An aviation ghost story - The Rivet Amber

Happy Halloween all!

As the scary season is upon us, some weird things through out the life time of aviation have taken place. One of the most interesting stories I enjoy reading is the Rivet Amber. Let’s go back into time to 1969. We are at the height of the Cold War. The US and The Soviets are in an extreme stand off. The US has just elected President Richard Nixon into office. The Soviets have launched Venera 5 into space. The USS Kitty Hawk has an explosion onboard while its in Pearl Harbor killing 25. Golda Meri becomes the first Israeli Female Prime Minister. The 747 takes its first flight. An EC-121 is shotdown over North Korea.


The US Air Force is launching top secret reconnaissance flights into the Soviet Union and North Korea from the Sheyma Air Force Base. Aircraft 62-4137, or the Rivet Amber and Aircraft 59-139, Cobra Ball are spy partners. Amber is an RC-135E while Ball is an RC-135S. Both operating with the 6th SW Strategic Air Command. Rivet Amber was a one of a kind aircraft the only E version at the time. These two aircraft jobs were to keep an eye on the Soviet Union. The radar onboard the Rivet Amber was extremely heavy, which made her the heaviest RC-135 in the Air Force and most expensive one to operate. The Rivet Amber was piloted by Captain Duncan Wilmore. On the morning of June 5th the Rivet Amber was assign to be ferried to Eielson Air Force Base, Fairbanks Alaska. Weather en Route was bumpy but doable. With a crew of 19 the plane departed the Island for the last time. Flying as Irene 92 the admission got underway. From what we know nothing seemed wrong and everything was going fine. 40 minutes into its flight Elmendorf Tower contacted Irene 92.

“Elmendorf Airways, Elmendorf Airways, Irene 92, Irene 92, over."

“Irene 92, Elmendorf, Go Ahead."

“Elmendorf Airways, Irene 92 experiencing vibration In flight. Not certain of the emergency. We have the aircraft under control, Irene 92."

“This is Elmendorf. You say you’re not declaring an emergency. Is that Charlie ?"

Elmendorf tower reported hearing heavy breathing from the aircraft as it transmitted

“Crew go to oxygen”

The last radio call attempt by the Air Force was made at 1822z.

With the aircraft not responding the 6th SW initiated a search for the Amber. The Coast Guard began searching the Bering for any signs of the crew, debris or the aircraft. Everyone began looking for the aircraft and would spend two weeks trying to find any signs. Not a single piece of the aircraft has ever been found. There are several theories that are out there, everything from landing to the Soviets shooting the Amber down. To this day we are unsure what happened to the Amber and her crew.


Ahh man I was hoping we found her. 😢


Still no sign to this day of anything. It disappeared with out a trace.

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It still beats me how an Aircraft can just disappear without anybody knowing where it went and what happened to the flight… To put it frank, it’s amazing.

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Specially a top secret spy aircraft that had so much technology on board. It’s impressive.

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Nice, I love that story.

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Glad ya enjoyed it!

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Truly amazing we made it out of the “Cold War” …! Good article on history sir…!


Glad ya enjoyed it! A very interesting time in the world for sure


Great article

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Thank you!

Sounds very much like the MH370 :(

Not so top secret now isn’t it? That’s very spooky on how you know this and how you have so many amazing stories, that i enjoy reading weather it’s happy/spooky/sad and all the between, you make it interesting and not just an article that i have to click and read🙂👍 May the crew not be forgotten


A lot of their flights remain top secret, so yes actually it still is lol I learned this story many years ago and enjoy it maybe one day we will find a sign or something!


There’s something you’re hiding from us @RotorGuy you have all these “Secret” Stories🤭

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Yes… I work for a guy who has information.

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You see right there that’s spooky 😂👍 anyway i’ll stop with off-topic talk, thanks for sharing your vast knowledge of what happens and happened in the aviation world

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Lol you’re welcome!

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@RotorGuy… MaxSez: Great Stuff. “Rivet” Program & PARPRO shades of my youth. Here’s another “Rivet” Program retrospective;

By William E. BURROWS *****

April 5, 2001

NEW YORK – The U.S. Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane apparently damaged and forced to land after a collision with a Chinese fighter jet Sunday was not a “spy” plane, as news accounts have suggested. To the contrary, it was on a mission so routine that countless others have been flown continuously by both Air Force and Navy aircraft since the dawn of the Cold War.

In fact, Air Force and Navy reconnaissance crews bridle at being called “spies” and point out that their aircraft are not only clearly marked “U…S. Air Force” or “U.S. Navy,” but their whereabouts are always known to those they are reconnoitering. That, in fact, is one of their basic missions: to “ferret” radar by getting the opposition to turn it on so it can be recorded and analyzed and, if need be, jammed in case of war.

No matter what the eventual political and military consequences, at least the 24 members of the plane’s crew are at least alive and uninjured. The same cannot be said for some 130 U.S. airmen who were shot down in at least 10 major incidents during the Cold War. Most of these incidents occurred along the periphery of the Soviet Union.

The shame of those fatal attacks on reconnaissance aircraft – the first occurred over the Baltic Sea in 1950 and the last one was off North Korea in 1969 – is that several Air Force and Navy fliers were captured and either killed on the spot or imprisoned. Their country turned its back on them to protect the secrecy of the missions and avoid appearing impotent.

The wives and other family members of missing Air Force and Navy reconnaissance crews were routinely sent telegrams telling them that their loved ones had been lost on a “routine training mission” over the Sea of Japan or elsewhere. It left the impression that the hapless airmen were too incompetent to survive even a routine training mission.

In reality, they were brave and highly competent fliers whose job it was to conduct continuous peripheral reconnaissance missions in a program originally called the Peaceful Airborne Reconnaissance Program, or PARPRO, that ferreted radar and intercepted enemy communication traffic.

The vast majority of the flights, which had scores of code names like Rivet Joint and Ear Trumpet, even carried Russian-speaking linguists to warn of chatter between MiG pilots that could signal an attack.

In all likelihood, the Chinese F-8 pilot who hit the EP-3 was not showing off or acting whimsically. Most likely, he was trying to get the American patrol plane to turn toward the mainland, where it could be forced to land or be shot down, in either case “proving” that it had violated Chinese territory.

It was standard practice before each of the thousands of such missions for the briefing officer to tell the crew that it was in no circumstance to allow enemy fighters to turn its plane toward land. Then, as if polling a jury, the briefing officer would ask each crew member individually: “Do you understand what ‘under no circumstance’ means?”

Sometimes the large reconnaissance planes, which sprouted antennas and a variety of bubbles and bulges that held very specialized interception equipment, would slow down so much that the MiGs that trailed closely behind them would stall and fall away. Cat-and-mouse games, often with the opponents taking each other’s pictures, occurred frequently.

But sometimes, such games turned deadly. Starting with the shoot down in 1950, the Soviets openly sent explicit signals to U.S. intelligence that it intended to keep the reconnaissance planes away from its borders by using heavily armed fighter jets the same say some baseball pitchers use a “high-and-tight” fastball to keep opposing batters from crowding home plate.

Perhaps the most infamous incident occurred on July 29, 1953, when an U.S. Air Force RB-50G ferret was shot out of the sky in Vladivostok bay. Years later, after former Russian President Boris Yeltsin admitted that the former Soviet Union had held Americans prisoner during the Cold war, an air defense gunner in 1992 admitted seeing seven parachutes open after the plane was shot down. The crew of an Air Force SB-29 rescue plane, dispatched from Japan to search for survivors, reported seeing the Russians pulling Americans out of the water.

The Americans were swallowed up by the USSR and no effort was made to win their repatriation.

Whatever the outcome of this new episode, two things need to be borne in mind: the 24 American prisoners on Hainan Island will almost certainly fare better than many of their predecessors. And secondly, airborne reconnaissance is imperative to understanding the capacity of this country’s opponents – and that very much includes Iraq and North Korea – and will therefore continue.

Unnoticed by the news media is the fact that U.S. aircraft losses during the air wars against both Iraq and Serbia were almost non-existent, in large part because the enemy’s radar had been quietly ferreted and them jammed. The credit for the successful attacks went to the fighter and bomber crews. The “recce” crews, as usual, worked in the shadows and were therefore not publicly acknowledged.

Maybe this incident will change that.


Interesting story that’s associated!

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