RF-104G D-8103 wreckovery

Only once in my aircraft spotting years I explored a crash site. It was in 1983, in a cow pasture near Deursen, where RF-104G with serial number D-8103 crashed after a mid-air collision. I was quite lucky that I could consult an uncle that was a J79 mechanic, and a family friend that that was a hangar chief and knew the 104 inside out. They were able to identify many parts for me. After reading the adventures of Pete Merlin and many others, I decided to show my stash too. So, 35 years later I emptied my old Adidas shoebox to photograph the contents.

The crash

The accident happened on 11 October 1983, a Tuesday. Two RF-104Gs of 306 squadron were returning to Volkel in cloudy weather. D-8145, piloted by Joost Steenbergen (age 31), lost sight of D-8103, piloted by Frans van Giersbergen (age 24). D-8145 flew against D-8103, ripping open the top fuselage with his empty wing pylon (now on display in the Traditiekamer at Volkel). D-8103 caught fire, and Van Giersbergen ejected at 18,000 ft. The parachute descent took 15 minutes, timed with his stopwatch. Interestingly the aircraft crashed at ~750 meters from Steenbergen's home. D-8145 landed safely at Volkel.


We went to the crash site three days after the crash, on the afternoon of Friday the 14th. Unfortunately I do not remember the exact location of the crash site. It is described as a 'few hundred meters away from the village of Deursen'. I remember we drove there in a Mini containing four people, but it still was able to take turns squarely :-) The air force was just packing up, and a lowbed trailer with parts was about to leave. Someone ripped a piece of film from the trailer, and shared it with us.

I remember that we 'investigated' three different craters: one with cockpit parts, one that smelled heavily like kerosene, and one that contained engine parts. I concluded the aircraft's fuselage broke in the three parts: front, center and rear. I would guess there was another main impact point, but I did not see it.

An interesting side note was that my geography teacher came to me a couple of weeks later, telling me he had found the ejection seat in a ditch behind his farm. Initially he thought he saw a rat trap, but it was a largely submersed ejection seat. It must have sailed over the roof of his house. Unfortunately I do not remember where he lived, it was probably quite a distance away from the crash site.

Front fuselage parts

These heavy acrylic or polycarbonate parts are most likely from the side windows of the windshield.  
  These pieces are 'real glass' and are most likely from the center window of the windshield.
The most mysterious part of my booty is this extremely heavy block of metal. Density is around 17. After a while I started thinking it might be radioactive, so I checked it in physics class with a Geiger counter. Later, at university, I put it in a scanning electron microscope, that indentified the material as tungsten, and the structure strongly suggested it was sintered. Since no-one from the air force recognised it, I guess it was used in the ALQ-126 ECM system. It was reported that its containers were extremely heavy.  
  A piece of front fuselage skin showing two of the camouflage colors. D-8103, together with D-8013, were unique in having a silvery lower side instead of a RAL 7001 underside. So this is a pretty interesting piece of camouflage history. While looking for photos of D-8103, I noted that many photos don't show this silvery color at all, it looks like a regular RAL 7001. Yet I remember vividly that when we saw 104's taxying out at Volkel, you could spot the silvery bellies of D-8013 and D-8103 from a distance.
The other side shows part of the serial number in black. It's quite amazing how a ten-tonne aircraft can be ripped in such small pieces..  
  A cockpit light.
The yellow & black striping suggests this is some kind of cockpit part with warning stripes.  

Center fuselage parts

This was a retaining chain of the main refuelling cap, on the left side of the fuselage, near the inlet.  

General airframe parts

Skin pieces, showing two camouflage colors. The parts on the left are chromate yellow on the back, the parts on the right surprisingly are bare alumnium on the rear side. The front piece show the bare back side.  
  Various aluminium pieces, in zinc-chromate yellow, mostly 1 mm thick.
Various aluminium pieces, that appear to be forgings. Considering that the front piece shows RAL 7012 camouflage paint, maybe its one of the fuselage frames? It is ~5 mm think. The largest part is ~7 mm thick. I find it amazing that these very strong parts were cut in such small fragments.  
  A piece of 1.6 mm sheet metal with some wiring attached with a clip.
More sheet metal parts.  
  A fairly substantial piece, looks like it's sealed for a pressurised area (i.e. cockpit). Alternatively it's from one of the fuel tanks.
These foam bits have the same consistency as the small remains of foam on the above part.  
  Quick release fasteners. One (but which?) is from the electronic compartment, according to my notes from 1983. Maybe it's the rear left one, that shows black paint, so it could be 'under' the large serial number on the front fuselage.
Clearly there was fire after the crash, causing some aluminium to melt and form this blob.  
  A machined part that might not be Lockheed-designed - it looks more modern. Maybe it's part of the Orpheus recce pod.


J79 compressor casing, at least the left side piece was identified as such. The right piece has similar density and fracture surfaces. The RNLAF took back all J79s given to schools, because of radioactive materials - I seem to remember it was the compressor casing that was the problem. I read online that it contains thorium (Th 230 and Th 232). I also found: I have checked my good old J-79 maintenance manuals and none include warnings or cautions regarding radioactive contamination hazards of any kind. But these manuals were probably from a time where awareness was pretty low.  
  Compressor stator blade, approximately 11th stage.
Compressor rotor blade, approximately 13th stage, according to my uncle who was a J79 engine mechanic.  
  J79 bearing seal, 1st or 3rd, according to my old notes.
A nylon spiral wrap for wiring, apparently from the engine or engine area.  
  A seal from the engine bay.

Various parts

A piece of hydraulic line.  
  Heavy electric wire. Wire diameter 0.6 mm, plastic diameter is 1.2 mm, 2.9 mm insulation. But some dimension is wrong here.
A stainless steel bracket, made by Klixon.  
  Bits of wiring.
A nylon tie wrap.  
  Some braided hose.
A steel hose clamp.  
  A big collection of small parts that I cannot identify.
I think these are ceramic parts. I have no idea where they were used.  
  A small piece of painted fabric.
A piece of flexible plastic or maybe rubber.  

Recce system parts

A piece of film, taken from the air force's trailer, and shared among those interested :-)  

Newspaper clippings

Left front fuselage, with parts of the 'D', '8', '0' and '3' clearly visible.  
  The same area from a different angle.
Maybe the center fuselage with the main wheel wells? Or, if I look differently at it, the compressor casing with rows of stators?  
  Maybe a pylon or tip tank? The part at the front looks like a flap but it's far too thick for that.


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