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ARIA 331 Ruling

'ARIA 331'  


Twenty-four persons, and one C-135 aircraft, on a classified mission to observe French nuclear testing


Total Persons on Board:

24 - Twelve U.S. Air Force personnel, plus 12 civilians. 

Colonel Billy L. Skipworth - Pilot and commander of the 2nd Airborne Command and Control SquadronLieutenant Colonel Victor J. Reinhart - navigatorMajor William H. Unsderfer - aircraft commander
Major William E. Page Jr - pilotMajor John R. McGinn - navigatorMajor Joseph B. William
Captain Byron C. Burnett - test director of the Minuteman Missile program1st Lt. James M. Gilbert III - test directorCaptain Perry T. Rose - pilot
Technical Sergeant Hubert Miles Junior  - boom operator

Staff Sergeant Kenneth S. Kowal

Staff Sergeant Elno R. Weimer - flight engineer
Anthony J. Theriault, an employee of the Air Force Cambridge Research LaboratoryJohn P. Cahill, an employee of the Air Force Cambridge Research LaboratoryDavid Penney, an employee of the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory
Dean L. Hoar, an employee of Ling-Temco-Vought AerospaceRolla F. Blanchard, an employee of Ling-Temco-Vought AerospaceCharles V. Ditto, an employee of Ling-Temco-Vought Aerospace
Thomas R. ConnorDonald E. Ashland, an employee of Aerospace Corp. John B. Tumas, an employee of LTV Electro Systems
Edward M. Slagel, an employee of Westinghouse Corp.Dr. Thomas J. Walter, an employee of the Air Force Cambridge Research LaboratoryAllen Morissette, an employee of Avco Corp.


June 13th, 1971


Low clouds, fog, drizzle - clear air turbulence was noted in the area of flight

Flight Route:

The aircraft was enroute from Pago Pago, American Samoa, to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii

Area Believed Crashed:

Disappeared over the Pacific Ocean, 70 miles S of Hawaii, near Palmyra Island. - around coordinates 10°31' N, 161°59' W.

Reason for flight:

Returning to Hawaii after observing the French Encelade atmospheric nuclear test at Mururoa.

Type Plane:

A Boeing EC-135N, USAF Tail no. 61-0331,  A former Telemetry Range Instrumentation Aircraft, it had been recently converted to detect and analyze nuclear explosions and their related electromagnetic pulses,

Search efforts: 

The search began when the plane failed to reach Hickam AFB in Hawaii by its estimated arrival time of 3 p.m. that day. It had left Pago Pago five hours earlier with enough fuel for nine hours' flying.

An area 200 miles north of Palmyra Island was the center of search operations after rescue planes picked up the signal of a crash position indicator. A crash position indicator is ejected from a plane when the crew knows their craft is about to crash. The indicator gives a constant signal to guide search crews to the site.

Approximately seven hundred miles southwest of of Hawaii, a search aircraft observed the crash position indicator and debris floating on the water. The naval destroyer USS Edwards and a British merchant vessel, the Amalric, proceeded to the crash location along with six rescue aircraft and established a search pattern which was carried out for five days. The search revealed numerous amounts of debris which was positively identified as that of the missing C-135B aircraft.


The cause of the crash was never publicly revealed.

However, it was widely thought that the aircraft was intact until impact with water surface.

A few days prior to the mishap, the aircraft was equipped with 11 additional portholes and a new radome. However, it is believed that these modifications did not have any connection to the accident. 

On April 6, 1981, nearly a decade after the crash, Kathryn Rose, widow of Captain Perry Rose, was awarded $2.9 million in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for damages resulting from the accident.

Jean and Susan Miles, wife and daughter of Sergeant Hubert M. Miles, and 10 other Air Force wives were awarded $1.6 million on April 14, 1981.  The ruling was appealed, which resulted in this decision from the court.

For more information, view the following:



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