The Time When F-111 Jets Transported A Heart For Transplant

On 14 Feb 1986, New York resident Richard Reinhardt was in dire need of a heart transplant. Valentine’s Day brough him a good news, he had found a heart. But there was one problem, the heart was in Oklahoma, and taking it to New York came with its own logistical challenges.

When a man in New York needed a heart transplant from a donor in Oklahoma, the hospital reached out to the US Air Force to help with transportation. The donor heart was transported across the country in two hours on an F-111 fighter jet. The operation was a complete success.

Since, a heart can only remain viable for 3.5 hours and even a private charter plane cannot complete the mission in such tight timeline. But, it was not all bad news for Richard that day.

Somebody reached out to US Air Force for help in transporting the heart from Oklahoma to New York. USAF was also fast to react & communicated 509th Bombardment Wing Strategic Air Command Facility at Pease AFB in New Hampshire.  

The response came, it was a good news, two FB-111 combat fighter jets, which on normal day would be on high alert were ready for the upcoming action and headed to Oklahoma.

The second aircraft was reassigned by Air Force as a backup plan, in case first one suffers some mechanical issues. The jet scrambled in the skies on a tight mission to reach Oklahoma, while the medical transplant team prepared everything at Tinker Air Force Base.

The heart reached the base in the middle of the night, the jets were already there waiting for departure, the moment the heart was loaded. The crew were completely aware of the mission and departed the Air Base on 3AM.

The jets arrived at the Bradley International Airport in Windsor Lock at 5 AM, everything was prepared at the ground for the jets arrival and two ambulances quickly set off for Hartford Hospital.

The operation was successful, Richard survived, the crew celebrated and the mission completed.

About FB-111

FB-111 is a supersonic nuclear capable combat fighter jet capable of producing 50 thousand pounds of thrust & can climb at a rate of 26,000 feet per minute. The jets were capable of reaching 1,650 miles per hour top speeds, which is 2.5 times the speed of sound.