When a B-47 Bomber flew under the Mackinac Bridge

On April 24th, 1959; U.S. Air Force Captain John S. Lappo, a WW2,  Korean War and Vietnam Veteran was flying a USAF RB-47E 6-engine bomber aircraft, along with his five-man crew as they were returning to Lockbourne Air Force base near Columbus, Ohio. 
As the Mackinac Bridge came into view, Capt Lappo succumbed to a temptation that has flashed through the mind of almost every pilot since the birth of powered flight... called to his crew "I'm taking her under" and pushed the nose of the massive 230,000-pound Strategic Air Command nuclear bomber forward, towards the waters of Lake Michigan and directly at "Mighty Mac" at a speed of over 400 miles per hour.  The RB-47 Stratojet screaming just over the whitecaps of the lake, streaked cleanly through the 150-foot clearance underneath the Mackinack Bridge, then pulling her nose up allowing her to climb like a homesick angel.

(Photoshop image for story reference only)
Unfortunately, not all crew members aboard were pleased with the Captain's decision, namely a new navigator who at the time was not known to be the General's son...a fact that would have some implications after the somewhat historical flight.  That flight was the last flight for Captain Lappo.  
Shortly after he pleaded guilty to violating the Air Force regulation that prohibited flying an aircraft less than 500 feet above the ground or water. Capt. Lappo was put on suspended pay for six months, as well as receiving a formal reprimand, Captain Lappo was forced to surrender his wings.

Caps. John S. Lappo remained in the air force, as an aircraft maintenance officer, and after thirty years of service, he retired with honors as a lieutenant colonel.

Tolls for the bridge vary. $2.00 per axle for passenger vehicles ($4.00 per car). $5.00 per axle for motor homes, and commercial vehicles. There is no mention of the toll for six engined Strategic Bombers.




  • George Schryer

    In 59 how could he be a Viet. Nam Vet?

  • W Moore

    Nobody said anything to Yeager when he did it in Charleston, WV and bragged about it.

  • Wayne

    Soooo… the navigator turned out to be a true Blue Falcon…

  • Doug Morse

    Interesting story, too bad the numerous wordsmith issues made it painful to read.

  • Peter J VErgados

    Name of the Navigator PLEASE

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