954 in flight over California - USAF photo via Tony Landis
954 was lost on April 11, 1969. During maximum takeoff weight testing, the left main tires blew, which started a fire that swallowed the aircraft (similar to the demise of #950). Pilot Lt.Col. Bill Skliar and RSO Maj. Noel Warner escaped safely. Craig Freeman was there and describes what he saw:
I was setting in Launch truck when we sent the A/C off that morning 38 years ago (April 11, 1969). The tires blew, dropped it down on the wheel and the FOD from the wheel coming apart sent the metal up into the wing.
The Pilot cut the takeoff run and rolled out to the end of the runway. The aircraft started to burn with the Pilot and RSO still inside with canopies down.
A CH-3 Jolly Green came out of nowhere and sat off the left front part of the wing which was burning. From the rotor wash the fire was pushed off toward the back of the aircraft.
The canopies opened and Pilot and RSO jumped out of the aircraft and ran off from the Aircraft. Pilot and RSO were fine. They did not "eject."
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