From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Tilson '57

Date of birth: December 28, 1933

Date of death: April 13, 1960

Age: 26

Lucky Bag

From the 1957 Lucky Bag:


William was lost when his F-104 crashed on April 13, 1960 in Washington. He was likely incapacitated by hypoxia; he had been flying at 45,000 feet right before the crash. He is buried in Washington. His infant son & daughter are buried in the same grave.

From International F-104 Society:

Crashed near Moses Lake, Washington. The pilot 1st Lt. William Thomas Tilson was sadly killed. He was briefed this day by the operations officer for a pressure suit mission at 45,000 ft. Lt Tilson’s wingman was to be Lt Robert G Moore, who would not be in a pressure suit. Lt Tilson was assigned 56-840 and he and the squadron pressure suit specialists preflighted the aircraft. They then proceeded to the pressure suit fitting room and dressed Lt Tilson in his suit. After being checked on the MQ-1 console, Lt Tilson proceeded to aircraft 56-840 and was strapped in by the pressure suit specialists. A complete check of the suit and system was then made, using the aircraft oxygen test switch. The flight was delayed twenty minutes when the target aircraft aborted after take-off. It was further delayed twenty minutes waiting for an instrument flight clearance. Lt Tilson received the clearance and taxied to the active runway. When taking the runway he called mobile control that his seat pin was out, the canopy was locked, the zero lanyard was hooked up, the faceplate heat was on and the oxygen was ok. At 1035P the flight became airborne and proceeded to make a standard instrument departure. The wingman, Lt Moore reports that the departure was normal except that at approximately 25,000 feet Lt Tilson allowed his airspeed to drop to 0,7 Mach. The scheduled climb speed was 0,85 Mach and he made no attempt to return to the scheduled speed until breaking out on top of the clouds at 32,000 feet. At this time he reduced his rate of climb and regained the proper climb speed. After contacting the ground controlling site, Lt Tilson was vectored in a Northwesterly direction and his wingman was vectored to the West to replace the aborted target as prebriefed. The ground control site vectored both aircraft to position them for the intercept and turned them inbound. The intercept was started and Lt Tilson was vectored behind the target. His speed at this time was 1,4 Mach and his altitude 45,000 feet. He acknowledged all transmissions and followed all instructions from the ground control site to a point when he was three miles behind the target. He had not acquire the target up to this time and seemed to slow his speed. He was instructed to break off the intercept and turn off his identification signal. Lt Tilson did not acknowledge this transmission and it was repeated several times. During this period, at approximately 1100P, his identification signal faded from the ground control site’s scope and n other voice or radar contact could be made with the aircraft. The aircraft crashed in the same area the intercept had taken place. Cause of the accident was most likely due to a malfunctioning oxygen/mask system.

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Class of 1957

William is one of 38 members of the Class of 1957 on Virtual Memorial Hall.