. The fuel is carried in the wings and fuselage. So the landing would have to be made with whatever fuel is on board. We could have flown around burning fuel until the airplane was a lot lighter (and thus able to land slower), but by then it would have been dark out and I thought it best to land during daylight hours. You will notice all the pictures are taken at night. But we actually landed the airplane in daylight.
Postflight inspection revealed a ruptured hydraulic line in the old bomb door actuater line - abandoned. The line had been cut and terminated after a 90 degree bend in it. This meant that it spent hours cycling and bending the line until it finally failed.
The plane was temp-skinned the next day and flown back to Kirtland by Col. Durden, Chief Maint Off. I don't think it was ever flown again. As I recall it was classified as an incident and not an accident - an important distinction at the time. Thinking back, the skin being worn off also wore off some of the ribs. This would have weakend the integrity of the aircraft. It is luck it did not crash on takeoff back to ABQ.

There was some controversy about holding on to the canopy. Procedures dictate jettisoning it prior to wheels up landing. I thought it would be best to hang on to it for several reasons. Lt. Col. Campbell (58th Ops) concurred; so we left it on; with Ed spring-loaded to jettison it if things got crazy. It was, of course a problem to raise it after landing (it is hydraulic) which we did manually after we disconnected the gas-firing actuators. It was very heavy.

The first 4 photos here pretty well survey the front cockpit. One of the first things a pilot must do before flying any airplane is to be able to touch any switch or gauge or dial while blindfolded. What this means is an instructor sitting on an access ladder (on the ground) would say: "Right Generator Reset" and the blindfolded pilot would have to touch the correct switch (stating which direction it moves) without hesitation or braille-like searching. You can see that particular switch (push down to reset - i.e., flash the field coil) in this photo just forward (to the left) of the Oxygen Flow meter. Or "landing lights" - see first photo above gear handle. To learn this takes several hours sitting alone in the cockpit studying the layout. The acceptable test score is 100%. It's called the 'blindfold cockpit check'. Nobody flys without it - on any airplane. Ever.

Questions, comments?