The support requirements for Apollo, compiled by NASA's Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF), originally stated a need for twelve heavily instrumented, long-range, high-speed aircraft to supplement the telemetry and communication support to be provided by the Apollo ships. After program refinement that the aircraft requirement would be eight, six to be on station with two standby spares. 61-0328 was one of the original eight Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft stationed out of Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
On that fateful early morning day of May 6, 1981, the Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft, ARIA 61-0328, lifted off from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Fairborn, Ohio, on a training mission. An hour later, all 21 aboard perished in a fatal crash over a farmer's field in Walkersville, Maryland.
Later that year, placement of a bronze plaque inscribed with the names of those who perished along with the planting of 21 flowering crab apple trees took place at the National Museum of the Air Force Fairborn, Ohio, with each tree representing a crew member or passenger.
Constructed C-135A-BN. Construction Number 18235.
Conversion to EC-135N with electrical and structural modifications at Douglas Aircraft, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
December 27, 1967
Aircraft arrived at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
January 1, 1968
Aircraft Online and Operational as an Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft.
Transferred to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, 4950th Test Wing, operational as an Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft.
May 6, 1981
Crashed Walkersville, Maryland. All 21 personnel killed.
Credit: Randy L. Losey