Memories of Loring Air Force Base
Guest Blogger: Steve Dobson
There are people all across the nation (and even the world) who have experienced Aroostook County in one way or another. When you get to talk to someone that has experienced The County, they have very fond memories. Usually, a smile comes to their face and a twinkle comes to their eyes.
Recently, I met a gentleman who now lives in Texas with his daughter. He is 91 years old, and he and his daughter were visiting Loring Air Force Base where he was stationed at in 1953. He was a B36 pilot when he came to Loring, and in 1954 was sent to Texas to learn to fly a B52.
“I got to ride a car on the runway at Loring yesterday,” he said, adding he had flown many planes on runways but never got to ride in a car on one. He thought that was pretty fun thing to do.
When I asked him about some of the things that happened “back in the day”, he told me a few stories. The first was when the B36s were carrying 50,000-pound Nuclear Bombs. One B36 was loaded with a nuclear bomb and on the runway getting ready to take off. The bomb fell off the plane, broke through the bombay door and landed on the runway. Yes, a nuclear bomb fell out of the B36 and was sitting 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 take care of it. It is a wonder that Aroostook County and Western New Brunswick still exist!
The second story was about was about the winters of 1954 or 1955. The snow banks on the runway were so high that when the B36s landed it was as though they were landing in an open top tunnel. The plane would disappear below the snowbanks. The pilots had mere feet of clearance on each wing tip. Finally, there was one story about a plane that caught its wingtips on the snow bank, causing significant damage to the aircraft. He said no one was hurt, but the base was closed for three days while snow removal equipment widened the runway.
I asked him about in-air refueling. He said the B36 did not have the capability to mid air refuel but when the B52’s came in they did have that capability but had to use KC97’s to refuel them. The KC97’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 up with the B52s. The KC97 would have to gain altitude of up to 15,000 feet and then start to descend while hooking up to the B52 to refuel while on the way down to 12,000 feet. He said when the KC135 arrived at Loring, it could fly as fast as the B52 and they could also fly at 30-35,000 feet where air currents are much smoother.
I was very glad that this gentleman was lucky enough to experience Aroostook County again, and that on this occasion he was able to experience it with his daughter. That made this visit extra special for him. He returned to Texas with a wide grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye that you only get when you remember Aroostook County. Yes, there is a story or two about our famous winters, but what most folks talk about are the people of The County. They tell many stories of how they genuinely felt welcome… like part of the family.