Discussion:
Bill Miller - F-14 Test Pilot
(too old to reply)
b***@gmail.com
2013-09-16 00:20:34 UTC
Permalink
Does anyone know what happened to Bill Miller, the F-14 TP? I saw a program
about the F-14 which mentioned that he had 'made a minor technical
miscalculation that cost him his life'. It did not embellish.
F-14 157989, Structural trials and carrier compatibility work. Crashed in
June 30th 1972 killing Bob Miller who survived the Second Tomcat flight
Does anyone know what happened?
TIA
--
Steve Davies
"F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle. Combat Legends" ISBN 1840 373 776
"F-15E Strike Eagle; The Inside Story" ISBN 1840 373 784
www.f-15e.net
steve, did you ever find out what was the true cause of bill millers crash?
w***@gmail.com
2014-10-02 04:18:42 UTC
Permalink
Does anyone know what happened to Bill Miller, the F-14 TP? I saw a program
about the F-14 which mentioned that he had 'made a minor technical
miscalculation that cost him his life'. It did not embellish.
F-14 157989, Structural trials and carrier compatibility work. Crashed in
June 30th 1972 killing Bob Miller who survived the Second Tomcat flight
Does anyone know what happened?
TIA
--
Steve Davies
"F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle. Combat Legends" ISBN 1840 373 776
"F-15E Strike Eagle; The Inside Story" ISBN 1840 373 784
www.f-15e.net
Hey! I was wondering what happened to Miller as well. The Wings Doc just nonchalantly mentioned he died later on. I was wondering if it was while still in the Tomcat. They never mentioned that either.
w***@gmail.com
2014-10-02 04:21:20 UTC
Permalink
Does anyone know what happened to Bill Miller, the F-14 TP? I saw a
program
about the F-14 which mentioned that he had 'made a minor technical
miscalculation that cost him his life'. It did not embellish.
In a book I have, "F-14 Tomcat" by Arthur Reed (ISBN 0-684-15881-7, Charles
"The second accident produced tragedy, involving as it did the death of
Bill Miller, the pilot who had so narrowly cheated it in the crash of the
first prototype described above. It occurred exactly a year and a half to
the day after that accident, on 30 June 1972, when Miller was rehearsing in
the number ten aircraft for a charity air display at the Patuxent naval air
test centre, where he was carrying out carrier suitablity trials. Miller
was flying alone and had already completed a number of high-speed manoeuvres
when he was seen to be passing low over the water. Witnesses in a fishing
boat nearby spoke later of seeing the F-14 being pulled up suddenly, but too
late to avoid the tail hitting the surface. The aircraft struck the water
at about 350 knots and exploded. It was thought that Miller had been
distracted by something in the cockpit -- one opinion was that he was having
some slight trouble with the swing wing -- and had looked down. It was a
hazy, smoggy day, with no horizon, and there was nobody in the rear cockpit
to warn him of the danger he was in."
Other books I have mention this accident, but this is the most
comprehensive description of the accident that I have.
I was curious to know what had happened to Miller.
r***@bellsouth.net
2016-04-18 17:55:00 UTC
Permalink
Does anyone know what happened to Bill Miller, the F-14 TP? I saw a program
about the F-14 which mentioned that he had 'made a minor technical
miscalculation that cost him his life'. It did not embellish.
F-14 157989, Structural trials and carrier compatibility work. Crashed in
June 30th 1972 killing Bob Miller who survived the Second Tomcat flight
Does anyone know what happened?
TIA
--
Steve Davies
"F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle. Combat Legends" ISBN 1840 373 776
"F-15E Strike Eagle; The Inside Story" ISBN 1840 373 784
www.f-15e.net
Just found this thread. I also wondered about this and ran across Bob Smythe's email address on a forum, so emailed him and asked. He sent a very detailed response to my surprise. Basically, Bill was practicing for a July 4th airshow routine and was using the carrier trials jet which has an instrument package in the rear seat. This particular plane had an issue with the flap/wing sweep interlock and you had to use both hands to kind of jiggle the flap handle while initiating the wing sweep. Bill was to make a high energy take off, reverse down the field and then do a low level 360 over the water while sweeping the wings. Bob believes that while messing with the wing sweep and flap controls, the nose of the plane dropped below the horizon and Bill didn't notice until it was too late. At the last moment, he recognized the problem and leveled the plane and pulled up, but hit the water at about 350kts and that was it. If I get a chance, I'll dig up the actual email and post it here.

Roger
r***@gmail.com
2016-04-23 01:36:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by r***@bellsouth.net
Does anyone know what happened to Bill Miller, the F-14 TP? I saw a program
about the F-14 which mentioned that he had 'made a minor technical
miscalculation that cost him his life'. It did not embellish.
F-14 157989, Structural trials and carrier compatibility work. Crashed in
June 30th 1972 killing Bob Miller who survived the Second Tomcat flight
Does anyone know what happened?
TIA
--
Steve Davies
"F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle. Combat Legends" ISBN 1840 373 776
"F-15E Strike Eagle; The Inside Story" ISBN 1840 373 784
www.f-15e.net
Just found this thread. I also wondered about this and ran across Bob Smythe's email address on a forum, so emailed him and asked. He sent a very detailed response to my surprise. Basically, Bill was practicing for a July 4th airshow routine and was using the carrier trials jet which has an instrument package in the rear seat. This particular plane had an issue with the flap/wing sweep interlock and you had to use both hands to kind of jiggle the flap handle while initiating the wing sweep. Bill was to make a high energy take off, reverse down the field and then do a low level 360 over the water while sweeping the wings. Bob believes that while messing with the wing sweep and flap controls, the nose of the plane dropped below the horizon and Bill didn't notice until it was too late. At the last moment, he recognized the problem and leveled the plane and pulled up, but hit the water at about 350kts and that was it. If I get a chance, I'll dig up the actual email and post it here.
Roger
As promised, I found Bob's email, so here is the real story from someone who should know:

==================================================
Dear Roger,
Bill Miller had been doing the F-14 Carrier
Suitability demonstration at PaxRiver in the Spring and
Summer of 1972. As you may know, in that program, you
demonstrate the structural capability of the airplane
to perform to all the limits of arrestments and
catapult launches. All this is done on the gear on the
airfield at PaxRiver. The airplane never gets above
1,000 feet and hardly ever retracts the gear or flaps.
Also there is little use for a back-seater, so we put
an instrument package on the rear cockpit seat rails.
The airplane had a known problem with wing sweep
because one of the interlocks that prevents wing sweep
with the flaps down or spoilers up, was hanging up. To
sweep the wings the pilot had to fiddle with a circuit
breaker and the flap handle at the same time- a two
handed job. Not a big problem, Bill was quite familiar
with the process.
Every 4th of July, Patuxent has a big Navy Relief
air show with thousands attending. They ask the
contractors who have their latest aircraft there if
they would participate in the air show. They usually
all say they will. Bill agreed to perform, and had
planned a high performance takeoff, followed by a
90/270 reversal, and return down the runway at 400 KTS
with the wings fully swept.
On June 30, 1972, Bill went out for a practice
flight. The weather was said to be VFR (3 miles or
better visibility); in fact it was much less out over
the Chesapeake Bay - a common summertime condition.
Bill lined up on Runway 20, which is parallel to
the bay. He advanced power to Zone 5 afterburner, and
made his takeoff run. He pulled up very steeply,
retracted the gear, then rolled inverted, pulled the
nose back down to the horizon and began his 90 deg.
left turn out over the bay. He noticed his gear did not
show up and locked so he had to recycle the gear. He
then started fiddling with the circuit breaker and flap
handle while starting his right 270 deg. turn to line
up with the runway. At this point the nose fell
slightly and he unwittingly started to descend from his
1,000 foot altitude. There was no horizon and the water
was a flat calm. At the last minute he must have seen a
sailboat (one saw him), went to full power and yanked
the stick back. He hit the water at 350 KTS and that
was the end.
Had there been someone in the back seat to warn him,
the accident would never have happened. Most accidents
are stupid; this was no exception.
That's about the most factual account you will get.
Incidentally, it was 18 months, exactly, after the loss
of Number One on December 30th, 1970. Yours, Bob Smyth.
==================================================

Roger
C***@prodigy.net
2017-08-18 17:23:06 UTC
Permalink
I don't know what possessed me, but i just found this thread. I was a little girl on the sailboat mentioned in Bob Smyth's email. I was below but heard the crash, and before my parent made me go below, i remember seeing debris spread all around us. My father, who has since passed, saw the whole thing, and said that he came down, could not pull up , and pancaked. We were spotted by helicopters and several weeks later, the govt authorities came to visit to confiscate any pictures we had.

I had always thought that the Tomcat was experimental at the time. Maybe it was, but this was really the first time i thought about confirming this vivid memory.

Christine
m***@gmail.com
2017-10-21 22:31:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by r***@gmail.com
Post by r***@bellsouth.net
Does anyone know what happened to Bill Miller, the F-14 TP? I saw a program
about the F-14 which mentioned that he had 'made a minor technical
miscalculation that cost him his life'. It did not embellish.
F-14 157989, Structural trials and carrier compatibility work. Crashed in
June 30th 1972 killing Bob Miller who survived the Second Tomcat flight
Does anyone know what happened?
TIA
--
Steve Davies
"F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle. Combat Legends" ISBN 1840 373 776
"F-15E Strike Eagle; The Inside Story" ISBN 1840 373 784
www.f-15e.net
Just found this thread. I also wondered about this and ran across Bob Smythe's email address on a forum, so emailed him and asked. He sent a very detailed response to my surprise. Basically, Bill was practicing for a July 4th airshow routine and was using the carrier trials jet which has an instrument package in the rear seat. This particular plane had an issue with the flap/wing sweep interlock and you had to use both hands to kind of jiggle the flap handle while initiating the wing sweep. Bill was to make a high energy take off, reverse down the field and then do a low level 360 over the water while sweeping the wings. Bob believes that while messing with the wing sweep and flap controls, the nose of the plane dropped below the horizon and Bill didn't notice until it was too late. At the last moment, he recognized the problem and leveled the plane and pulled up, but hit the water at about 350kts and that was it. If I get a chance, I'll dig up the actual email and post it here.
Roger
==================================================
Dear Roger,
Bill Miller had been doing the F-14 Carrier
Suitability demonstration at PaxRiver in the Spring and
Summer of 1972. As you may know, in that program, you
demonstrate the structural capability of the airplane
to perform to all the limits of arrestments and
catapult launches. All this is done on the gear on the
airfield at PaxRiver. The airplane never gets above
1,000 feet and hardly ever retracts the gear or flaps.
Also there is little use for a back-seater, so we put
an instrument package on the rear cockpit seat rails.
The airplane had a known problem with wing sweep
because one of the interlocks that prevents wing sweep
with the flaps down or spoilers up, was hanging up. To
sweep the wings the pilot had to fiddle with a circuit
breaker and the flap handle at the same time- a two
handed job. Not a big problem, Bill was quite familiar
with the process.
Every 4th of July, Patuxent has a big Navy Relief
air show with thousands attending. They ask the
contractors who have their latest aircraft there if
they would participate in the air show. They usually
all say they will. Bill agreed to perform, and had
planned a high performance takeoff, followed by a
90/270 reversal, and return down the runway at 400 KTS
with the wings fully swept.
On June 30, 1972, Bill went out for a practice
flight. The weather was said to be VFR (3 miles or
better visibility); in fact it was much less out over
the Chesapeake Bay - a common summertime condition.
Bill lined up on Runway 20, which is parallel to
the bay. He advanced power to Zone 5 afterburner, and
made his takeoff run. He pulled up very steeply,
retracted the gear, then rolled inverted, pulled the
nose back down to the horizon and began his 90 deg.
left turn out over the bay. He noticed his gear did not
show up and locked so he had to recycle the gear. He
then started fiddling with the circuit breaker and flap
handle while starting his right 270 deg. turn to line
up with the runway. At this point the nose fell
slightly and he unwittingly started to descend from his
1,000 foot altitude. There was no horizon and the water
was a flat calm. At the last minute he must have seen a
sailboat (one saw him), went to full power and yanked
the stick back. He hit the water at 350 KTS and that
was the end.
Had there been someone in the back seat to warn him,
the accident would never have happened. Most accidents
are stupid; this was no exception.
That's about the most factual account you will get.
Incidentally, it was 18 months, exactly, after the loss
of Number One on December 30th, 1970. Yours, Bob Smyth.
==================================================
Roger
I was one of the divers that recovered the aircraft as well as the pilot. Yes form my understanding the right rear rudder struck the water and the aircraft tumbled and disintegrated. The crash sight was long. Due to the floods that had happened the Bay was like mud. At 10 ft you could not see the fingers on the faceplate of your mask.
s***@gmail.com
2018-07-03 18:02:32 UTC
Permalink
Just stumbled upon this thread, thank a lot for sharing.
z***@gmail.com
2016-08-31 22:42:47 UTC
Permalink
Does anyone know what happened to Bill Miller, the F-14 TP? I saw a program
about the F-14 which mentioned that he had 'made a minor technical
miscalculation that cost him his life'. It did not embellish.
F-14 157989, Structural trials and carrier compatibility work. Crashed in
June 30th 1972 killing Bob Miller who survived the Second Tomcat flight
Does anyone know what happened?
TIA
--
Steve Davies
"F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle. Combat Legends" ISBN 1840 373 776
"F-15E Strike Eagle; The Inside Story" ISBN 1840 373 784
www.f-15e.net
Im almost positive he stuck in a flat spin and could not eject but im not sure
c***@gmail.com
2017-03-31 04:12:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by z***@gmail.com
Does anyone know what happened to Bill Miller, the F-14 TP? I saw a program
about the F-14 which mentioned that he had 'made a minor technical
miscalculation that cost him his life'. It did not embellish.
F-14 157989, Structural trials and carrier compatibility work. Crashed in
June 30th 1972 killing Bob Miller who survived the Second Tomcat flight
Does anyone know what happened?
TIA
--
Steve Davies
"F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle. Combat Legends" ISBN 1840 373 776
"F-15E Strike Eagle; The Inside Story" ISBN 1840 373 784
www.f-15e.net
Im almost positive he stuck in a flat spin and could not eject but im not sure
Absolute nonsense. He was below 1000 feet. Just sick and tired of any and every F-14 accident with some jacka** coming out "oh flat spin". Bill Smythe's account above is the accurate factual account which matches the official investigation where he was fiddling with the circuit break for the swing wing when the plane nose dipped down below the horizon. He noticed at the very last moment and tried to lift the nose up, but was too late and hit the water.
s***@gmail.com
2019-02-25 20:09:59 UTC
Permalink
Bill Miller, was killed after his F-14 was hit by an Missile during air combat some where in the pacific near Vet Nam. He went to inject. The plunger came through the seat. He die on the operating table. The Back Seat
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