Mid-air collision Accident Fairchild-Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II 78-0588, 18 Nov 1980
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 56105
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Type:Silhouette image of generic A10 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Fairchild-Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II
Owner/operator:United States Air Force (USAF)
Registration: 78-0588
MSN: A10-0208
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:1
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:North Sea off Winterton, Norfolk -   United Kingdom
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Departure airport:RAF Bentwaters, Suffolk
Destination airport:RAF Bentwaters, Suffolk
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
The account of the crash, as described on page 2027 of the edition of Flight International published on the 29th November 1980:

"RAF Winchman dies in attempt to rescue A-10 pilot.

Master Air Load Master David Bullock, a Royal Air Force helicopter winchman with C Flight of 202 Squadron, drowned during an attempt to rescue a US Air Force A-10 pilot who became entangled in his parachute after ejecting over the North Sea.

The accident occurred on November 18th after two USAF A-10 Thunderbolt IIs of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing RAF Bentwaters were involved in a mid-air collision at 09:15 hrs while en route to Wainfleet range at between 1,500 feet and 2,000 feet altitude. The pilot of one, Maj.Steve Kaatz, lost control of his aircraft following the collision and ejected safely. The A-10 crashed near the village of Itteringham in Norfolk. An off-duty air traffic controller was slightly injured by flying debris from the aircraft.

The pilot of the other A-10, Lt,Col William Olson, attempted to return to Bentwaters by flying around the Norfolk coastline to avoid over-flying built-up areas. He lost control and ejected, coming down in the sea off Winterton.

The duty search and rescue crew at RAF Coltishall were alerted at 09.24 hr and the Sea King took off at 09.34 hrs to pick up Maj. Kaatz at Itteringham. Six minutes later, while en route to the crash site, the Sea King crew were diverted to rescue Col.Olson and arrived over him at 9.45 am.

Col.Olson was still in his parachute and was being dragged through the water a few miles from Winterton. The wind was 40 to 45 knots in strength and the waves were between 10 and 15 ft high. It is not clear whether Col.Olson was conscious at this point.

Master Air Load Master Bullock went down to the pilot to free him from his parachute. During the operation, the winchman somehow became entangled in the parachute lines, and the weight of the two men and the waterlogged parachute snapped the 3,700 lb breaking strain cable. M/ALM Bullock and Col.Olson were then dragged by the parachute, which was being blown along by the wind.

The sea was too rough to attempt alighting in the Sea King, which remained with the dragging parachute, homing in a USAF HH-53 from the 67th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, RAF Woodbridge.

The HH-53 had launched at 09.47hr, just after the Sea King had been diverted to pick up Col.Olson. Guided by the Sea King, the HH-53 dropped two para-rescue men into the sea to deflate and cut free the parachute from the winchman and the pilot. The drop was made some 20 to 30 min after the USAF helicopter took off, between 1007 hrs and 1017 hrs. The two para-rescue men, in full skin-diving gear including air-bottles were able to cut MALM Bullock and Col.Olson free and they were taken on board the HH-53 at 1035 hrs. Both men were pronounced dead on arrival at Norwich.

The winchmans fatality is the only one in the 30 year history of search and rescue helicopter operations in the UK, and is believed to be the only occasion when a winch cable snapped. M/ALM Dave Bullock, aged 38, has been in the RAF for 22 years, with three years experience on Search and Rescue. He was married with two children.


1. http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1980/1980%20-%203622.html
2. http://web.archive.org/web/20171019033444/http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/Aircraft_by_Type/A-10_Thunderbolt_II.htm
3. http://warthogaircraftdatabase.blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/fy-1978-aircraft.html
4. https://www.flugzeugforum.de//usafe-crashes-66841-5.html

Revision history:

10-Mar-2011 12:00 sirjames Updated [Total fatalities, Location, Country, Phase, Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative]
21-Jul-2011 06:59 Anon. Updated [Source, Narrative]
20-Oct-2011 04:14 Anon. Updated [Departure airport, Destination airport]
05-Jun-2013 00:14 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Cn, Operator, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
08-Mar-2018 20:49 TB Updated [Operator]

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