MIDAIR CRASH OF THE XB-70 WITH F-104
On 8 June, 1966, one of aviation's most tragic accidents occurred in the
skies over the Mojave Desert. After an early morning flight test sortie in XB-70
Air Vehicle #2 (AV/2), pilots Al White and Major Carl Cross rendezvoused with a
flight of four fighter-type aircraft and a Lear Jet. The idea was to group the
fighters in formation around the XB-70 while photographers aboard the Lear Jet
documented the event. All five aircraft were powered by General Electric
engines, and the photos were to be used in GE advertising.
After over forty minutes of formation photo work, disaster struck. One of the fighters, a Lockheed/NASA F-104 flown by NASA chief test pilot Joe Walker, moved too close to the XB-70 ultimately resulting in a collision. The F-104 (NASA serial number 013) was caught in the XB-70's wing tip vortices, and then flipped over onto the top of the massive bomber. Joe Walker was killed instantly as the XB-70's twin vertical tails were torn away. The F-104 exploded and fell to Earth in at least three pieces. The crew of the XB-70, initially unaware of the collision, continued in straight and level flight for 16 seconds, eventually to enter a unrecoverable flat spin. Al White ejected in the final few seconds, but tragically, Major Cross lost his life when the XB-70 impacted the ground. The pieces of Walker's F-104 came to rest nearly six kilometers to the north. In a matter of seconds, two brave men and two valuable aircraft had been lost.
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Posted Thornton D. BarnesBy Thornton D. Barnes Author Publisher