ARIA

Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft

Worldwide Support of Space and Earth Programs for 35 Years

ARIA 328 Remembered
May 6, 1981

    At the headquarters of the 4950th Test Wing, and throughout every corner of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the atmosphere was quiet and solemn that memorable day, Wednesday May 6, 1981. It was the day that ARIA 328 with 21 persons aboard had crashed. In remembrance, 21 trees form a living tribute to the loved ones lost.

    A C-135, its landing lights sparkling, exhaust trailing from its four engines, roared low over the missile display. Three A-7 aircraft in "missing man" formation followed the C-135. The half-staff American flag and the crowd clustered on the concrete pavement in front of the Air Force Museum. Air Force personnel, civilian employees, family members and friends sobbed, embraced and wiped their eyes.

    For the service inside, the 500-seat museum auditorium was crowded to the walls with an estimated 1,500 other persons gathered in the lobby and exhibit areas listening to the proceedings.

    Lieutenant General Lawrence A. Skantze, telling of his grief, said he regarded the two wives, along on the mission under the HAVE PARTNER program, as part of the crew. "Our ability to perform properly is entirely entwined with the families and particularly the wives, I feel helpless that I can't reach out and alleviate your suffering, sorrow and loss."

    Colonel Donald T. Ward struggled for words to explain how some 1,800 members of the Test Wing could be so close they could all be a family, and that the sense of comradeship and sharing that exists throughout the Test Wing helped us through this loss. He concluded by reciting his favorite hymn:
There is a God; he is alive.
In him we live, and we survive.

    Now that the seasons have passed, we all continue to remember that fateful day in our respective ways. One thing is constant; this memorial garden and museum dedication shall endure the test of time. Our children's children will learn of the joy ARIA brought to each of us that served and memories of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for the mission they so enjoyed. We all shall continue to migrate to this place spiritually, if not in person, every May 6th to quietly reflect and remember our fallen comrades and ARIA.