OMAHA, Nebraska — One of two survivors of a bomber crash that claimed seven people in the unforgiving wilderness of Maine has died more than 50 years later.
Retired Col. Dante “Dan” Bulli went on to continue flying the strategic B-52 bombers during the height of the Cold War after a long recovery from his injuries following the crash. He was 94 when he died Dec. 30 in Omaha, Nebraska, his son, John, said.
Bulli was at the controls Jan. 24, 1963, when the vertical tail broke off in turbulence over Maine after the B-52 departed Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts during a simulated low-level bombing run. The bomber crashed into Elephant Mountain in western Maine.
Seven people died. Bulli and the only other survivor, Gerald Adler, spent 20 hours in the bitter cold before being rescued.
John Bulli said he remembers asking his father if he’d fly again.
“He laughed out loud. He said, ‘No I’m not worried about flying again,” John Bulli said.
It turns out that the pilot had been in two earlier mishaps in World War II — a midair collision in a B-26 Marauder and a crash landing B-24 Liberator — and felt the odds were in his favor to finish his Air Force career without further harm.
He was correct.
The crash in Maine and another one days later in New Mexico revealed a fatal weakness in a jet that wasn’t designed for low-level flying: The vertical tail snapped off under certain conditions. Improvements were made and the jets remain in service today.