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.