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Accident description
Last updated: 6 October 2015
Date:Wednesday 6 May 1981
Type:Boeing EC-135N
Operator:United States Air Force - USAF
Registration: 61-0328
C/n / msn: 18235/C13
First flight: 1961-11-14 (19 years 6 months)
Total airframe hrs:13471
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-102
Crew:Fatalities: 17 / Occupants: 17
Passengers:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Total:Fatalities: 21 / Occupants: 21
Airplane damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:3 km (1.9 mls) NNE of Walkersville, MD (   United States of America)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Departure airport:Dayton-Wright Patterson AFB, OH (FFO/KFFO), United States of America
Destination airport:Dayton-Wright Patterson AFB, OH (FFO/KFFO), United States of America
EC-135N aircraft 61-0328, call sign AGAR 23, was scheduled for an Advanced Range Instrumented Aircraft (ARIA) training mission out of Wright-Patterson AFB. The mission was designed provide training for the navigator and primary mission electronic equipment (PMEE) operators. On board the aircraft were 17 crewmembers and four authorized passengers. AGAR 23 departed at 10:05 and climbed to FL290, which was reached at 10:30. The aircraft commander occupied the right pilot seat and a passenger, his wife, occupied the left pilot seat.
For undetermined reasons, the aircraft pitch trim moved to the full nose-down position. The autopilot can overcome the trim until near full nose-down. The aircraft then rapidly pitched over, most likely upon release of the autopilot, and induced sufficient negative g forces to cause the generators to trip off line and loss of all AC electrical power. The pitch trim could not then be moved electrically. This condition, while unusual, can be easily controlled if prompt corrective action is taken; however, if corrective action is delayed approximately 8 sec., the aircraft pitch angle will be greater than 30 deg. nose-down and the airspeed in excess of 350 KIAS. Under these conditions, the aircraft cannot be controlled until the pitch trim is moved toward neutral. While it is clear that recovery was delayed, the reason for the delay is unknown. The aircraft became uncontrollable and entered a steep descent. The aircraft emerged from the clouds at 2,000 ft. AGL. Airspeed was in excess of 400 KTAS and dive angle was 20 to 30 deg. Engine power was above 2.0 EPR. At approximately 1,500 ft. MSL an explosion occurred inside the pressurized compartment of the fuselage and weakened the aircraft structure to the extent that catastrophic failure of the aircraft followed immediately.


Loss of control



photo of Boeing EC-135N 61-0328
photo of Boeing EC-135N 61-0328
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Distance from Dayton-Wright Patterson AFB, OH to Dayton-Wright Patterson AFB, OH as the crow flies is 0 km (0 miles).

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Boeing C-135

  • 59th loss
  • 820 built
  • 6th worst accident (at the time)
  • 7th worst accident (currently)
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 United States of America
  • 130th worst accident (at the time)
  • 163rd worst accident (currently)
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