Atlantic Ocean – October 6, 1980

Atlantic Ocean – October 6, 1980


U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the night of October 6, 1980, two U.S. Air Force FB-111A fighter jets, each with a crew of two aboard, left Plattsburgh Air Force Base in upstate New York for a routine training mission over Maine and the Atlantic Ocean.  One aircraft was flying about twelve minutes ahead of the other. 

     At 10:12 p.m., while both aircraft were over the ocean about 18 miles off the coast of Jonesport, Maine, the second FB-111 suddenly disappeared from radar.  A search and rescue mission was instituted for the missing jet. 

     About 3 1/2 hours later, a Coast Guard vessel recovered a helmet and seat cushion floating in the water, but there were no signs of the crew.  Some small partial debris of the aircraft were recovered later also floating on the surface.   The search for the missing crew was called off two days later.

     The deceased crewmen were identified as:

     The pilot, Major Thomas M. Mullen, 35.  Major Mullen died just 11 days short of his 36th birthday.   

     The Navigator, Captain Gary A. Davis, 32. 

     Both men were assigned to the 380th Bomb Wing at Plattsburgh AFB.

     The FB-111 was a strategic bomber, and it was initially reported that the aircraft involved in this accident was unarmed, but it was later reported that it was carrying a “training missile” which was equipped with an explosive warhead.  On September 4, 1981, the missile was recovered by navy divers.      


     Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Unarmed Bomber Crashes Off Maine”, October 7, 1980, page 16

     Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Crew Of Downed Plane Presumed Dead”, October 8, 1980, page 33

     Providence Sunday Journal, “Navy Divers Find Missing Missile, Resubmerge It For Safety Concerns”, September 6, 1981, page A-7

Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲