DESIGNING A BOMBER
THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE ABOUT B-52S in the 1960s ["Tailspin," August 8].
I may owe my life to this crew and others that went down because of the problems with the tail assembly on the B-52D. As David Wood mentioned, the tail section was reinforced as a result of these mishaps and the aircraft became extremely turbulence-resistant. I was on the same type of mission, a Chrome Dome (airborne alert), as a navigator with the 306th Bomb Wing, out of McCoy Air Force Base, Fla., on Christmas Eve 1965. During this mission we encountered moderate to severe turbulence for the better part of 20 hours; believe me, the crew had some real conversation about how good we felt that the tail had been reinforced on the aircraft we were flying. The similarities to the flight of Buzz One Four were uncanny: severe jet stream winds, heavy turbulence at all flight levels and 40 miles on either side of our planned course. In short, you could not avoid the weather and so everything depended on the aircraft bringing you home.
LOUIS F. RUPPERT
THERE WAS ONE DETAIL IN DAVID Wood's wonderful article about Flight Buzz One Four that leapt out as inaccurate. Bob Payne, one of the airmen who died in the crash, was said to have carried in his flight suit a lucky silver dollar that was minted the year he was married, 1944.
I'm sure I'm not the only numismatist who said to himself, "But there weren't any silver dollars minted in 1944!" Production of the Peace dollar ceased in 1935, and no dollar coins were produced for circulation again until 1971, when the Eisenhower dollar was released.
THE BASIC THESIS OF THE STORY, that the Air Force and Boeing were hiding a fatal flaw in the big machine that inevitably resulted in the predicament of Buzz One Four and its crew, is simply not true. The original B-52 was designed shortly after World War II and, considering the technology of the time, was a triumph of engineering. It was not intended as a fighter plane that can be kicked around the skies like the F-16. It was a machine for intercontinental delivery of nuclear weapons, and factors of range and payload capacity combined with limits on available engine thrust and efficiency required a relatively light and somewhat fragile structure. Extensive testing established the design limits for its use, and these "specs" were published and were taught in detail to the crewmen who would operate the machines. I was always aware that I could destroy the airplane by abrupt or ham-fisted use of the controls -- that's one reason the Air Force and Strategic Air Command spent so much time, effort and money on my training.
JACK N. BUTTS
PRANKISH DWARVES OF JUPITER
I READ TOM SHRODER'S ARTICLE ON reincarnation ["A Matter of Death & Life," August 8] with great interest, but also disappointment that he dismissed "blood-red dwarves on the fifth moon of Jupiter" as being "wacko." Does that necessarily suggest reincarnation as the explanation for the phenomena examined by Ian Stevenson? Couldn't the blood-red dwarves of Jupiter be using some amazing technology to beam the thoughts they collected from people prior to death into the susceptible minds of Earth children, perhaps as a prank against gullible earthlings? How can Shroder dismiss this as a viable possibility?
One answer might be, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Stevenson's work is, unfortunately, not extraordinary evidence. Until someone can find a way to study the subject in a way that isn't so dependent on the honesty and reliability of the people involved, it remains speculative and brimming with a lot of wish fulfillment.
SCOTT T. SNELL
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