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60 years ago, an Air Force pilot made headlines when he flew a B-47 bomber under a Michigan bridge

Air Force Capt. John S. Lappo, inset, flew his Boeing B-47 jet underneath the Mackinac Bridge on April 28, 1959.

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By MATT DURR | MLive.com | Published: April 29, 2019

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (Tribune News Service) — It’s been 60 years since a daring Air Force pilot made headlines after he flew his Boeing B-47 jet underneath the Mackinac Bridge on April 28, 1959. The pilot, Air Force Capt. John S. Lappo did not have permission to perform the dangerous stunt on a Friday afternoon but the Muskegon native pulled it off.

The illegal move eventually ended up with Lappo being accused of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice at general court-martial in Aug. 1959. At the time, pilots were not allowed to fly the plane less than 500 feet from the ground or water except during takeoff and landing.

Despite having just 155 feet of clearance, Lappo was able to fly under the bridge. A veteran of the Air Force, Lappo flew many dangerous missions during his time as a pilot. However, the move to fly under the bridge would be the last time he ever flew for the Air Force.

Although he never flew again for the Air Force, he eventually retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1972. He died in 2003, but even in his death, the story of his stunt would be shared.

“Mr. Lappo made headlines in August 1959 when he flew a B-47 bomber under the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan,” reads a portion of his obituary published in the Anchorage Daily News on Nov. 22, 2003.


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