Accident North American A3J-1 Vigilante 147851, Wednesday 11 January 1961
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Date:Wednesday 11 January 1961
Type:Silhouette image of generic vigi model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
North American A3J-1 Vigilante
Owner/operator:United States Navy (USN)
Registration: 147851
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Runway 24 at NAS Patuxent River, MD -   United States of America
Phase: Landing
Departure airport:NHK
Destination airport:NHK
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Crashed due to flap trouble. Pilot Marine Maj George A. Bacas (34) and Navy Lt William A. Fitzpatrick (34).

Fatal landing accident due to mechanical malfunction.
This was the first Vigilante flight for Major Bacas, who was in the front seat at the controls.
45 minutes into his check ride Major Bacas radioed that the flap actuator handle broke off below the level of the console when he was attempting to select the SUPERSONIC position. Droops (leading edge flaps) were therefore stuck at the 5 degree CRUISE position. The pilot attempted to replace the handle but it then became wedged in the slot.
Flaps were blown to 50 degrees by the Emergency System. The crew burned down fuel and investigated slow flight characteristics with gear down before setting up to land. They experienced a “pretty good buffet” at 175 knots. While landing on Runway 24, at 155 knots, they hit hard and fast on the right MLG. The Vigilante porpoised and became airborne, then fell off to the right and impacted an embankment. The aircraft cartwheeled, broke apart, and burned. Normal landing speed at their weight was 107 knots.
Emergency chain arresting gear had been rigged for them but was not engaged. Fire trucks had already been positioned and took an hour to put the fires out. Neither pilot attempted ejection and they were thrown out of the aircraft in their seats.
Major Bacas was killed immediately. Lt Fitzpatrick was removed from the crash area to hospital at 1542 but succumbed at 1825.
The flap handle shaft broke at the base where it tapered into the switch assembly due to a fatigue crack “started at a surface discontinuity”. The Navy ordered that the handle be redesigned “to provide increased ultimate and fatigue strength”.
This aircraft is designated as a YA3J-1 in the accident report. It was delivered on 23 September 1960. It had a total of 99.8 flight hours.
Pilot Major George Augustus Bacas USMC (1947 US Naval Academy) in front seat.
Lt. William Aeden Fitzpatrick USN (Instructor Pilot and Project Pilot) in back seat.

Evening Independent 12 January 1961, pB2
US Navy accident report


Revision history:

14-Jan-2022 19:09 TB Updated [Time, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Phase, Source, Narrative]
23-May-2024 11:46 ChrisB Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative, Photo]

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