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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?
"F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle. Combat Legends" ISBN 1840 373 776
"F-15E Strike Eagle; The Inside Story" ISBN 1840 373 784
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.
As promised, I found Bob's email, so here is the real story from someone who should know:
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.