|952 as she appeared on September 1, 1965, showing the white reference cross typical on test aircraft. - Lockheed photo via Tony Landis|
952 is shown here during the first-ever inflight refuelling of an SR-71, on April 29, 1965. - Lockheed photo via Tony Landis
952 was lost on Tuesday, January 25, 1966 during a test flight. She had an engine unstart during a turn at speeds above Mach 3.2 and broke apart. Lockheed pilot Bill Weaver was thrown clear and blacked out during the accident but recovered and landed on the ground safely. Tragically, his back-seater, RSO Jim Zwayer, did not survive; when his helmet hit the mach-3 slipstream, his neck broke and he died instantly. While 3 other men lost their lives in the A-12 and M/D-21 programs, Zwayer was the only fatality in any SR-71.
With pieces of the airframe raining on his property, the owner of the Mitchell ranch found Zwayer's body first; he then saw Weaver's parachute and went to help him. Weaver told him that he was part of a 2-man crew, and asked Mitchell if he had seen the other crewman. Mitchell told Weaver that he had found his body, and then flew Weaver to the nearest hospital in the ranch helicopter. Weaver would later recount that in as much pain as he was, he had looked at the airspeed gauge and seen it move beyond the red line indicating Velocity Not to Exceed, and thought to himself, "I've survived a breakup and bailout at Mach 3, only to die in a helicopter crash on the way to the hospital!!" Fortunately that didn't happen, and Weaver made a full recovery.
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