The early history of the 57th Fighter (Interceptor) Squadron, 
the Black Knights of Keflavik (originally the Black Knights of the Aroostook).

By Baldur Sveinsson 

Last updated April 17, 2005 with new photographs from Richard Zajack who was on deployment with VP-56 both in 162 and 1965.

(Note now includes air to air photographs of F-89Cs taken over the Vatnajökull glacier in 1955 by Flight International)


The Black Knight on the fire blackened tailfin of F-89D 54-254. This photo was taken in 1977 where the old firedump used to be.
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson


The Black Knights emblem as it was after the interceptor part had been dropped till disbandment in 1995.

The 57th Pursuit Squadron was established on January 1, 1941 at Hamilton Field, California. Along with the 42nd and 56th squadrons it was a part of the 54th Pursuit Group. It was formed with a cadre from the 35th Pursuit Group, an interesting connection trough time as the 57th was part of the 35th Wing for a time in Iceland. The squadron took part in the 2nd Interceptor Command maneuvers at McChord field, Washington but flew only three times due to bad weather! 

The squadron operated both Bell P-39 Aircobras and Curtiss P-40 Warhawks alongside each other which was rather unusual, and in June 1942 it was sent to Alaska. It was first based at Elmendorf, Anchorage and according to the official records, it would seem that it did not in itself take any part in the action against the Japanese in the Aleutians, but a detachment of eleven of the pilots saw service with the 42nd which was based at Kodiak NAS, Adak and between them got three confirmed victories and two probables. One of the pilots to score was Lt. Gerald R. Johnson who later became one of the high scoring aces of the war! However, according to a letter from Captain Edwin E. Carey, which became commander of the 57th on August 4, 1942, the 57th was moved to Kodiak NAS, Adak and there replaced the 42nd!. All its pilots were rotated to Adak to gain combat experience! 

The assignment of the 57th to Alaska came to end on November 26, 1942 and the P-39s were to be flown to Duncan Field, San Antonio, Texas for overhaul. The move however took two months and in the words of the commander, Edwin F. Carey, which by this time was a Major, "The P-39s couldn't take the cold and were lousy combat aircraft. It took 2 months to get home due to cold. Air coolers busted and no replacements." With the squadron back at Harding Field, Baton Rouge, it was reequipped with the North American P-51A Mustang, thereby (according to Mr. Careys letter) becoming the first P-51 unit in the AAF. On May 12, 1943 the 54th Group with the 57th and 56th squadrons was transferred to Bartow Field, Florida. There it became a replacement training group, training P-51 pilots for overseas duty. It reequipped with P-51Bs at Bartow. The 57th squadron was disbanded on April 30, 1944. 

The 57th was reactivated as an active squadron at Presque Isle, Maine, on March 20, 1953, and designated the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, a name they kept until the interceptor part was dropped in 1992. 

f89c-773-a-256.JPG F-89C-25, Serial 51-5777 as it looked at the 1953 Yuma gunnery meet.  f89c-764-256.JPG F-89C-25, Serial 51-5764 flying over the US. 
Photo Erroll Williams 
  f89c-777-256.JPG F-89C-30, serial 51-5777 over the US. Note the Black Knight insignia on the fin.  Date unknown. Photo: USAF.
f89c-773-a-256.JPG F-89C-25, Serial 51-5773 flying over the US. 
Photo: Erroll Williams
f89c-780-256.JPG F-89C-25, Serial 51-5780 
Photo Shep Shepardson
  f89c-771-256.JPG F-89C-30, serial 51-5771 over the US in 1953 or 54.  Photo: USAF.

It was equipped with Northrop F-89C Scorpion all weather fighters, and assigned to the 528th Air Defense Group. It maintained a 24 hour alert at Presque Isle until moved to Iceland. Its insignia of the Black Knights helmet was approved in April 1954, and thus the Squadron became known as the Black Knights. This insignia remained essentially unchanged till the squadron disbanded on March 2, 1995 

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F-89C-25, Serial 51-5784. Photo: USAF
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F-89C-25, Serial 51-5769 in 1954. Photo USAF
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F-89C-25, Serial 51-5769 in 1954. Photo USAF

Iceland became a member of NATO in 1949, with the provision that neither would Iceland have to establish its own armed forces, nor would foreign forces be based in Iceland in peacetime. However the Cold War and the Korean War changed the Icelandic view, and on May 5, 1951 an agreement was signed by the United States and Iceland according to which the US undertook the defense of Iceland and the surrounding areas on behalf of NATO. The agreement ensures that there is total coordination of the two governments as regards all issues of the defense, and neither side can unilaterally make decisions. The air defense of Iceland was at first, from September 1952, undertaken by an activated National Air Guard Unit, the 192nd Fighter Squadron equipped with F-51D Mustangs. This was in turn after three months, replaced by the 435th Fighter Squadron also flying (probably the same) F-51Ds. Jet fighter aircraft were not based in Iceland until April 1953, when the 82nd FIS came to Keflavik with Lockheed F-94B Starfires, the first radar equipped all weather fighters at Keflavik. The 82nd was in turn replaced by the 57th in October 1954. 

57th to move to Iceland.

When the personnel of the 57th received word that they were moving to Iceland, many became a bit apprehensive. Further a problem of personnel came up in that not all of the members of the squadron could be sent overseas. Also Iceland was considered to be a hardship post, and a stay of only one year for unaccompanied personnel became the rule. During later years, more and more IDF personnel have opted for two year tours accompanied by their spouses. However, the majority of the pilots have chosen to take the one year tour, which has created quite a turnover in pilots. Surprisingly this has never affected the quality of the work done by the squadron. 

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F-89C-25, Serial 51-5820 
Photo: Shep Shepardson
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F-89C-30, serial 51-5769 over Iceland probably  in 1954. Courtesy Larry Davis cllection.
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 F-89C-30, serial 51-5775 probably over Myrar. Date unknown. Photo: USAF.

During the latter part of 1954, the squadron was just beginning to receive new F-89D models. In August the unit recorded 310 hours flying on the F-89D as opposed to 68 on the C model. In September this reversed to 11 hours on Ds and 417 hours on Cs, and in Ocober no F-89Ds hours were reported. The D-models that the squadron had received were transferred to the 318th FIS at the same station. The reequippment with the D models would not start again until the latter part of 1955 and then finish in 1956. The actual move of the aircraft to Iceland was undertaken in two groups. The first group departed Presque Isle on October 20, 1954 and flew via Goose Bay, Labrador and Narsarsuak, Greenland. They arrived without incident and took up alert status immediately after relieving the 82nd. FIS. The Alert Hangar on the west end of the airfield, close to the end of today's runway 11, was not operational until March 1955. 

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F-89C-25, Serial 51-5767 at Keflavik. Date unknown. Photo: USAF

An unknown F-89D in the alert hangar 
at Keflavik. Date unknown. Photo: USAF

F-89C-30, serial 51-5773 at Keflavik. 
Date unknown. Photo: USAF.

Interestingly the 82nd FIS which had been equipped with the F-94B while in Iceland, was reequipped with the F-89D when it returned to Presque Isle. 

The second air echelon started out on November 10, but was delayed for 10 days at Narsarsuak, arriving at Keflavik on November 20. The conditions at Keflavik were harsh to say the least. The airfield is situated on a plateau in the center of the Reykjanes peninsula and is a rather desolate place. The rock is volcanic and at this time the airport consisted of four runways, 12/30, 3049 m (10000 ft), 03/21, 1981 m (6500 ft), 07/25, 2416 m (7900 ft) and 16/34, 1676 m (5500 ft). Only 12/30 was really long enough to give the crews adequate safety margins in gale and slippery conditions. The runways had arresting barriers or nets at the departure end at this time. (Note that the magnetic orientation of the runways has changed now and the current runways in use are 11/29 and 02/20 both 10000 ft. long and both have arresting gear at both ends). Volcanic rock kept blowing onto the taxiways and runways from the shoulders, which are not paved or covered with grass. The low slung engines of the F-89 acted like a vacuum cleaner and this played havoc with engine performance and life. It seems a miracle that the squadron did not have far more accidents than actually happened. (see Accidents and mishaps). 

F-89C air to air photos from the Flight collection.

In January 1955 the squadron had 15 F-89Cs, 3 T-33As and one TB-25K Mitchell at Keflavik. Further 3 F-89Cs were at Presque Isle awaiting delivery and 2 at Hill AFB for IRAN (Inspect and Repair As Necessary. This later became known as Periodic Depot Maintenance or PDM). 

The B-25 was a squadron hack aircraft and no information on it has become available. It is reported with flying hours as follows: 

1954 

July August  September October November  December 
30 60 38  0 0 1

1955

January  February  March  April  May  June 
0 7 27 4 0 0

No further flying hours are mentioned for the TB-25K, but it is known to have been with the squadron at the time FLIGHT magazine visited the squadron in the fall of 1955, just before the reequipment with the F-89D started in November 1955. 

The weather caused severe corrosion problems with the windy salt laden air being the culprit. The squadron was able to overcome this and although having only 20 of the 25 assigned aircraft managed to fly more hours during June 1955 than any of the other 21 F-89 squadrons in the USAF. This does in fact illustrate the magnificent team spirit that seems to have been with the 57th all the time they were in Iceland. Of course it bears notice that during June, there is really no night in Iceland! 

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 F-89D-75, 54-194 after sliding off an ice coated runway on February 6, 1957.  Photo: USAF
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F-89D-75, serial 54-226 in the US waiting for a ferry flight to Keflavik.Note the J type ferry tanks and mats insignia on nose. Photo. David Menard.

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 F-89D-75, serial 54-199 after landing wheels up on April 6, 1956.   Photo: USAF.

F89Ds replace C models

As stated before, the reequipment with F-89Ds started again in November 1955. That month three F-89Cs were flown back to Hill AFB and three D-models brought back. Most months, three F-89Ds were brought in from the States and the move was completed in August 1956. According to squadron records, the first non-stop flight was made from Goose Bay during the latter half of 1957, during ferrying aircraft for IRAN. This was accomplished by replacing the rocket/fuel combination pods with 600 gallon (2273 lit) tanks as on the F-89J. This has caused some observers to believe that the 57th was equipped with J model Scorpions for a while. It never was. 

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 F-89D flightline in front of hangar 885 in 1959.  Photo: USAF
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 F-89D-75, 54-233 flying off the south coast of Iceland. Date unknown.  Photo: USAF

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 F-89D-75, serial 54-248 on the wing of another Scorpion. Time 1959.  Photo: Lt. Col. Anders.

 

According to Gerald Balzer's and Mike Dario's book on the F-89, most of the ferry flights from the U.S. were made non-stop from Goose Bay, using only the extra 600 gallons in the underwing tanks! There was always considerable traffic of F-89s to and from the US with aircraft being ferried to and from IRAN. Further the squadron records indicate that it was at this time standard practice to use the 600 gallon wingtip tanks on these ferry flights. 

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 F-89D-75 54-226 photographed in the US. The Scorpion is carrying the 600 gal. J-type tanks for the ferry flight between Keflavik and the US. 
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 F-89D-75, serial 54-223 and others on the fightline. The Black Knights insignia is visible on the tailfins. Also the paint is very badly chipped. Date unknown. Photo USAF.

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 F-89D-75, serial 54-202 at Keflavik. Note commanders stripe on rear fuselage. Date unknown. Photo USAF.

In addition to this, the 57th took part in the USAF rocket meet at Yuma Arizona in September 1956. The squadron sent eight F-89Ds and two T-Birds (as the T-33As were called). The squadron did not do as well as later in its history, placing seventh out of nine. In 1957, the squadron had some bad times with accidents and incidents, one F-89D making a wheels up landing, two F-89D nosewheels breaking off and landing gear of T-33A 53-5077 retracting during a landing roll, as recounted in the accidents section. 

Also what is probably the first ever ejection from a stationary aircraft was made on April 27, 1957, when the pilot of 54-198 had to eject from the cockpit of his aircraft after it had broken up during one of the aforementioned wheels up landings, and burning fuel was being sprayed into the cockpit. 

During September 1958 seven F-89s were received from the States. Three were obtained from Dow AFB, Maine (ANG) and four were returning from IRAN at Hill AFB. Capt. Howard LaBeau was flight leader for the four from Hill, and flew direct from Goose Bay to Keflavik. The other three did not have the big 600 gal. wingtip tanks and Capt. Fred Armstrong had to lead his flight back via Frobisher Bay and Sondrestrom, Due to bad weather at Keflavik and at the refueling stations, the trip took most of the month. Towards the middle of October four aircraft were readied to go to IRAN to the States. This constituted replacing the standard wingtip rocket tip tanks with 600 gallon tip tanks. 

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 April 27, 1957. See above.  Photo: USAF
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 F-89D-75, 54-235 photographed after a chrash landing n May 24, 1959. Photo USAF

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 F-89D-75, 54-235 photographed after a chrash landing n May 24, 1959. Photo USAF

During December 1958 conditions were very bad at the base due to inadequate snow removal equipment. Glare ice was prevalent on all runways and taxiways, making operation of the aircraft extremely hazardous. Sanding was attempted, but for the most part, high winds blew it of the runways. The "sand" that remained was largely big chunks of lava rock which were easily scooped up by the F-89D air-intakes. One malfunction that was prevalent at this time was cracked afterburners, due to high altitude missions being flown which required excessive use of the burners. Also in November, a problem of deteriorating aircraft wiring, electrical connectors and mounting brackets began to appear. This was handled by more frequent inspections. 

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 F-89D-75, serial 54-241 on March 20, 1957. See Accidents and mishaps at the end.  Photo USAF.

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F-89D-75, 54-199 amongst others photographed on the flightline probably in 1959. Photo Ţórir Magnússon

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 F-89D-75, photographed during an open house at Keflavík.  Photo Ólafur K. Magnússon

At this time the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) was responsible for the running of Keflavik Airport and thus the 57th had the distinction of being the only fighter squadron in the world (at least in the USAF) assigned to a transport command! Therefore it was not out of place when the MATS ORI (Operational Readiness Inspection) team carried out an inspection of the 57th in 1958. The squadron was declared operationally ready and capable of sustaining operation for a prolonged period. The assignment of the unit to MATS also explains the MATS insignia appearing on the nose of some of the aircraft at different times. 

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 F-89D-75, 54-242 photographed at Reykjavík airport during an airshow probably in 1959,  Photographer unknown
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 F-89D-75, 54-242 photographed at Reykjavík airport during an airshow in 1961,  Photographer unknown

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 F-89D-75, 54-242 photographed at Reykjavík airport during an airshow in 1961,  Photographer unknown

In 1960 the F-89Ds were starting to show their age. Some were already being ferried back to MASDC (Military Aircraft Storage and Disposal Center) at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona. In March 1960, 54-202, 208, 227 and 239 were disposed off in this manner. Interestingly enough, the 57th was in 1960 among the top units in the final consideration for receiving the Hughes Trophy Award for 1960. This was a most remarkable achievement for a unit flying aircraft equipped with the oldest fire control system in the whole USAF or ANG inventory! On August 9, 1960, all the F-89s were grounded due to deceleron control cable breakage. The first a/c to be released for flight was returned to the inventory on the 17th, and on the 25th the sqn attained 12 a/c on combat ready strength. The old cables had rusted through, due to high salt and moisture content of the air. The age of the aircraft was also a factor! September 21, 1960. Inspections brought to light further control cable problems. The F-89s were grounded again. First a/c returned to duty on October 7 and in that month the normal(?) combat ready strength of 12 aircraft was once again attained after second replacement of deceleron cables. 

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 F-89D-75, 54-244 along with 54-237 and 54-226 photographed on the flight line at Keflavik during the summer of 1962 by Richard Zajack of VP-56
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The F-89D flightline photographed on the flight line at Keflavik during the summer of 1962 by Richard Zajack of VP-56

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 F-89D-75, 54-233 along with 54-237 and 54-2226 photographed on the flight line at Keflavik during the summer of 1962 by Richard Zajack of VP-56

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F-89D-75, 54-236 photographed at Keflavik during the summer of 1962 by Richard Zajack of VP-56. 236 was later transported to Reykjavik as can be seen below to the right.
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 F-89D-75, 54-236 along with 54-237 and 54-233 photographed on the flight line at Keflavik during the summer of 1962 by Richard Zajack of VP-56

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 F-89D-75, 54-236 photographed at Keflavik during the summer of 1962 by Richard Zajack of VP-56

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F-89D-75, 54-242 photographed at Reykjavík airport during an airshow probably in 1959,  Photographer unknown
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F-89D-75, 54-248 photographed on the Keflavik fire dump in 1965. Photo Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-89D-75, 54-236 photographed at Reykjavík airport on the fire pan in 1963. Photo Baldur Sveinsson

On November 1, 1960, 1st Lt. Laurence G Johnson approached maintenance with the idea of dressing up the interceptor aircraft. This would consist of the squadron insignia being painted on the rudder of each aircraft below the stabilizer and just forward of the center. Maintenance agreed in stating that since the aircraft were given a thorough surface cleaning and repainted during periodic maintenance, the adding of the insignia could easily be done. The insignia was not always displayed on the aircraft. On a line photograph, said to be taken on February 29, 1956, at least 54-223 and 54-204 are wearing the Black Knight. In an April 1956 photo of 54-199 it has no insignia. Also crash photos from 1957, of 54-194, 54-241 and 54-198 show no unit insignia. Crash photos of 54-235 most likely in 1959 shows no unit insignia either. Photographs from 1960 and 1965 show no evidence of the insignia. One photo taken in 1977, of the tail of 54-254 sticking out from a pile of wrecked F-89s still visible on the firedump shows evidence of the Black Knight. The most likely theory is that the F-89Ds wore the Black Knight insignia for a while in 1956 and possibly as a result of Lt. Johnson's suggestion for a while in 1960, but not a lot of photographic evidence exists to support this. The F-89Cs have however been seen to carry the Black Knight most of the time they spent in Iceland. 

The strength of the unit diminished slowly during 1960, at a time when the F-89D had already been replaced by H or J models or newer types like the F-102 in other ADC units. The strength leveled off at 12 aircraft which was maintained until 1962. When the F-89D was finally replaced in Iceland, it is interesting to note that the last ADC squadron, to fly the F-89 in the U.S., the 76th FIS at McCoy AFB had disposed of their last J model in February 1961. The last D models had left active service when the 460th FIS at Portland IAP, traded in their Scorpions for F-102As during the latter part of 1958. At the end of 1961, all F-89D and H models had been replaced even in the ANG. The importance of the air defence of Iceland during this time can not have been very great in the eyes of those responsible for allocating aircraft to USAF squadrons. 

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 F-89D-75, 54-254 photographed on the Keflavik fire dump in 1977. Photo Baldur Sveinsson

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Anonymus F-89D-75, photographed at an open house at NAS Keflavik after serving as a demonstration item for the NAS Keflavik fire department.  Photographer unknown

F-102A replaces F-89Ds

In 1962, the aircraft were decidedly on the edge of the grave. They looked worn out, with the prominent red areas either badly chipped or completely worn off. Furthermore they were very much out of their element in the Cold War. Therefore it was decided to replace them with the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger. This decision may have been taken because the USAF knew what was coming with the increased support of the USSR for Cuba. The last F-89Ds on the station were not ferried back. but stripped of usable items and parked on the Fire Departments training area. There they were visible for a number of years, and even some of the fins were still to be seen with the Black Knight emblem as late as in 1977. 

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 F-102A 56-1378 photographed soon after its arrival, which was on July 5, 1962 along with 56-1350, 1355, 1394, 1419 and Tf-102As, 56-2356 and 2367.  The paintscheme came as a surprise to me, as I had never seen the look of the Delta Daggers as when they first oarrived.
Photo Richard Zajack who was with VP-56 at the time.

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 F-102A  probably 56-1378 photographed soon after its arrival, which was on July 5, 1962.  Photo Richard Zajack who was with VP-56 at the time.

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 TF-102A 56-2367 photographed in during the summer of 1965  
Photo Richard Zajack.
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 TF-102A 56-2367 photographed in June 1965. Photo Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-102A 56-1419 photographed in June 1965  Photo Baldur Sveinsson.

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 F-102A 56-1396 photographed in June
1965  Photo Baldur Sveinsson.

The F-102As arrived between August and October 1962. The strength was established at 12 single seat F-102As and two TF-102A (affectionately called TUBS) two seaters. This strength was maintained until 1973 with most of the aircraft like the two seaters staying for the entire eleven years. Soon after the F-102As took over the alert duty the Russians started their long distance flights from Murmansk down into the North Atlantic. These sorties were of various types. Flights to Cuba, and then Africa; reconnaissance flights down along the east coast of Iceland and the up along the west coast between Iceland and Greenland and then flights where the aircraft went back along the same route they came. Almost all of these flights took the Russians into the Iceland's MADIZ (Military Air Defence Identification Zone). Of course all were unannounced and without any flight plans being filed with Air Traffic Control (ATC). 

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 F-102A 56-1419 photographed in June 1965. Photo Baldur Sveinsson
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 F-102A 56-1396 photographed in June 1965. Photo Baldur Sveinsson

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 TF-102A 56-2356 photographed in June 1965  Photo Baldur Sveinsson.

The indication of approaching aircraft usually came from the Norwegian radar stations which practically look down on the Kola peninsula airfields. Until 1965, the USN had the Barrier Atlantic in operation with Lockheed WV-2 Super Constellation radar pickets. This meant that one aircraft was at all times supposed to be on station east of Iceland, and another to the west. 

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 F-102As 56-1350 and 56-1403 photographed in June 1965.  Photo Baldur Sveinsson.
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 TF-102A 56-2356 photographed landing in 1965. Photo Ţórir Magnússon

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 F-102A 56-1403 photographed after a landing mishap.  Photo USAF

After 1968, when the USAF took over the airborne radar operations, the usual response was to send an EC-121 to the north east, and then to scramble the interceptors to meet the Russians as they came into the MADIZ and escort them all the way until they left it, by whichever way that was. This of course meant that sometimes the interceptors had to be relieved by a new pair to complete the escort. 

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 F-102A 56-1341 photographed in 1965. 
Photo Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-102A 56-1341 photographed in 1965.  
Photo Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-102A 56-1417 photographed with a Bear in 1965. Photo 57th FIS

It is very hard to get an accurate count of the aircraft intercepted. Usually the Russian aircraft came in pairs, so each intercept counted as two aircraft. Then sometimes these aircraft went south, out of the MADIZ, then came back and were intercepted again, and that would count as a separate intercept. Then there does not seem to be any specific rule as to whether a second flight of F-102s to the same pair of Russians was counted as a separate intercept or not. Nevertheless, the 1000th intercept was celebrated on September 15, 1972 when Major George Calkins and Captain Chuck Mordan intercepted a Bear in the MADIZ. To commemorate this and other events, F-102A 56-1378 was placed on a pedestal in front of the AFI offices on October 21, 1972. This aircraft had a cracked wing spar. 

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 F-102A 56-1417 photographed probably in 1968. Photo USAF
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 F-102A 56-1416 photographed in 1967.  
Photo Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-102A 56-1321 photographed in 1967.  
Photo Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-102A 56-1419 photographed between 1966 and 1969.  Photo USAF

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 F-102A 56-1417 photographed probably in 1968. Photo USAF

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 F-102A 56-1378 photographed probably in 1968.  Photo USAF

At later dates, i.e. during the last 15 years or so, there was a consensus on how to count intercepts. 56-1378 met a sad end on the fire dump in 1994. It was in 1984 taken down from its perch and stated as being corroded to the point of presenting danger. No one was interested enough to spend the time or money to do anything about preserving it. It ended up being moved to various places around the airport and then finally in 1992 put on the Fire pan or the Fire Department's exercise area where it finally succumbed in 1994. 

The squadron had a good safety record while flying the F-102. Three aircraft were lost in crashes, one in 1966, one in 1968 and one in 1973. One pilot (in 1968) escaped by ejecting (see accidents and mishaps). The squadron had 58 accident free months from 1968 to 1973. 

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 F-102A 56-1411 photographed probably in 1968.  Photo USAF

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 F-102A 56-1411 photographed probably in 1968. Photo USAF

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 F-102A 56-1418 photographed probably in 1969.  Photo USAF
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 F-102A 56-1102 photographed between 1970 and 1971. Photo USAF

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 F-102A 56-1321 photographed probably in 1968. Photo Haraldur Ţórđarson

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 TF-102A 56-2367 photographed probably in 1970. Photo Haraldur Ţórđarson

The nearest alternate airfields for the F-102As were Lossiemouth and Leuchars in Scotland. The 57th often had to use these facilities and diverted to Scotland when bad weather at Keflavik was likely to make landings there unsafe. The 57th "Deuces" became a frequent sight on these bases. 

On December 18, 1964, Col. Alan G. Long, Commander AFI took four F-102As of the 57th on a cross country to Ramstein, Germany. The flight was made via Prestwick, and the 526 FIS which also was named Black Knights, played host to the 57th for four days. The 57th flew 18 sorties and on December 22, took off for Prestwick, where they were delayed for two days because of bad weather at Keflavik. They returned on December 24. 

During November 1968, the 57th was to receive three 1956 fiscal year T-33As to replace the fiscal 1953 aircraft on hand. One of the incoming a/c was fitted with a DELMAR towing rig for towing targets for rocket firing exercises. Unfortunately all three aircraft were lost attempting to land at Sondrestrom, Greenland during a snowstorm. None of the pilots were seriously injured. In June 1969, three 1958 model T-33As arrived to replace the older aircraft. Two of these were with the unit all the time up to 1985 when the T-33As were returned. 

 All eight following photographs were taken during early 1969 in the wintertime at Keflavik by an Icelandic professional  photographer, Kristján Magnússon, who was working for a weekly magazine at the time. They were taken in bad light conditions with a meager sunlight trying to light up the day. He has graciously granted the permission to use these photograps to help illustrate this story.

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 Lineup with 56-1378 in front. This was later put on a pedestal as a memorial to the 1000th intercept. It had a cracked wingspar.

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 F-102A 56-1097. One of two Deuces that were brought in from the 4780th ADW. they flew for a time with these markings on the tail. The other one was 56-1047.
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 F-102A 56-1416 that is now resident in the USAF Museum att Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio.

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 F-102A 56-1416 that is now resident in the USAF Museum att Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio.

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 F-102A 56-1419 landing
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 F-102A 56-1350 preparing to take off

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 F-102A 56-1350 in the takeoff run

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 TF-102A 56-2356 landing.

In the third quarter of 1970 the 57th had three pilots holding the highest skill rating possible in ADC or Master of Air Defense (MAD) It was very unusual for an ADC squadron to have more than one pilot with this rating. Average F-102 time for pilots in squadron was at this time, 1284 hours on the type. In the winter of 1971-72 the squadron was once again greatly hampered by bad weather and had 26 cut tires due to sand and gravel. They also had problems with drag chutes failing. They were found to get wet on the ground and then freeze at altitude and consequently not work on landing. 

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 F-102A 56-1047 photographed at an Airshow in reykjavík in 1969. Photo: unknown

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 F-102A 56-1109 photographed aprobably in 1970. included for completeness.  
Photo: Haraldur Ţórđarson

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 F-102A 56-1341 and 57-0870 photographed in Keflavik during refuelling. Date unkn. but probably '73. Photo 57th FIS
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 F-102A 56-1350 photographed in Keflavik during refuelling. Date unkn. but probably '73. Photo 57th FIS

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 F-102A 56-1447 photographed in Keflavik during refuelling. Date unkn. but probably '73. Photo 57th FIS

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 A lineup of 12 Daggers photographed in Keflavik during refuelling. Date unkn. but probably '73. Photo 57th FIS

1972 was an eventful year. The 57th sent twelve F-102s to Tyndall AFB in two groups of six, to attend Combat Pike, a live firing exercise. The first group left on June 7, via Sondrestrom, Goose Bay and Griffis AFB, New York. They returned on June 18, and the next group was sent out. A total of 64 sorties were flown with only one ground abort. This marked the first time that any ADC unit had deployed overseas for Combat Pike. The 57th received the ADCs "A" award for excellence. As the A flag was raised, twelve F-102s flew over in perfect vee formation. 

The squadron went to Tyndall for the William Tell competition and arrived there on September 15. On the same day the 1000th intercept occurred as recounted earlier. Further the squadron won to coveted Hughes Trophy for the first time. 

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 F-102A 56-1419 photographed at Tyndall for William Tell in 1972  
Photo: Centurion Enterprises

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 F-102A 56-1319 photographed at Tyndall for William Tell in 1972  
Photo: Centurion Enterprises

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 F-102A 56-1314 photographed in Scotland probably in 1971.  
Photo MAP
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 F-102A 56-1418 photographed in Scotland probably in 1971.  
Photo MAP

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 F-102A 56-1447 photographed in 1972 
Photo Ragnar J. Ragnarsson

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 TF-102A 56-2367 photographed 1972 
Photo Ragnar J. Ragnarsson

In 1973 the squadron replaced the F-102s with F-4Cs. The first F-4C arrived on April 16. By June 30, the sqn. had six F-4Cs, five F-102As and the three T-33As. The first F-4 training sorties occurred in June, and also the first intercept. This was F-4C, 63-7460, and the pilot was Col. Ewell D. Wainwright, and the WSO (Weapons System Operator) was Lt. Col. Richard A. Crisp. This intercept took place on June 9, four days after 460 arrived in Iceland. The F-4s took over the alert duty on July 1, and the first official active intercept took place on July 3. The last three F-102As left Iceland on July 17, 1973. Before that, on June 6, what is believed to be the last F-102 intercept was made by 2nd Lt. Grant E. Bollen. Lt. Bollen was an ANG pilot that volunteered along with four other ANG pilots to go on an open ended TDY to Iceland to replace "Deuce drivers" that were in the USA, converting to the F-4. His arrival caused some consternation in Keflavik, because 2nd lieutenants were not to be posted to Iceland. He had 500 hours in the 102, but he was not allowed to stand alert at first and states that "I had to be escorted by a major everywhere I went". 

Contrary to published figures, the 57th had only eight F-4C assigned for the year from July 1973 until the third quarter of 1974. Then the squadron received the ninth aircraft. On January 15, 1975 a/c 63-7529 and 63-7618 arrived from Luke AFB and George AFB respectively. On February 7, 63-7576 flew in from Lakenheath. Only then did the squadron have its allotted 12 aircraft. The thirteenth aircraft 63-7495, arrived in March, 1976. During September 1975, the squadron sent ten aircraft to Eglin AFB for Combat Echo live missile firing exercises. The first section consisted of 436, 576, 589, 618 and 666. The second section consisted of 412, 475, 529, 534, and 685 which flew over after the first five had returned. 460 was picked up from PDM during the exercise and 475 delivered instead. 

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 F-4C 63-7412 photographed on 27. Sept. 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7412 photographed on 26 May 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7436 photographed on 27. Sept. 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson
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 F-4C 63-7460 photographed on 10 Aug. 1976. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7460 photographed on 19. May 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7475 photographed on 26. May 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

The unit got very favorable comments on its performance during the exercise and especially on the weapons system performance. The final report concluded that: "the overall effectiveness the ADCOM F-4C/AIM-7B_3 (Sparrow)/AIM-9J (Sidewinder) weapon system was greater and interruption rate lower during mission accomplishment than that of comparable F-4D/AIM-7B_3/AIM-9J and F-4E/AIM-7B_3/AIM-9J weapons systems. Based on the small number of aircraft participating from ADCOM during the 2 week firing period, it was not possible to identify the exact causes for the better performance. Possible factors contributing to the improved performance of the ADCOM F-4C/AIM-7B_3/AIM-9J weapons system as compared to the TAC F-4/AIM-7B_3/AIM-9J weapons system (although not statistically probable) were ADCOM dedicated air-to-air aircrew and load crew training, a simpler more reliable fire control system in the F-4C aircraft, and ADCOM aircrew experience". The 57th also believed that the squadron maintenance was a direct contrubution to the overall success of the Combat Echo exercise. 

On July 10, 1976 a/c 412 failed a fuel cavity interconnect leak check, which is a part of its 600 hour phase inspection. The cavities that contain the fuel cells leak. but not the cells themselves. All twelve a/c of the sqn were checked and only 576 and 618 passed. Therefore these two were the only ones able to stand alert for the whole month. They intercepted 14 Russian a/c in 16 scrambles from July 13 to 16. This was a period of intense activity! A depot assistance request was sent to Warner Robins AFB. An eleven member team arrived on July 14, from Hill AFB (Ogden Air Logistics Center). All affected F-4s were operational again on August 11. 

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 F-4C 63-7495 photographed on 26. April 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7529 photographed on 10. Aug. 1976. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7534 photographed on 10. Aug. 1976. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson
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 F-4C 63-7576 photographed on 20 July 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7589 photographed on 10. Aug. 1976. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7589 photographed on 8. March 1978. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

In 1976 the squadron received the Hughes Trophy for the second time. The other units competing for the trophy were the 496th TFS, Hahn, Germany, the 336th TFS, 4th TFW at Seymour Johnson AFB, the 43rd TFS at Elmendorf Alaska and the 120 FG, ANG, Great Falls. This was the 24th time that the Hughes trophy was awarded. A telegram from Brig Gen. F.A. Humphreys, Commander 20th NORAD region said. "Congratulations on winning the Hughes Trophy. Seems to be a habit with the Black Knights. It's good to know ADCOM's front line unit is also ADCOM's best unit. Your outstanding operational and safety record in one of the worlds worst flying areas sets a standard of excellence for all of us to emulate. We all know that fighter pilots do it better, now the whole world knows who does it best!" 

43 Squadron RAF came for an exchange visit to the 57th during August 2-5, 1977. Various small difficulties relating to equipment differences were encountered. For example the F-4K can use either Jet A-1 or JP-4 fuel. ESSO supplies Jet A-1 and would have had no problems supplying the F-4K on the NATO purchase orders that the British had. However JP-4 was used originally because the fuels people thought that the British F-4s had service plates like the 57th's. The British actually preferred JP-4, because it cost only half as much as Jet A-1. After many calls to the British embassy and the Fuels Management Office, JP-4 was authorized. The US Navy said there should be no problems on further visits. The 57th also enjoyed the visits of at least 23, 29, 56 and 111 Squadrons RAF at different times. 

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 F-4C 63-7618 photographed on 10. Aug. 1976. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7618 photographed on 27. Sept. 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7618 photographed on 1. May 1978. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson
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 F-4C 63-7666 photographed on 27. Sept. 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7685 photographed on 27. Oct. 1976. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

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 F-4C 63-7412 photographed on 30. Aug. 1977. 
Photo: Baldur Sveinsson

The winter months always were trying for the 57th and the winter of 1977-78 was no exception. January 1978 saw a record 71 arrested landings due to difficult runway conditions. In early 1978 preparations for the exchange of the F-4C for F-4Es were underway with the first two aircraft, 66-328 and 334 landing on March 21. These aircraft were better equipped than the C models, with solid state radios and tactical navigation equipment, lead computing optical gunsight and ILS. Twelve aircraft arrived between April and July, and the last F-4Cs, 618 and 666 left on June 14. 

In April 1977, the 57th was augmented by four F-106As from the 87th FIS. This was at the time said to be because of increased activity around the Kola peninsula in the USSR, but in all probability it was extra capacity added to assist while the 57th was converting to the F-4E. The Delta Darts did stand alert, but not in the Alert Hangar itself, but from the flight line beside it. The squadron had various small problems with the E models, and in January 1980, fourteen a/c were assigned Of these three were in PDM, one in scheduled maintenance, two need fuel system repairs, two needed engine work. Available were four a/c plus two for alert. 

On January 26, 1980 the squadron flew 11 sorties with the four a/c! This shortage of serviceable a/c led to the loan of three from the 35th TFW at George AFB. Two of these, 67-224 and 67-315, remained with the 57th almost to the end of F-4E operations, while the third, 67-263 was returned in March, 1981. The intercepts continue to occur steadily. All versions of the Bear, A,B,C,D,E and F were encountered. Also interestingly, were the Bison B and C and the Badger D and K. The highest number of intercepts was always during the second and third quarters. 

In June 1982, the 57th began preparing for William Tell 1982, by looking at mission profiles, and selecting the team. Five aircraft were sent, 66-336, 346 and 382 plus 67-224 and 315. The team was led by the squadron commander, Col. Ken Funkhouser in 382. The 57th won the William Tell '72 F-4 gategory. As of November 1983, the squadron had the longest string of (Class A mishap free months) accident free months of all the active duty squadrons, another testimony to the squadron's ability. The accident free time is now 129 consecutive months and 30000 hours. The unit earned the USAF Safety Plaque for the seventh consecutive year. 

In 1982 the construction of hardened aircraft shelters was planned on the west end of the airfield and this construction started in 1983. The shelters are of a Norwegian design, with the doors opening inwards and fitting into a recess in the foundation, thus making the floor for the aircraft to taxi over. All in all thirteen shelters were constructed. In 1984 the information that the 57th is going to get F-15s was released. To all observers it seemed obvious that the unit would get the F-15A model, as that was the version going into the ANG units at that time, and the 57th had never since 1954 and 55 been equipped with the most modern front-line aircraft in the USAF. It therefore came as a surprise to learn that the 57th was really going to get C and D model F-15s. 

In March 1985 the first Bear H model was intercepted and photographed by the 57th. The H model can carry air launched cruise missiles. The photographs taken by the 57th were as always of great intelligence value and earned the aircrews high praise. In this instance they were particularly significant and in the words of one report "are still sending shock waves throughout the military intelligence community." A very interesting and enlightening account of flying the F-4E with the 57th in 1978 appears in a new book about the Phantom, by Anthony M. Thornborough and Peter A. Davies. This account is by Jim Shaw who flew with the squadron at this time. The book was published by Arms and Armour in 1994. 

Accidents and mishaps. 

1) April 6, 1956. Northrop F-89D Scorpion, 54-199. 1st Lt. John N. Sexton was practising CGA approaches, and had just retracted his gear after his first approach, when a violent explosion in the engine section rocked the aircraft and smoke filled the cockpit. Lt. Sexton noted his position over the runway, and immediately decided to land wheels up. He touched down at the 4500 foot marker so gently that the aircraft just slid down the runway on its tanks and came to rest. Airframe damage was restricted to the pylon tanks and the rear lower section of the tailpipes. The aircraft was photographed with the unit in 1960. Photo: available 

2) April 18, 1956. A Scorpion went down into the harbour off the end of runway 12, after a malfunction of the left engine. The pilot maneuvered his aircraft away from the fishing village of Ytri-Narđvík, and avoided collision with a fishing vessel. The aircraft stalled into the harbour and the pilot lost his life. The radar operator was saved. The pilot received a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for is valiant action in avoiding the loss of civilian life on the ground. 

3) February 6, 1957,F-89D, 54-194 lost a nose wheel sliding off an ice coated runway while landing. Photo available 

4) March 20, 1957, F-89D, 54-241 lost a wheel sliding off an ice coated runway during taxiing out for a scramble take off. Photo available. 

5) April 20, 1957, F-89D, 54-198 suffered a flame out at 2000 ft (610 m), 24 km (13 NM) out of Keflavik. A wheels up landing was made but after sliding 3000 ft (914 m) down the runway it weered of onto the rocky shoulder and began shedding parts. The aircraft lost both engines, tail and all the lower fuselage. As it came to stop the left pylon tank began throwing burning fuel into the cockpit and the pilot elected to eject from the stationary wreck, thus becoming one of the first to actually save his life in this manner. Photo available 

6) June 27, 1957. T-33A, 53-5077 was doing touch and go landings on runway 12 when suddenly after power was applied to go around, the nose settled to the runway, and then the whole aircraft. The aircraft slid down the runway on its belly, and came to a stop just off the edge of the runway on what is now called Charlie taxiway. There was no fire and no injury to the aircrew. 

7) F-89D, 54-235 landed outside the runway most likely in 1959. The aircraft was written off, but the crew escaped. Another aircraft was lost without injury to the crew during the same year. 

8) December 31, 1959, Lt. Ross (Pilot) and Lt. Slussar (R/O) were returning from a normal training mission and crashed in the traffic pattern, just short of the runway. Both were killed. Serial not known. 

9) September 11, 1961, F-89D, 54-244 suffered an explosion in the left engine. The aircraft was landed safely. 

10) March 21, 1962, F-89D, 54-248 suffered an explosion in the right engine while over Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe. The pilot did not want to eject over this icefield, and turned the aircraft towards Keflavik. The cockpit cleared of smoke in ten minutes, and the left engine kept going, although all communications were lost. The pilot brought the F-89 in to land without being able to contact the tower, and succeeded in landing even though a De Havilland L-20 Beaver was sitting on the approach end of the runway, waiting for take off clearance to search for the crippled F-89. The aircraft was written off bot was to be seen on the firedump even in 1965. 

11) March 1. 1965. T-33A, 53-5470 suffered an hydraulic failure. Capt. John Turner was forced to land with the nose gear in partially extended position. He landed very softly and was able to ease the nose down so that the damage was confined to scratched plates on the nose underside. The a/c was operational two days later. 

12) On the night of March 25, 1966, Capt. Cliff McCluney showed exceptional flying abilities, when he was leading a flight of "Deuces". When about 130 km (70 NM) out from Keflavik he experienced a failure of the oil system. He was able to keep his engine running until he was over the field. Then he was forced to shut it down and make a deadstick night landing, saving his aircraft and also averting possible loss of civilian life from a crashing aircraft. 

13) On September 15, 1966, F-102A, 56-1403 crashed during a routine practice fly-by for a base open house. The aircraft nose over and dived into the ground. 

14) On March 25, 1968, F-102A, 56-1396 suffered an engine failure about 185 km (100 NM) east of Keflavik. The pilot successfully ejected after gliding approx. 75 km (40 NM). He was picked up by a rescue helicopter. During this time two Selfridge based HC-97s were stationed at Keflavik on a trial basis, and one of those was overhead within 20 minutes, and directed the rescue helicopter to the site. 

15) On January 22, 1973, F-102A 56-1321 crashed into the ocean about 30 km (17 NM) from Keflavik. This brought an end to 58 months of accident free flying for the 57th. 

16) January 27, 1975. F-4C 63-7475 could not get the gear to lower after a routine training flight. The aircrew jettisoned the centerline fuel tank and made a gear up landing on the main tanks. The pilot Major Martindale was commended for his professional landing. The only damage was to the underwing tanks and the underside of the nose. The aircraft was repaired on site in just 39 days.