Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft

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The Real Story of ARIA 328

    I opened my email 20 years ago to find a message waiting for me from a distant relative of a crewmember of ARIA 61-0328. Quickly scanning the body of the email, the following words stood out to me; "Is that true?" My initial response to this email was asking the question of what exactly they had heard, and upon receipt of the response, I returned the answer "yes."

    What is my part in this story? I was what was affectionately known as a P-MEE, prime mission electronic equipment operator. I operated the 83-inch parabolic antenna enclosed by the 10-foot radome mounted to the nose of the Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft.

    On May 6, 1981, tasked with the job of delivering a CRU-60 oxygen regulator, I drove to ARIA 61-0328, sitting on the tarmac engines running. It seems that one of the crewmembers was missing this critical device used in an aircraft emergency.

    At 10:05, eastern daylight time, ARIA 61-0328, radio call sign AGAR 23, took off from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on a training mission. Forty minutes later, the aircraft disintegrated midair then crashed in a farmer's field in Walkersville, Maryland.

    It has been almost 40 years since that day, and I can still hear the movement of the aluminum ladder in the crew entry entrance as I ascended into the aircraft — the noise of the latch as I lifted the floor grate into the open position. The 400-cycle "hum" of the aircraft's equipment still rings in my ears. The faces of the crewmembers I saw as I proceded to the back of the plane to deliver the regulator etched in my mind forever — sadness in my heart that has plagued my being.

    Truth. A definition of truth is "the idea that is true or accepted as true." You cannot always trust what masquerades as truth.

    It has been a difficult decision to decide to place all of the information I have received with my research about this event online, even after thinking about it for forty years. My intent is not to hurt but to achieve truth. I have unconditional respect for those that died and their families.

I have no timeline for the completion of this article.

Randy L. Losey