Fairchild commemorates B-52 crash

  • Published
  • By By Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
A B-52 Stratofortress memorial was unveiled during a dedication ceremony at Fairchild Memorial Park here Sept. 8.

Outcome 54 and Outcome 55 were two B-52 bombers that crashed east of the base while preforming readiness exercises on Sept. 8, 1958. Surviving family members banded together and worked alongside base leadership to help commemorate the 59th anniversary of the tragedy with a monument to those fallen Airmen.

“This memorial honors my father, Maj. Donald Staples, the navigator for the B-52 Outcome 54,” said Greg Staples, B-52 memorial project co-leader. “There wasn’t a memorial here before, so we worked with base leadership to make this happen; to help me and the community remember and honor those lost to the crash in 1958.”

The Air Force was on high alert throughout 1958 as Cold War tensions kept fears of a nuclear conflict high. Bomber crews were tasked with 24/7 readiness to counter any potential attack, necessitating constant training.

“My brother, 1st Lt. Reggie Frazier, was very proud to be on a B-52,” said Larry Frazier, B-52 memorial project co-leader. “There was cutting edge technology on the B-52s back then and they knew they could be in harm’s way at any time.”

Outcome 54 and Outcome 55 were preparing to make a full landing after completing a series of touch-and-go exercises and were both on final approach to the runway. Unable to see each other, the two aircraft came perilously close while descending for landing and were directed to break away by air traffic controllers. Before the aircraft could effectively respond, the nose of Outcome 54 and the tail of Outcome 55 struck each other, the ensuing damage causing both aircraft to crash near Airway Heights, Wash.

“My family and I were sitting down at the table for dinner when we heard a loud ‘thump’ from outside,” Staples said. “We looked outside and saw the planes falling from the sky. We all knew that dad was on one of them … I was just nine at the time.

“My mother was a true patriot in the aftermath, proudly supporting my brother and I as we went on to become Air Force pilots and serve, just like our father did,” Staples added.

The crash claimed the lives of 13 crew members from the two aircraft, including the 327th Bombardment Group commander, with only three Airmen surviving the incident.

“Freedom has costs, sacrifices and is defended by those that put service before self,” said Col. Ryan Samuelson, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander. “To the crews of Outcome 54 and 55 and to their family and friend -- we salute you. With this memorial, we shall not forget and remain forever thankful for all you’ve sacrificed for our freedom.”

While the dangers of the Cold War have subsided, the monument now stands as a lasting testament to the dedication and sacrifice Airmen have and continue to give in order to keep Rapid Global Mobility … now, a reality.