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.

Unfortunately, not all crew members aboard were pleased with the Captains decision, namely a new navigator who at the time was not known to be the Generals 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.




  • Brian

    I’m from Col. Laptop’s hometown and it is STILL talked about here. The crew of five was coming back from deployment, and talked about the bridge that had just been completed. Someone suggested they fly under it. So a vote was taken, 4 days and one nay. The nay vote was by a 2nd lt (the son of a general) who ended up squealing. As a side note, nobody wanted to fly with him after that. Anyway, in a interview shortly before his death in ’89, Col LAPPO said it was not worth it.

  • Kenneth Olson

    He became a Vietnam veteran after this flight, of course. This flight definitely happened. https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/05/13/explained-air-force-pilot-bomber-mackinac-bridge/1189683001/

  • Daniel Lawson

    That’s my great great aunts brother

  • Darel of WCMU

    We interviewed the pilot in our TV studio for an “Editors Notepad” program many years ago. Its not sketchy, he did it.

  • LLoyd

    This sounds a little sketchy to me. I think it’s all BS

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