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Air Force Fighter-Bomber Transports Heart for Transplant

February 14, 1986 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ An Air Force fighter-bomber, flying at supersonic speed, transported a heart from Oklahoma to Hartford early Friday, enabling doctors to transplant the organ into a 46-year-old man.

Richard Reinhardt of Pine Plains, N.Y., was ″doing well″ following the life-saving surgery at Hartford Hospital, said spokesman James Battaglio.

The Air Force was called on after it was realized it would be impossible for a private jet to transport the heart to Connecticut without damaging it, Battaglio said.

A heart can survive outside a body for four hours. Battaglio said it would have taken at least 3 1/2 hours for a private jet to the organ fly to Hartford.

Hospital officials turned to Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, N.H., for help. Two FB111-As, plus a tanker jet, flew to Tinker Air Force base in Oklahoma, where the crew of one jet retrieved the heart.

Two fighters were sent in case mechanical problems developed with the lead jet.

The fighter with the heart left Oklahoma at 3 a.m. and arrived at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks at about 5 a.m., said Lt. Steve Solmonson, a public affairs officer at Pease. The Windsor Locks airport is about a half-hour away from Hartford Hospital.

The jet flew at about 700 mph and was fueled in midflight by the tanker, Solmonson said.

Air Force officials agreed to the special flight because the two fighter- bombers already had been scheduled for a training flight Thursday night. Original plans called for the fighters to make a training flight to Virginia, Solmonson said, but the diversion to Oklahoma actually cost less and used less fuel than the training flight.

Battaglio declined to reveal where the heart came from in Oklahoma.