Is any part of Aroostook County on your “Bucket List”?
Guest Blogger: Steve Dobson
This is a true story from an interview I did with this gentleman. He now lives in Texas with his daughter. He is 91 years old, and on his “Bucket List” he wanted to visit Loring Air Force Base. He was stationed at Loring in 1953. Yes, that is correct 1953. He was a B 36 pilot when he came to Loring. In 1954, he was sent to Texas to learn to fly the B 52’s. I asked him about some of the memorable things that happened while he was at Loring. The following are some of the memories he shared with me. The first thing he said was “I got to ride a car on the runway at Loring yesterday.” He said he had flown many planes on runways, but NEVER got to ride in a car on one. He thought that was a fun thing to do.
When I asked him about some of the things that happened “back in the day,” he told me a couple of stories. The first was when the B 36’s were carrying 5,000 pound nuclear bombs. One B36 was loaded with a nuclear bomb and on the runway getting ready to take off. The bomb fell out of the plane broke through the bomb bay door and landed on the runway. Yes, that is correct, a 5,000-pound nuclear bomb fell out of the B 36 and was setting on the runway at Loring Air Force Base. He said the base was closed for about a week before the Air Force could get some engineers and equipment up to properly remove it. It is a wonder that Aroostook County and Western New Brunswick still exist.
The second story he told me about was he thought in the winter of 1954 or 1955, the snow banks on the runway were so high that when the B 36’s landed, it was like they were landing in an open top tunnel. The plane would disappear below the snowbanks. The pilots had 6 inches of clearance on each wing tip. Finally, there was one plane that caught its wing tips on the snow bank. The plane turned into the bank and it broke up very badly. He said no one got hurt, but the base was closed for three days while bulldozers widened the runway.
I asked him about air refueling. He said the B 36 did not have the capability to midair refuel. When the B 52’s came in they did have that capability, but they had to use KC 97’s to refuel them. The KC 97’s had to refuel at 12-15,000 feet where the air is very turbulent, and they could not fly fast enough while refueling to keep the B 52’s in the air. The KC 97’s would have to gain altitude up to 15,000 feet and then start to descend while hooking up to the B 52 to refuel while on the way down to 12,000 feet. He said when the KC 135 came in it could fly as fast as the B 52 and they could also fly at 30-35,000 feet where air is much smoother.
There are people from across the nation and indeed the world who have experienced Aroostook County in one way or another. When you get to talk to someone who has experienced The County in the past, they usually have very fond memories. Usually a smile comes to their face and a twinkle comes to their eyes. Often, there is usually a story about our famous winters, however, they speak proudly about its people. They tell many stories of how they felt welcomed, like part of the family while they were here.
This gentleman was lucky enough to experience Aroostook County again, but this time he got to experience it with his daughter. That fact made this visit extra special for him. He returned to Texas with that smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye that you get when you remember your time in Aroostook County.