The FB-111 Supersonic Medical Transport

Valentines day is usually for matters of the heart, but on February 14th 1986...sending someone a valentines day gift took on an entirely new meaning.  

A 46 year old man named Richard Reinhardt of Pine Plains, N.Y was in dire need of a heart transplant. and on this particular day, the greatest news was received. A heart had come available in Oklahoma, and Richard was named a potential recipient. That was until the folks at Hartford Hospital realized that a chartered private jet would take too long to cover the required distance. A heart can only remain viable for a period of 3 1/2 hours before a transplant operation must be completed. If Richard was to have any hope to live, someone would have to do some fast thinking.

Well, that day, the impossible happened when someone reached out to the US Air Force for help. Some fast thinking folks in the Air Force started the massive gears in motion, and a communication was fired off to 509th Bombardment Wing Strategic Air Command Facility at Pease AFB in New Hampshire.  
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The unlikely answer came in the form of two Fb-111 supersonic strategic nuclear weapons capable multirole combat fighter jets, that on a normal day, would be on ready alert, or on a low level deep penetration training mission.
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The General Dynamics FB-111 with her incredible swing wing design, and two engines capable of over 50 thousand pounds of thrust with afterburners, allowing her to climb at 26,000 feet per minute, and reach speeds of over two and a half times the speed of sound(1,650 miles per hour) was the answer to anyones problems requiring an instrument of high velocity. 
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 Two FB-111’s slated for a training flight to Norfolk, were now reassigned, and re designated as the worlds fastest medevac service, and their new mission was to head to Oklahoma.
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As a safety measure, the Air Force assigned the second FB-111 as an emergency back up incase the lead aircraft suffered a mechanical and could not complete the journey.  
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The flight of two supersonic fighter bombers scrambled, climbing for higher as the afterburners light up the sky, wings sweeping aft, accelerating faster than sound itself,  westbound on their unique mission of hope. In Oklahoma the medical transplant team hurriedly prepared for arrival of the strategic supersonic bombers at Tinker Air Force base.
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When the heart reached the air Force Base in the middle of the night, the two FB-111's were standing by. Strategic Air Command, and Tactical Air Command crews are well accustomed to standing on alert status in a mole hole, adjacent to an Alert Ramp until the klaxon sounded, ready to leap at any given second into their fully fuelled and armed aircraft and launch skyward. Scramble Alerts, and Minimum Interval Take Offs, these crews were no stranger to moving fast, but today, they had to move faster. The heart was loaded, and the two FB-111s launched back towards the East coast. The time was 3am.
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Racing against the clock, a friendly KC-135 tanker aircraft from the 509th Bombardment Wing, Medium was there to greet the thirsty fighter bombers high over the mid west. Screaming across the ground at over 700kts, the F-111’s were quickly burning through their fuel loads, and as it is said..."Nobody Kicks A** Without Tanker Gas".
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Forming up with a fellow aircraft from their home base in New Hampshire, the two jets topped off their fuel tanks, and broke away from the tanker plane. Once again pushing their throttles forward, lighting up their afterburners, and accelerating eastbound with their lifesaving payload.  
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The two fighter bombers arrived at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks at 0500 (5 a.m.), reported Lt. Steve Solmonson, a public affairs officer at Pease AFB. Once the two aircraft rolled to a stop, the heart was quickly transferred into an awaiting ambulance that immediately set off for Hartford Hospital.

The mission, and the operation were a complete success with transplant recipient Richard Reinhardt of Pine Plains, N.Y., ″doing well″ following his life-saving surgery at Hartford Hospital. and as the engines on the air force jets cooled in the morning air, the crews quietly celebrated another successful mission.  Whether standing by incase someone needed to install Warsaw Pact central heating in 30 min or less, or racing a human heart across the country faster than the speed of a rifle bullet, the crew succeeded in what they were trained to do...payload delivered on time, and on target.
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6 comments


  • Steve Huntley

    Really great.


  • Philippe Colin

    This story was published on FB-111.net many years ago and originally written by MSgt Edward Jackson was the Instructor Boom Operator during this mission. Other crew member of the KC-135A were Lt Col. Brent Chapman (pilot), Capt. Leone Atsalis (co-pilot), 2Lt Steven Tucker (nav), and Amn Daniel Wells (boomer). KC-135A s/n was 62-3509 "Spirit of the Seacoast ". Second FB-111A was crewed by Lt Col Peter Greenwalt (pilot) and Capt. Charles Sherlin (nav). The FB-111s and KC-135 crew all received the Air Force Achievment Medal for their accomplishment during this life-saving mission.


  • Richard Sugden MD

    When I was the flight surgeon at NATC Patuxent River and TPS, back in the early 70’s we had a similar event. Young son of one of the staff had a catastrophic illness and was pronounced brain dead. Flew an H-3 helo to the Bethesda Naval Hospital and picked up his kidneys and delivered them to two Flight Test Division F-4’s at run up… which immediately took off for distant hospitals… Both recipients survived in good health. Very rewarding for all!


  • CJ Johnson

    As a member of Det12 1CEVG the FB-111 was one of my favorite AC to Bombscore besides the B1-B which was a toddler at the time, and a damned great one! Thanks for endearing the FB-111 for me. Lover of B-52s, F4s, SR71s and most things that fly FAST! Love your gear. My office is filling up fast!


  • Jacques Brunelle

    I’d buy that sticker in a heartbeat! ♥️


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