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Black Panther does Voodoo

Black Panther does Voodoo

Postby BlackPanther » Thu May 13, 2021 6:11 pm

Date walked: 27/04/2021

Time taken: 4.5 hours

Distance: 8.3 km

Ascent: 583m

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I'm aware that the title might attract a few fans of black magic and paranormal activities. If you stumbled upon this trip report looking for a supernatural anecdote, then I'm sorry to disappoint you. No doll stabbing here. The Voodoo in question was a jet fighter, specifically a McDonnell F-101C Voodoo 56-0013 of 78th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, US Air Force. On 7th of May 1964 this plane met its fate on the steep slopes of Maol Odhar near Strontian, resulting in the death of the pilot and a total destruction of the aircraft.

As this accident was more recent than most of my previous PAIs (Panther's Aircraft Investigations :wink: ) I expected to find detailed info about the circumstances of the crash. Surprisingly, there isn't as much online as one might expect. The list of all sources has been added at the bottom end of this report.

The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo supersonic jets were produced by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation and used by the United States Air Force (USAF) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The first version, F101A, flew its maiden flight on 29 September 1954. Voodoo's maximum speed was 1,134 mph (1,825 km/h) at 35,000 ft(11,000 m). Different versions of this plane were used until 1979, but very few of them actually saw combat. The model in question, F-101C was eventually replaced by the F-4C Phantom II. In the 1960ties, Voodoos were stationed in the UK and used mostly for training operations.
The circumstances of this particular crash are not entirely clear. It happened on the 7th of May 1964, during a training flight from RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk. The F-101C 56-0013 was flying in formation with two other Voodoos. At the height of 28,000ft (or 23,000ft according to another source) the jet in question suddenly exploded in mid-air. There was no warning, apparently. The pilot, Captain Morris Haughton Reed, had no chance to react and eject from the aircraft.
Because the crash happened over such a remote area, the search, conducted by the USAF, RAF and mountain rescue teams, took 10 days to locate the wreckage. helicopters, Hercules planes and ground search teams were used. According to one of the sources, the weather for most of that period was not cooperative so no wonder the search dragged on for such a long time.
It is interesting that the plane had flown into Meall Odhair not far below its summit, this lead to speculations that the Voodoo formation was actually flying much lower than the official statement said, but I'm not the one to judge. Another intriguing detail about this crash was the press speculation that live ammunition or nuclear warheads had exploded causing the accident but of course this was never confirmed.

I first became aware of the lost Voodoo when browsing "Aircraft Wrecks: The Walker’s Guide" and it soon became my obsession. Not only because it was a rare case of a fighter jet crash, but also because due to the remoteness of the accident site, substantial amount of wreckage is still lying around today. I soon convinced Kevin to pay this site a visit, but there was always something more important to do first :roll: Last year, when we climbed Garbh Bheinn, I photographed the corrie where the plane crashed (it is situated just across the glen from the Garbh Bheinn ridge) and noticed a brand new hydro track which would make the access much easier.
2020-08-15 garbh bheinn ardgour 362.JPG
Coire nam Frithallt seen from Garbh Bheinn. The arrow indicates the crash site, just below the summit of Meall Odhar (1) which is the subsidiary top of Corbett Creach Bheinn (2).

Tuesday, the 27th of April was a blowy yet dry day. Too windy to venture onto mountain ridges but decent enough to spend a few hours exploring a corrie. We got up early and drove south-west to Ardgour (or Kingairloch to be precise) to visit our second crash site this year.
The corrie is indeed much more accessible these days as the hydro track starts in Glen Tarbert and goes up to a small dam at 250m. The rest of the walk was pathless but not drastically steep or boggy, just a typical Scottish mountain slope :lol: On a better day it would be possible to climb out of the corrie and visit Meall Odhar or even Creach Bheinn, but we had to abandon our hopes as the gusts of wind were far too strong.

Track_VOODOO 8.3KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

There are several laybys and off-road parking areas along A861 in Glen Tarbert. The morning was cold and blowy enough justify wearing several layers of warm clothing. And the sky above looked... hmmm.. apocalyptic!
2021-04-27 voodoo 002.JPG

A short walk along the road took us to the start of the hydro track leading into the depth of the corrie:
2021-04-27 voodoo 003.JPG

Garbh Bheinn, "the mad peak of Ardgour" seen from the entrance to Coire nam Frithallt:
2021-04-27 voodoo 011.JPG

Looking into the upper reaches of the corrie from the hydro dam, where the easy walking ends:
2021-04-27 voodoo 015.JPG

We noticed a fence marked on the map, blocking the access to the upper corrie, but on close inspection we found a gate (or what was left of it):
2021-04-27 voodoo 021.JPG

The going gets steeper higher up, but the slopes are mostly grassy with scattered rocks, easy going, best to follow a small stream:
2021-04-27 voodoo 025.JPG

It was in this small burn we walked along, we spotted the first sign of the crash site: a single piece of metal:
2021-04-27 voodoo 220.JPG

W found ourselves in a flatter area below the crags, sort of a "hanging corrie" and here, our proper investigation began. Almost immediately, I stumbled upon a large piece: the combustion stage of one the jet engines:
2021-04-27 voodoo 039.JPG

Small pieces of fuselage and the "internal organs" of the doomed aircraft are scattered everywhere. Since we don't have any technical knowledge about jet fighters, we could only guess what we were looking at. Some parts we managed to identify later, comparing our photos with those on other blogs, in particular the Peak District Air Accident Research site.
2021-04-27 voodoo 235.JPG

I understand that the fuselage was mostly painted in yellow:
2021-04-27 voodoo 240.JPG

More wreckage is scattered higher up on the steeper sections of the corrie and we spent quite a lot of time going up and down, trying to locate and photograph as much as possible. The corrie protected us from the gusty winds... up to certain height.
2021-04-27 voodoo 046.JPG

The tail cone which once contained the plane's brake parachute:
2021-04-27 voodoo 251.JPG

The next two pictures show the base of the rudder from the aircraft tail, one of the white stars once painted on the structure still visible:
2021-04-27 voodoo 053.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 253.JPG

One of many pieces of the jet engines. Indeed, this crash site is mostly about engine parts, badly mangled and fragmented. Even for a complete technical ignorant like me, it was obvious there must have been a serious explosion to cause so much damage:
2021-04-27 voodoo 066.JPG

This small part of the fuselage still shows signs of the black paint on it. We located it on the steep slopes just below the rocky cliffs to the right hand side of the corrie:
2021-04-27 voodoo 080.JPG

When I was trying to photograph small bits and pieces stuck in the scree, Kevin spotted an interesting part he said could be a wing tip (?):
2021-04-27 voodoo 282.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 059.JPG

A few small pieces I managed to locate in the scree:
2021-04-27 voodoo 274.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 077.JPG

Thee was more of course but I'm trying to keep this TR sensible!!! We took nearly 400 photos that day and it was hard to pick the best ones.
Kevin admiring the cliffs of Coire nam Frithall:
2021-04-27 voodoo 276.JPG

More mangled engine parts:
2021-04-27 voodoo 098.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 288.JPG

Kevin found a battered tyre! Surprisingly, we couldn't find much of the plane undercarriage. Maybe it was taken away after the crash? In many of our previous crash site visits, we found parts of the undercarriage, which is one of the easiest parts to identify even for laymen.
2021-04-27 voodoo 297.JPG

A few more pieces we found in the flatter area of the corrie:
2021-04-27 voodoo 292.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 304.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 305.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 309.JPG

A shaft and bearings, maybe from the undercarriage?
2021-04-27 voodoo 202.JPG

These pieces came from one of the wings, the red part is a fragment of one of the flaps:
2021-04-27 voodoo 316.JPG

The centre of the turbine blades from the engine:
2021-04-27 voodoo 122.JPG

The crushed jet pipe from one of the engines:
2021-04-27 voodoo 333.JPG

One more engine ring:
2021-04-27 voodoo 174.JPG

More engine remains...
2021-04-27 voodoo 332.JPG

At last something not from the engines! A part of the tail unit from just below the tailplanes:
2021-04-27 voodoo 339.JPG

This part is quite interesting. It was photographed by the authors of "Aircraft Wrecks: The Walker’s Guide" and placed in the book. It is a part of a panel from just behind the cockpit. Letters "AIR" on the opposite side of it were a part of the name "US AIR FORCE" painted on the side of the aircraft. When we found it, it was lying on the wrong side so we couldn't see the painted "AIR" and we didn't want to break our rule "never move anything". I'm aware that these pieces are occasionally moved by wind, snow, water or irresponsible people, but a rule is a rule.
2021-04-27 voodoo 323.JPG

Another interesting fragment we found to the right of the painted panel. This is a part of the rear fuselage, from just behind the afterburners. On close inspection, the effects of the heat are clearly visible:
2021-04-27 voodoo 327.JPG

Close up:
2021-04-27 voodoo 127.JPG
Last edited by BlackPanther on Thu May 13, 2021 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Mountain Walker
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Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

Re: Black Panther does Voodoo

Postby BlackPanther » Thu May 13, 2021 6:29 pm

More small pieces of wreckage, found all over the corrie:
2021-04-27 voodoo 373.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 196.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 299.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 159.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 185.JPG

2021-04-27 voodoo 188.JPG

It is possible to climb out of Coire nam Frithallt and had weather been better we'd have been tempted, but today the wind was gusting 40mph so we decided to give the summit a miss. Our main target was the crash site anyway and that didn't disappoint us! We will certainly come back to this area, we are seriously tempted by the Glengalmadale Horseshoe which includes Creach Bheinn and Fuar Bheinn as well as the nearby Graham, Beinn na Cille.
Some small parts of the Voodoo "overshot" the edge of the cliffs and came to rest on the flat grassy plateau on the main ridge, where they have been collected into a pile. We will certainly find and photograph these pieces when we get around to doing the Glengalmadale Horseshoe - hopefully this year!
One last look at the site of the crash:
2021-04-27 voodoo 376.JPG

We retraced our steps down the corrie and back to the hydro dam:
2021-04-27 voodoo 219.JPG

I know that our amateur aircraft investigations might not be to every hillwalkers taste, but for us, it adds a new objective to our excursions. Something extra to make the trip more interesting. But of course, our main focus are the hills themselves. So in my next TR I'll be back to Corbett bagging. Not a huge mountain, but a new one. TR in progress.

List of sources:
Last edited by BlackPanther on Thu May 13, 2021 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Mountain Walker
Posts: 3611
Munros:260   Corbetts:169
Sub 2000:55   
Joined: Nov 2, 2010
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

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