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William Richardson Delta Dart Crash

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William Richardson was born in Mississippi on this date in 1930 to Robert and Beulah Richardson. After high school and college, William joined the Air Force and became a fighter pilot stationed at the Minot Air Base flying the F-106 Fighter or Delta Dart as it was commonly called.

The Minot air base was home to the 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, nicknamed the Spittin Kittens. The Spittin Kittens’ job, in the event of attack from Soviet Russia, was to intercept enemy incursions from the north, namely the Soviet Tupolev Tu-95, a long range nuclear-carrying bomber.

On December 19, 1963, Captain Richardson was number four in a group of six fighters that took off from the Minot air base to practice interceptions under control of the Great Falls Air Defense Direction Center, code name, “Sidewalk.” They took off at 9: 14 AM, and Richardson was the leader of the second group of three that were briefed to split up and use each other as targets.

Richardson and the other two planes were flying at 24 thousand feet, southwest of Bismarck when Richardson’s plane made an abrupt breakaway from the other aircraft. Sidewalk tried repeatedly to contact Richardson, with no response. Radar contact with Richardson’s plane was lost at 10:18 AM. It had crashed in a frozen field between Flasher and Raleigh. William Richardson died in the crash. He was 33 years old.

Although it was never determined why the aircraft crashed, Richardson’s death was directly attributed to the failure of the ejector seat, meaning Richardson wasn’t able to parachute from his stricken aircraft. The incident resulted in the entire squadron being grounded, and a nose-to-tail maintenance evaluation of each aircraft was carried out. The ultimate outcome was the installation of a new ejection seat that used a rocket catapult instead of a ballistic charge. The new system became standard for the F-106, and it saved many pilots in the following years.

When a new dormitory was built at the Minot Air Base, it was named Richardson Hall to honor his sacrifice. In 2005, William’s widow, Joan Richardson Singleton, and her two daughters, who were very young when their dad died, unveiled a plaque at Richardson Hall in memory of their husband and father.

Dakota Datebook by Scott Nelson

A note from the author: I was at the crash site soon after it happened with my parents. I was only a couple months old so have no memory of it, but I still have a small piece of the plane that my dad picked up before the area was cordoned off.

Bismarck Tribune article, Pilot Remembered at Minot, Aug. 13, 2005

Minot Daily News article, Delta Dart Down, Oct. 8, 2016

Book – Worlds Fastest Single Engine Jet Aircraft, The story of Convair’s F-106 Delta Dart interceptor by Doug Barbier

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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