Lt. Col. Lee Merkel Crash

Lt. Col. Lee Merkel Crash

Date: January 31, 1956

Location: Southern Indiana

Merkel took off from Standford Field, Louisville, Kentucky at 2:50 p.m. CST, on a local TPR clearance to perform a maintenance test flight for a carburetor and propeller change. The flight was proposed for one hour duration with 2½ hours fuel aboard. a climb to 20,000' was made and contact was established with the Oak Hill Air Defense Command Radar Station. A course was set for Terre Haute, Indiana, and the pilot informed Oak Hill he was at 20,000' at 3:01 p.m. CST. The flight was continued and several minutes later Oak Hill informed the pilot his blip was fading on the scope.

The pilot replied he had Terre Haute in sight. Alley Cat, a nearby Direction Center was busy and could not take control. This was at 3:09 p.m. CST. At 3:24 p.m. Oak Hill received another call from ANG 75091, this error, i.e., ANG 75091 instead of ANG 73091 is believed to be an error of the pilot or of the radar operator at Oak Hill, and the pilot stated he was returning to Louisville, heading 135° at 34,000' climbing to 35,000'. The pilot was informed of an aircraft approaching from the right. The pilot stated he did not have the aircraft in sight and the blip faded from the radar scope. Communication between Oak Hill and ANG 73091 was lost at 3:35 p.m. CST. The pilots last communication was given in a normal voice. The next information was a telephone call by an unidentified civilian to an Air Defense Command Aircraft Control and Warning Station north of Terre Haute, Indiana, stating that an Air Force aircraft had crashed and the approximate location. The Control and Warning Station immediately notified the Bakalar Air Force Base Provost Marshal at approximately 4:25 p.m. CST. It was determined that the aircraft ANG 73091M crashed at approximately 3:35 p.m. CST, 31 January 1956.

Again, not enough information was released to draw any conclusions except that some sort of unknown aircraft was seen.

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