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THE DEMISE OF ARTICLE 129

BY James Beam

I would like offer some "food for thought" concerning the demise of 129.

I was a mechanic assigned to 129 the spring of 1968 at Kadena. I rotated back to the ranch while it was still in its last tear down.

Just prior to it going into the hanger for tear down and phase insp etc, we were given the task of swinging the compass. As there was no compass rose at Kadena, the Air Force moved 2 or 3 tankers out of a revetment so that we could tow the ship in a large circle.

The job was under the direct supervision of the ship's Flight Test Engineer.

We soon realized that it was hopeless, not being able to stop the ship on an exact heading; and if we could, the "slop" in the tow bar linkage would let it drift. It was then suggested that we obtain some sheet metal and make a grease plate for under the LMLG and rotate the ship as though it were on a compass rose.

We were then told by the FTE to turn the nose wheel 90 degrees and reconnect the tow bar and tractor. We proceeded in this manner-rotating the ship with the tractor on the dry, bare concrete. When it looked like the tires would be ready to come off the rims, we would straighten up a bit and then repeat the process until the compass swing was accomplished.

I have often wondered if this could have weakened the landing gear attachment and spar areas. A major crack was found in the subsequent phase inspection in a stress panel adjacent to the LMLG -not found during the last post flight inspection

Could the wing have been weakened enough to cause a crash during a violent unstart?