I was flying a high-low-high Stan Eval check ride out of the 77th TFS, RAF Wethersfield, England, to Suippes range in France on 17 Aug., 1966, with Capt. Stan Bass, 20th TFW Standardization Evaluation, out of the 55th TFS, on my wing. Takeoff, flight to the range, two skip bomb and two dive bomb runs, and off-range checks were uneventful. As pre-briefed, while climbing out from the range, I, Suds 31, joined up on the wing of Suds 32 for the return leg home. Passing through 11,000 feet, the “Oil Overheat” light illuminated, accompanied by a rough engine, loss of thrust, and the RPM unwinding to zero. Total elapsed time from the initial indication until engine seizure was about 10 seconds. I immediately informed Lead of the situation and he called us to Guard and declared a MAYDAY. We were 25 miles on the 085 radial out of Laon AB, France. I established best glide speed but had no chance for a hard surface. So, after testing maneuverability with the Ram Air Turbine output, I set up for and initiated the ejection process, which worked perfectly. My lead, Suds 32 was orbiting overhead, and soon after I landed, an HH-43 “Pedro” out of Laon AB was overhead and picked me up with a jungle penetrator.
One of my Luke AFB F-100 upgrade classmates, Capt. Walt Ackerlund, out of RAF Lakenheath, England, was assigned to be the Accident Investigation Board “Investigating Officer” and he bitched me out for putting the Hun down into a thick forest, which made investigation and recovery of the wreckage difficult. My ride, F-100D s/n 56-3015, had been written up several times over the previous several months for intermittent oil pressure fluctuations, but was always ground checked, test hopped and returned to service.
As the accident investigation team examined the wreckage, someone picked up the saddleback oil tank, which had separated from the fuselage upon impact. Upon throwing it back to the ground he heard a tinkling sound. He picked it back up, shook it again, and “tinkle, tinkle.” Upon investigation, a SOAP sample bottle (intact) was found inside the tank. As “Murphy” could have predicted, the bottle fit perfectly into the output line of the oil tank, and this time, completely stuck into the output line and quickly starved the engine of oil. (see attached photos). The Board concluded “Maintenance Error” (apparently, someone had accidentally dropped a SOAP sample bottle into the oil tank and neglected to tell anyone) and the case was closed.
Two weeks later, I was leading a two-ship out of RAF Wethersfield to Wheelus AB, Tripoli, Libya, and my wingman, Lt. Buzz Paterson, punched out just after takeoff, his ejection was successful and a “Pedro” HH-43 out of Wethersfield picked him up uninjured. That accident Board declared “Mechanical failure”, the rotors of the J57 had shifted into the stators, apparently the result of a bearing failure, and that case was closed. (Another Caterpillar, this time for Buzz). The rest of my USAFE tour was uneventful.