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“The World Famous Blue Sharks” (1943-1993) PATRON SIX“
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HomeThe ditching of "Papa Charlie Six" off the Cubi Point runway

The ditching of "Papa Charlie Six" off the Cubi Point runway on Dec. 5 1971
 by Tom Winn 

I was there....

I was preflighting another ship for a "victor time" patrol and was scheduled for launch at 0730. As I smoked a cigarette just off the edge of the ramp I watched PC-06 takeoff at about 0710. Just after liftoff I heard a loud roar and saw flames coming from PC-06's engines that extended from the tailpipes to beyond the mad boom. In horror I saw the nose drop and start to settle in the direction of Olongopo city. I lost sight of her beyond some buildings and terrain but saw her again as she lined up about a thousand yards off of, and parallel to, the runway. She went into the water with a huge splash and big sections of the aircraft flipped through the air.  We all knew the crew must be dead. Thank goodness we were wrong. 

It seemed like forever, but actually only minutes later, helmets and Mae Wests could be seen in the water and a visiting staff helicopter (from Clark AFB) was hovering on site pulling men aboard. A station rescue boat got the rest, except one; Ensign Ed Cooper died in the crash. 

Lt Mike Montgomery was PPC and flying in PC-06's left seat. Lt Brooks Mothorn was in the right seat. ADC Don "Underdog" Underwood was the F/E. Don told us later, over countless shots of whiskey, that he remembers that all was normal until right after rotate when all four engine TIT gages when to off-scale high temp. He pulled back on the throttles to reduce the over temp then immediately saw #2 RPM dropping through about 70% and called "Power Loss Two". By about the time they got the E-Handle out on #2, the #3 RPM was noted to be dropping too! Within the next few seconds the #4 generator must have tripped as all electrical power was lost and they had to go boost-out on the flight controls. In the space of about 30 seconds up there in the cockpit, things went from normal to 2 engines out.  No flight control hydraulics, no electrical power, and not a flipping clue as to what was happening to them. The airplane was now in very serious trouble as it was at full gross weight, slowing and losing altitude fast. They did manage a slow turn over the city and did try to get back to the runway but, no dice. They set up as slow a sink rate as they could manage, and let the airplane settle into the calm water of the bay.

Ensign Cooper died on impact when the center fuel tank ruptured under his seat. AW1 "Sully" Sullivan was also slightly injured when the sono chute package landed in his lap. The cabin was immediately filled with sea water, hundreds of gallons of JP5, men in their dislodged seats, along with countless items of loose equipment. All, except for Cooper, managed to get out the exits (and out of the rear of the cabin where the tail of the aircraft broke off). 

By the afternoon we all knew what had gone wrong. The airplane's water-alcohol injection system was accidentally serviced (including mine) with water and cleaning solvent by the line crew. The Cubi Point station supply people also took some responsibility for filling an order for drums of alcohol with identical looking drums of solvent.

The wreckage of VP-6 P-3A PC-06 NAS Cubi Point December 1971
Photos contributed by Charles Hudson

4 photos above contributed by 
Red O'Laughlin
photo taken by ...Charles Hudson -  'I have a couple I took, while on watch to ensure onone took unauthorized photos.............."

 Comments on the incident.  
 Red O'Laughlin  - cleaning solvent drums were next to the ADI fluid and the wrong fluid was pumped into the aircraft. At takeoff, the water/ADI fluid injection was used. When the water was used up, the cleaning solvent, floating on top of the water, caused overtemps in all four engines and they lost power. The next plane ready for takeoff refused to takeoff and that plane also had the wrong fluid (cleaning solvent) in the water injection system. Good decision by the plane commander.    
 Bob Azbell -  I was on a mission in Guam also and on our way back that day we found out about it on the way back to Cubi. I remember that day well as we decided not to use the water injection and it's a good that we did not as ours plus one other plane had been serviced with this dry cleaning solvent.    
 Red O'Laughlin -  It's interesting in that the PPC got out of the plane OK, but broke his arm playing baseball (or something like that) a couple of weeks later. Many people thought he broke it in the crash.    
 Peter Clapham - John Werner was my SS-1 on Crew 4 and told me about this incident. Two things strike me about the story; the destroyer out in Subic Bay blasting Emergency and steaming right down on them and this ice chest breaking free of the aircraft as it sank, rushing to the surface with its positive buoyancy and hitting John in the chest from below while he was swimming. He got the wind knocked out of him and thought it was a shark.    
 Red O'Laughlin - If you notice the belly of the aircraft looks like it was opened with a can opener. The after action report said that the bomb-bay doors buckled inward and water hit the aft bomb-bay bulkhead and literally peeled the entire underside of the belly. The water came in and blew the aft bulkhead of the aircraft out. There was a passenger sitting in the galley and he literally got up and walked out the back end of the airplane. I inherited most of this crew a few months after this crash - learned a lot of inside information.    
 Red O'Laughlin -  Another quick story, the SS1 who normally exits over the port wing was trying to open the window exit. The water was about half-way up the window and he had to wait until it was over the top of the window exit before he had enough power to pull the window inward. He then exited on the the port wing.    
 Charles Hudson - PC-6 was loaded with mines that morning to practice laying them. This was just before the US mined Haiphong harbor. The aircraft lost all hydraulic power early, and lost its pneumatic during the jetisoning of the mines in Subic Bay. Herbie hand pumped the bombay doors closed, getting back into his ditching station just before they hit the water. My memories are still clear about that day, but they are mostly second hand    
 Charles Hudson - Maybe it was the landing gear they had to handpump to raise. They appear to be down in the photos, but must have been up on impact. In addition to the regular crew, there were two photographers in the aft ditching station. On the first impact, the tail broke off right at their feet. To exit the aircraft, they unbuckled their seatbelt and fell out of the plane.    
 Paul Lusk Charles -  I remember having to radio in to the Duty Office one afternoon when a car pulled off the side of the road up on the hill overlooking the AIMD ramp. The driver got out and was taking some of those "unauthorized pictures". I also remember having to extinguish a phosphorus fire inside the A/C while on watch. Truth be told...I'm sure it was the result of my walking through the aircraft.    
 Paul Lusk - I remember the AFT RADOME broke off and the entire contents of the AFT Radar compartment were gone, with the possible exception of the VOR racks. (The receivers were gone) I think Herbie jumped out the back as well. I remember reading a "Gramdpa Pettibone" article in "Naval Aviation News" a year or so after the incident. If memory serves me correctly, the Supply Department delivered the wrong fluid and the AK2 in 050, as well as the line crew, never caught the mistake.    
 Jim A Waits Paul - the phosphorus fire was caused by the smole-lights still in the storage box that were damaged and broke open during the ditching. I was surprised that no one ever called EOD to have those item removed. But, no one ever thought the P3 carried ordnance.    
 Robert Goggin - The 55 gallon drums of dry cleaning solvent were actually marked as alcohol drums and there was a navy wide message to check all drums. These drums had been cleared by supply as having been checked. Our squadron supply clerk certified they had been checked and I believe someone senior in the line also certified the drum had been checked. I flew in the night before from Cam Rahn bay and was the only rigger on base. They woke me up to inventory the flight gear of everyone on the aircraft. I believe there were 2 photographers in the galley seat and they are the ones that walked out the back of the aircraft.    
 Jim A Waits - The drum of cleaning solvent was on a pallet with four other drums of Methanol. The five drums were banded together with the solvent being in the center surrounded by the other four. Being banded together as a unit one could not view the markings on the side of the drums. Most important is how the drums were marked, Methanol and Cleaning Solvent were in Black drums with a White top. The accident investigation emphasisied that it was impossible to know the center drum was solvent instead of methanol. Another key element was the servicing cart that mixed and pumped the fluid into the aircraft was way out of calibration; there was no required calibration schedule required for it, hence as time went on it wasn't doing a proper mix. No one could have known the pallet of drums or the service cart could bring down an airplane.