60-6928 accrued 202 flights and 334.9 hours of flying time.
60-6928 was outfitted for operational use.
928 was lost on Thursday, January 5, 1967. She ran out of fuel (due to a faulty fuel gauge) and crashed while on approach to Groom Dry Lake. CIA pilot Walt Ray ejected but did not survive. To protect the security of the A-12 program, the Air Force informed the media that an SR-71 was missing and presumed down, and identified the pilot as a civilian.
Shortly before 1:00 PM, a group of four Phantom F-4D’s took off from Nellis AFB and headed northeast toward Caliente for a routine training exercise. At 1:09 PM, while in the midst of abrupt maneuvering, one of the Phantoms lost control and crashed 7 miles southwest of Caliente. The occupant of rear seat managed to eject at 500' AGL, and his parachute only fully opened just as he was impacting the ground. He sustained minor injuries as a result. The occupant of the front seat apparently made no attempt to eject (or attempted too late) and was killed on impact. Rescue helicopters were scrambled from Nellis, and the surviving crewmember was recovered around 2:00 PM. Unbeknownst to the participants in this unfortunate drama, an equally unfortunate (and much more interesting) drama was in the process of unfolding not very far away.
Walter L. Ray, an employee of the CIA, but ostensibly civilian pilot for Lockheed, was in the midst of what has been termed “a routine test flight” of the very secret Lockheed A-12, out of its hidden home at Groom Lake. The particular craft Ray was flying was known as “928”, a shortening of its official tail number of 60-6928. To its owner, the CIA, with the usual “spook-speak” it was also known mysteriously as “Article 125” (Lockheed’s production number). As far as the A-12 fleet went, it was relatively middle-aged, with 335 hours spread over 202 flights.
As for Ray, he was a very experienced pilot, with a long military background. Of his 3,354 hours of flight time, 358 hours were in A-12s. He had joined the OXCART project on November 7, 1962
Ray took off from Groom at 11:59 AM (PST) that day, 1 minute ahead of schedule. It was to be a routine training and test mission to the northeast, executing a test plan labeled “66-12” and using the call sign “Dutch 45”. The first aerial refueling, immediately after takeoff, was normal, with 928 taking on 36,000 pounds of fuel. After climbing and executing a Mach 3.1 cruise for a while, Ray descended for his second aerial refueling. He took on another 61,000 pounds of fuel, which was 4 to 5,000 pounds less than he was supposed to get, as the tanker had insufficient fuel. Ray was planning to mitigate this fuel shortage by executing a fuel-saving, reduced power climb on the next outbound leg.
This tactic worked pretty well, and Ray was able to conserve enough fuel on his outbound leg so he was only a manageable 800 to 1000 pounds below what he should have had after completing the turn back to Groom. Then, things began to go sour.
At 3:22 PM, near Farmington, New Mexico, Ray reported he was down to 7,500 pounds of fuel, and said, “I don’t know where it’s gone.” At that point in his flight, he was supposed to have about 13,000 pounds in his tanks, but Ray stated he thought he could still make it.
At 3:52 PM, descending near Hanksville, Utah, Ray reported he was low on fuel, and a minute later declared an official emergency.
At 3:56:27 PM, Ray radioed he was 130 miles out, had 4,000 pounds of fuel left, and was losing it at an excessive rate. Then 5 minutes later, at 4:01:34 PM, he reported that the low pressure lights for his fuel system had come on…..He was running out of fuel. 30 seconds later he called and said his engines were starting to flame out.
Finally, at 4:03 PM, at what under normal circumstances should have been a mere 10 minutes from safe touchdown, Ray made his final radio transmssion to say both engines had flamed out, and was ejecting.
The way the ejection system worked on the A-12 (and likewise in the later SR-71) was not as most people would imagine. After ejection, the pilot remains strapped in his seat, and the seat releases a small drogue parachute to both slow and stabilize itself. Then, upon reaching some much lower, preset altitude, the seat releases the straps and the pilot is forcibly shoved out of the seat by the tightening of what are called “butt-snapper” straps. They are under the pilot’s butt and force him up and out of the seat, hence the name. After that, the pilot’s parachute opens automatically, and he completes his descent. The system was pretty well thought out, and was designed to safely recover pilots from extremely high altitudes, even if they were injured or unconscious.
As Ray passed through 16,000' the system attempted to work as advertised, but something went very wrong. As the butt-snapper straps tried to force Ray off the seat, his parachute backpack jammed under the seat’s headrest. There are two reasons why this may have occurred, or perhaps it was a combination of the two. Ray was a short guy, and to ensure a good fit in his seat, the headrest was modified and extended further down. Another contributor were some screws in the seat installed in a manner that let them protrude a bit.
Why Ray couldn’t manually extricate himself is not known. There’s no reason he should have been unconscious. Perhaps he was partially out of the seat and that set the whole mess spinning wildly, disorienting him. It may also have been that his release mechanism was jammed by a foriegn object. Sadly, after what must have been a truly wretched ride, Ray and the seat impacted the side of a mountain peak near 6,000' and was killed instantly. Ray and the seat bounced maybe a hundred yards down the steep slope, finally coming to rest against a large cedar tree. At almost the same instant, 928 impacted the ground some distance away. After that, all was silent.
Meanwhile, back at “the ranch” (one of the everpopular nicknames for Groom Lake), the scramble to mount a rescue/recovery effort had begun. Unfortunately, there was only a little over an hour of daylight left by that time, and portions of the area were obscured by low clouds, so there was not much that could be done. This was in the days before night vision and FLIR.
Nevertheless, three vehicles were immediately dispatched from Groom to the crash area. Within 30 minutes of the crash, Nellis AFB launched two T-33’s and an F-101 aircraft, as well as two helicopters. At 5:30 PM the T-33’s were recalled and a C-130 was sent out in their place to search for signs fruitlessly throughout the night.
The next day, as what should have been a simple search began turning up empty, a U-2 was launched to photograph the entire search area. Finally, at 3:06 PM (PST), on January 6th, 23 hours after the incident occurred, 928’s crash site was discovered. The first teams onsite found that the ejection had been sucessful, but where was Ray?
As the search continued for Ray, the problem was this: The recovery teams were obviously looking for a parachute, as they knew he had ejected. But the seat, with only its small drogue chute deployed, nestled under a cedar tree, made for for a very difficult visual. It wasn’t until 2:00 PM the following day , Saturday, January 7, that they discovered Ray’s body. A recovery team was dropped at the site and they cut a small clearing for a helicopter landing zone. They brought Ray and the seat down the slope and wisked them out of the area.
At the A-12 crash site, a perimeter was established and the site secured. Dirt roads in the vicinity were blocked off by armed guards and heavy equipment was brought in. For over a week, large trucks rolled out of the site, carrying pieces of 928 back to Groom. Then, the spot was evacuated, the guards withdrawn, and silence again settled over the scene. It remained this way for 30 years, quiet and alone, visited only occasionally by misguided range cattle.
- The crash incident was given the code name “LAW CODE” in all correspondence.
- The canopy was found by a helicopter five days after the crash just over a mile away from where Ray impacted. What appears NOT to have been found (and apparently still to this day, as there was no reference to them ever being found) were two cameras, mounted inside the canopy. These could have provided info on cockpit activities.
- Kelly Johnson objected to the official cover story of it being a crash of an “SR-71 type aircraft”. He wanted it referred to simply as “an experimental model”, apparently eliminating any reference to a Lockheed product. After discussion, the official press release ended up describing it as “an experimental model of the SR-71 aircraft.”
- A U-2 photographic overflight was launched the day after the crash and the resulting photos used to search for the pilot, canopy and cameras.
- There were over 80 personnel in Meadow Valley at times, overseeing recovery operations. They created a small economic boom in Caliente, booking all the rooms in town. Local ranchers were employed to help with some of the operations (probably camera searching), and horses were going for $5 a day. Military roadblocks into Meadow Valley were at Elgin and Carp.
- Special instructions were issued for for staff wishing to attend Ray’s funeral in Palmdale:
- It should be limited, if possible, to close friends.
- No uniforms were to be worn.
- Personnel were instructed not to sign funeral registers.
- Conversations with unrecognized individuals should be avoided. If pressed about where they worked, attendees were instructed to just say “Lockheed”. Staff from Hughes and Pratt & Whitney were allowed to ‘fess up to working at their actual companies.
- Any staff from the SR-71 group at Edwards AFB planning to attend were urged to wear their uniforms.
- There were two memos generated on January 10th, concerning Marvin Miles, then the Aviation Editor for the Los Angeles Times. Apparently he had been calling the Edwards Public Information Office saying he thought something was up, and unless he was given a firm reason to believe otherwise, we was going to publish an article with some undefined “exposure” of the entire incident. It was suggested the issue be passed on to Kelly Johnson for comments. As far as I know, nothing particularly revealing was ever published in the LA Times.
There was a chase aircraft along for at least a good portion of Ray’s flight. At the end, the chase aircraft didn’t see him eject, but noted the flameouts and watched 928 nose over and descend steeply into a cloud deck at 18,000'. It would appear this second craft was either an A-12 or SR-71. The reason the second craft is probably another Blackbird is due to the description of the two aerial refuelings by the accident report summary. It states the second left him 4 to 5,000 pounds below what was programmed for him. It also says that “…during the second refueling the chase aircraft refueled first and took 4,000 pounds of fuel which if available to the primary aircraft would probably have enabled the aircraft to return to home base.” If the chase plane was burning the same exotic fuel as 928, it pretty much has to be a Blackbird.
preliminary crash report
T 0 P S E C R E T 082056Z CITE CABLE 4559
LAW CODE MESSAGE
- THE FOLLOWING IS A SUMMARY OF THE FLIGHT AS COMPILED BY THE OPERATIONS STAFF:
AIRCRAFT 125 [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX] WAS SCHEDULED FOR A SHADE TREE “E” WITH TAKE OFF AT 2000Z ON 5 JANUARY 1967. PURPOSE OF THE MISSION WAS TRAINING WITH PACKAGE 1-D INSTALLED. PILOT WAS ALSO BRIEFED TO GATHER PERFORMANCE DATA AS OUTLINED IN TEST PLAN 66-12.
ACTUAL TAKE OFF TIME WAS 1959Z. TOP OFF AR WAS NORMAL WITH 36,000 POUNDS ONLOAD. FIRST CLIMB, 3.1 MACH CRUISE AND 300 KEAS DESCENT WAS APPARENTLY FLOWN AS BRIEFED WITHOUT INCIDENT. SECOND AR WAS COMPLETED WITH 61,000 LBS ONLOAD BUT PILOT STATED THAT AT END AR, HE WAS 4 TO 5,000 LBS BELOW PROGRAMMED FUEL. TANKER CREW CONFIRMS THAT THEY DID NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT FUEL ON BOARD FOR FURTHER ONLOAD. PILOT CONTINUED THE MISSION KNOWING THAT CRUISE LEG COULD BE CUT SHORT BY TURNING WITH 28,300 LBS (PROGRAMMED FUEL AT PROGRAMMED TURNPOINT). PILOT APPARENTLY GAINED SUFFICIENT FUEL IN REDUCED POWER CLIMB TO MEET FUEL REQUIREMENTS FOR OUTBOUND LEG. AVAILABLE INFORMATION INDICATED THAT TURN WAS MADE AT PROGRAMMED TURN POINT. AFTER ROLLING OUT OF THE TURN, PILOT TRANSMITTED ON SSB THAT HE WAS 800 TO 1,000 LBS BELOW PROGRAMMED FUEL AND THAT THE FUEL WAS LOST IN THE TURN. HE ALSO STATED THAT HE WAS HAVING NO PROBLEMS.
THESE TRANSMISSIONS WERE RECEIVED AT APPROXIMATELY 2322Z AND COINCIDED WITH ROUTE AND FLIGHT PLAN. THE NEXT TRANSMISSION WAS AT APPROXIMATELY 2345Z. PILOT STATED “I HAVE GOT A LITTLE BIT OF A PROBLEM. I AM ABEAM FARMINGTON, I HAVE 7500 LBS. I LOST ANOTHER 1,000 LBS, I DON’T KNOW WHERE IT’S GONE. I THINK I CAN MAKE. IT.” PROGRAMMED FUEL ONLY 150 MILES BEFORE TRANSMISSION (POS 16) WAS 13,800 LBS. POSITION 16 WAS A FUEL DECISION POINT FOR ABORT INTO KIRTLAND. PROGRAMMED FUEL FOR ABEAM FARMINGTON WAS 11,000 LBS.
AT 2352Z PILOT REPORTED TO LOS ANGELES CENTER THAT HE WAS LOW ON FUEL AND AT 2353Z, PILOT DECLARED AN EMERGENCY. AT THIS TIME AIRCRAFT WAS ABEAM HANKSVILLE IN DESCENT. PROGRAMMED FUEL AT THIS POINT WAS 9,900 LBS. LOS ANGELES CENTER ALSO RECEIVED HIS CALLS PASSING 60,000 FT AT 2355:45Z AND PASSING 51,000 FT AT 2358:45Z.
COMMAND POST SSB CONTACT AT 2356:10Z. PILOT STATED AT 2356:27Z THAT HE WAS 130 MILES OUT WITH 4,200 LBS. AT 0001:34Z. PILOT STATED THAT FUEL LOW PRESSURE LIGHTS ON. BIRD WATCHER DURING THIS TIME PERIOD ALSO INDICATED LOW FUEL OUANITITY. AT 0001:59Z PILOT STATED ON SSB THAT ENGINES WERE FLAMING OUT.
PILOT CHANGED TO UHF AT APPROX 0002Z AND ESTABLISHED CONTACT WITH CHASE AIRCRAFT. CHASE HAD VISUAL CONTACT WHEN ARTICLE APPROX [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX] AT 0003Z, ARTICLE PILOT STATED THAT BOTH ENGINES HAD FLAMED OUT AND THAT HE WAS EJECTING ON THE 100 DEGREE RADIAL OF [XXXX] TACAN. CHASE PILOT OBSERVED HEAVY ARTICLE CONTRAILS PRIOR TO FLAME OUT. CHASE ALSO OBSERVED ARTICLE TO STOP CONNING AND TO NOSE OVER SHORTLY AFTER ARTICLE PILOT’S LAST TRANSMISSION. ALTITUDE OF ARTICLE AT FLAMEOUT ESTIMATED BY CHASE PILOT TO HAVE BEEN BETWEEN 30 & 35,000 FT. CHASE PILOT DID NOT SEE THE ARTICLE PILOT EJECT BUT DID WATCH THE ARTICLE UNTIL IT ENTERED THE CLOUDS AT AN ESTIMATED 18,000 FEET IN A STEEP DIVE.
summary crash report
Stamped “Group 1 - Excluded from automatic downgrading and declassification”
T 0 P S E C R E T 190237Z CITE CABLE 4732
OXCART LAW CODE
ATTN; [XXXXXXXXXXXXX] FROM: COL. PATTERSON
SUBJECT: SUMMARY OF ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION ANALYSIS
INVESTIGATION AND ANALYSIS:
- WITNESS STATEMENTS, COCKPIT TAPE RECORDER DATA (DICTECT), RECORDED HF RADIO TRANSMISSIONS, AND SC&DM FLIGHT DATA MONITOR, WERE USED TO RECONSTRUCT THE FLIGHT PERFORMANCE AROUND BOTH NAVIGATION LEGS. INITIAL REVIEW INDICATED THAT THREE POSSIBILITIES EXISTED WHICH WOULD HAVE RESULTED IN FUEL DEPLETION NEAR THE POINT OF FLAME OUT.
A FULL FUEL OFFLOAD WAS NOT OBTAINED DURING THE AIR REFUELING PRECEEDING THE LAST NAVIGATION LEG. HAD THE PILOT DISREGARDED ALL BRIEFED FUEL MINIMUMS AND EXTENDED THE FLIGHT PROFILE BEYOND THE POINT OF SAFE RETURN, FUEL QUANTITIES REMAINING DURING THE DESCENT TO LAND WOULD HAVE APPROXIMATED THOSE REPORTED BY HF RADIO PRIOR TO FLAMEOUT. HOWEVER, THE COCKPIT TAPE RECORDER AND HF RADIO TRANSMISSIONS SHOW THAT INDICATED FUEL REMAINING OVER CHECK POINTS WAS ESSENTIALLY AS PROGRAMMED AT THE PLANNED TURNING POINT. THE PILOT WAS USING A REDUCED POWER CLIMB AND CRUISE PROCEDURE WHICH DURING PREVIOUS TESTS HAS REDUCED FUEL CONSUMPTION BY THE APPROXIMATE AMOUNT SHORT AFTER REFUELING. THEREFORE IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE THAT INDICATED FUEL RESERVES WERE AT SPECIFIED MINIMUMS BY THE TIME HE REACHED THE TURN AND THE POSSIBILITY THAT HE KNOWINGLY DISREGARDED BRIEFED MINIMUMS WAS NOT SUBSTANTIATED BY DATA RECORDED.
A RAPID FUEL LEAK WHICH OCCURRED AFTER THE LAST PLANNED CHECK POINT FOR DIVERSION TO A SUITABLE ALTERNATE COULD HAVE RESULTED IN SIPHONING ALL THE REMAINING FUEL FROM ONE OF THE TANKS. THIS WOULD ACCOUNT FOR THE NEAR NORMAL FUEL CONSUMPTION DURING DESCENT AFTER THE DEFECTIVE TANK CONTENTS HAD EMPTIED BUT WOULD NOT HAVE EXPLAINED SIMILAR SUDDEN LOSS OF FUEL DURING APPROACH TO THE TANKER FOR REFUELING AFTER THE PREVIOUS CRUISE PROFILE. A FUEL LEAK OF SUCH PROPORTIONS WOULD HAVE BEEN READILY APPARENT TO THE TANKER CREW AND CHASE PILOT DURING REFUELING. THE TWO SUDDEN DROPS IN FUEL QUANTITY APPARENTLY OCCURRED WITH APPROXIMATELY THE SAME AMOUNT INDICATED ON THE GUAGE AND WERE TOO SIMILAR TO BE IGNORED. ALL POSSIBILITIES OF INCREASING FUEL CONSUMPTION DURING APPROACH TO THE TANKER SUCH AS THE USE OF AFTERBURNER WERE CONSIDERED, BUT THE HIGH RATE OF INDICATED FUEL DEPLETION COULD NOT BE EXPLAINED WITHOUT A MALFUNCTION OF SOME TYPE.
THE POSSIBILITY OF A GROSS FUEL QUANTITY GAUGE ERROR WHICH DISAPPEARS WHEN THE TANK, CONTAINING A FAULTY FUEL PROBE EMPTIES, WAS THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATED. TANKS THEEE AND FIVE EMPTY AT ABOUT THE FUEL QUANTITY WHERE THE SUDDEN DECREASE OCCURRED. TESTS WERE CONDUCTED WHICH INDICATE THAT THIS POSSISILITY DOES EXIST. BOTH FLIGHT PROFILES WERE RECONSTRUCTED WITH THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE ACTUAL FUEL QUANTITY ON BOARD THE AIRCRAFT WAS BETWEEN THREE AND FOUR THOUSAND POUNDS LESS THAN INDICATED AFTER BOTH REFUELINGS. APPLYING THIS ASSUMPTION, THE AMOUNT OF FUEL OFFLOADED AND THE REPORTED QUANTITIES REMAINING AT VARIOUS POINTS ALONG THE ROUTE ASSUME A LOGICAL SEQUENCE. THE BOARD REACHED THE CONCLUSION THAT THE MOST PROBABLE CAUSE OF FUEL DEPLETION RESULTED FROM A FAULTY QUANTITY INDICATING SYSTEM AND THAT THE ERROR RAPIDLY DECREASES SUBSEQUENT TO AN INDICATED FUEL REMAINING OF 14000 POUNDS.
EXAMINATION OF THE WRECKAGE REVEALED COMPLETE DISINTEGRATION UPON IMPACT. THE AIRCRAFT WAS INTACT IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO IMPACT WITH THE EXCEPTION OF A LOWER WING FILLET AND THE CANOPY AND SEAT. THERE WAS NO INFLIGHT FIRE OR EXPLOSION. ALL BURNING WAS INDICATIVE OF POST IMPACT FIRE. DURING EJECTION SEQUENCE THE CANOPY SEPARATED FROM THE AIRCRAFT IN A NORMAL MANNER AND IMPACTED APPROXIMATELY [Excised by TM] MILES EAST OF THE WRECKAGE. ANALYSIS OF THE DICTECT, SC&DM AND FLIGHT RECORDER TAPES WAS DIFFICULT BECAUSE OF DAMAGE SUSTAINED AT IMPACT, THE OVER SHOULDER CAMERAS WERE MISSING FROM THE CANOPY, MAINTENANCE FORMS AND RECORDS WERE REVIEWED AND NO DISCREPANCIES WERE NOTED. DUE TO DISINTEGRATION OF THE AIRCRAFT AND COMPONENTS, INTEGRITY OF SYSTEMS COULD N0T BE SPECIFICALLY DETERMINED; HOWEVER, INVESTIGATION REVEALED NO STRUCTURAL, ENGINE OR FLIGHT CONTROL FAILURE PRIOR TO FLAME OUT AND/OR GROUND IMPACT.
DETAILED EXAMINATION AT THE SITE OF THE PILOT/SEAT IMPACT AREA ESTABLISHED THAT THE PILOT HAD NOT SEPARATED COMPLETELY FROM THE SEAT AND WAS FATALLY INJURED AT TIME OF IMPACT, SUBSEQUENT INVESTIGATION OF THE RECOVERED EJECTION SYSTEM COMPONENTS REVEALED THAT ALL SYSTEMS FUNCTIONED NORMALLY TO THE POINT OF MAN/SEAT SEPARATION. ANALYSIS OF THE COMPONENTS OF THE LAP BELT RELEASE MECHANISM AND TESTS CONDUCTED TO SIMULATE SEPARATION CONDITIONS, COULD NOT ABSOLUTELY ESTABLISH A SINGLE PRIMARY CAUSE FOR THE FAILURE OF MAN/SEAT SEPARATION, HOWEVER, IT WAS DETERMINED THAT A NUMBER OF POSSIBLE CAUSES FOR THE FAILURE OF THE MAN TO SEPARATE FROM THE SEAT COULD BE DEDUCED. FIRST, THE LAP BELT RELEASE MECHANISM COULD HAVE BEEN BOUND BY EXCESSIVE TENSION OR SIDE-LOADING ON THE LAP BELT AT THE TIME OF AUTOMATIC LAP BELT FIRING. SECOND, THE INTRUSION OF A FOREIGN OBJECT INTO THE LAP BELT RELEASE HOUSING COULD HAVE PREVENTED THE RELEASE FUNCTION. THIRD, THE DROGUE PARACHUTE PACK COULD HAVE BEEN JAMMED INTO THE HEADREST SPACER EXTENSION RESTRICTING PARACHUTE TRAVEL FROM UNDER THE HEADREST. FINALLY, ANY COMBINATION OF TWO OR MORE CONDITIONS THAT WOULD PROVIDE TENSION TO THE LAP BELT OR SHOULDER HARNESS DISENGAGEMENT FROM THE LAP BELT COULD HAVE CAUSED FAILURE OF THE PILOT TO SEPARATE FROM THE SEAT. THE PILOT COULD HAVE FAILED TO MANUALLY RELEASE THE LAP BELT DUE TO EXCESSIVE SEAT GYRATION, VISUAL RESTRICTIONS AND/OR OBSTRUCTIONS IN THE VICINITY OF THE LAP BELT MANUAL RELEASE LEVER WITHIN THE BRIEF TIME SPAN AVAILABLE BEFORE IMPACT WITH THE GROUND.
PRIMARY CAUSE: THE PRIMARY CAUSE OF THIS ACCIDENT WAS FUEL DEPLETION FROM AN UNDETERMINED CAUSE. THE MOST PROBABLE CAUSE WAS A FUEL GAUGING ERROR RESULTING IN A HIGHER THAN ACTUAL INDICATED FUEL QUANTITY READ1NG.
CONTRIBUTING CAUSES: PILOT FACTOR IN THAT AT THE TIME HE REPORTED 7500 POUNDS FUEL REMAINING, HE COULD HAVE DIVERTED TO ALBUQUERQUE.
- THE LOCATION OF THE DICTET RECORDER AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE SC&DM TAPE CASSETTE DOES NOT AFFORD ADEQUATE PROTECTION.
- THE PILOT WAS QUALIFIED AND PROPERLY BRIEFED TO CONDUCT THE MISSION.
- CONTROL TOWER AND THE SC&DM TAPE DID NOT HAVE AN ACCURATE TIME HACK WITH WWV.
- DURING THE SECOND REFUELING THE CHASE AIRCRAFT REFUELED FIRST AND TOOK 4000 POUNDS OF FUEL WHICH IF AVAILABLE TO THE PRIMARY AIRCRAFT WOULD PROBABLY HAVE ENABLED THE AIRCRAFT TO RETURN TO HOME BASE.
- PRECISE METHOD OF DETERMINING FUEL QUANTITY IN THE TANKS DURING GROUND FUELING DOES NOT EXIST.
- FUEL QUANTITY CALIBRATION PROCEDURES ARE NOT OPTIMIZED IN THAT THE CALIBRATION IS NOT MADE IN THE SEQUENCE THE FUEL IS USED.
- CHANGING OF A FUEL PROBE COULD CHANGE SYSTEM CALIBRATION SIGNIFICANTLY.
- THAT THE PRIMARY CAUSE FOR THE FAILURE OF THE PILOT TO CLEANLY SEPARATE FROM THE SEAT COULD NOT BE DETERMINED.
- THE MOST PROBABLE CAUSES FOR THE PILOT FAILING TO SEPARATE FROM THE SEAT WERE:
- FAILURE OP THE LAP BELT TO PELEASE DUE TO BINDING OR A FOREIGN OBJECT INTRUSION INTO THE RELEASE MECHANISM HOUSING.
- MAN-SEAT SEPARATOR ACTUATED PUSHING THE MAN AND CHUTE PACK UPWARD AND THE SEAT KIT FORWARD. THE CHUTE PACK JAMMED AGAINST THE HEADREST SPACER EXTENSION AND WITH CONSTANT PRESSURE BY THE SEPARATOR BELTS, THE PILOT COULD NOT SEPARATE FROM THE SEAT. RECOMMENDATIONS:
- CONSIDER THE RELOCATION OF THE DICTET RECORDER IN THE CANOPY.
- EXPLORE THE POSSIDILITIES OF MAKING THE SC&DM TAPE CASSETTE CRASH PROOF.
- ESTABLISH A REQUIREMENT TO DEFUEL AIRCRAFT AFTER EACH FLIGHT COMPARING THE FUEL INDICATOR QUANTITY TO ACTUAL OFF LOADED FUEL QUANTITY. AN ALLOWABLE DIFFERENCE LIMIT SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED.
- ON ALL GROUND FUELINGS THE AIRCRAFT SHOULD BE FILLED FROM A ZERO-FUEL CONDITION AND THEN OFF LOADED TO DESIRED FUEL QUANTITY. TOLERANCES MUST BE ESTABLISHED FOR DIFFERENCE IN INDICATOR AND TANKER READINGS, BOTH AT THE FULL AND OFF LOAD POINTS.
- FUEL TANK DIP STICK CAPABILITY SHOULD BE PROVIDED.
- A REQUIREMENT FOR FUEL SYSTEM CALIBRATION SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED WHEN ANY MAJOR COMPONENT, SUCH AS A PROBE, IS CHANGED.
- FUEL SYSTEM QUANTITY CALIBRATION PROCEDURES SHOULD BE AMENDED TO CONDUCT THE CALIBRATION IN THE SEQUENCE THE FUEL IS USED FROM THE TANKS.
- THE DICTECT BE REDESIGNED TO ALLOW A BREAK BETWEEN EACH CONVERSATION.
- THE LAST POINT AT WHICH THE PILOT HAS THE CAPABILITY TO DIVERT TO A SUITABLE ALTERNATE SHOULD BE IDENTIFIED ON ROUTE MAPS.
- LOCAL PROCEDURES BE PUBLISHED FOR TRAINING REFUELING MISSIONS THAT:
- THE TANKER WILL HAVE REQUIRED AND SCHEDULED FUEL ABOARD PLUS 10,000 POUNDS, CONDITIONS PERMITTING.
- CHASE MISSIONS ARE SCHEDULED SO THAT NO POSSIBILITY OF INTERFERENCE WITH REFUELING OF THE PRIMARY RECEIVER OCCURS.
- THAT THE HEADREST SPACER BE IMMEDIATELY REMOVED FROM ALL AIRCRAFT.
- THAT THE UNDERSIDE SURFACE OF THE HEADREST RAMP AND THE TOP SURFACE OF THE DROGUE PARACHUTE PACK BE PROVIDED A SMOOTH INTERFACE.
- THAT THE ROTARY ACTUATOR (MAN/SEAT SEPARATOR) STRAPS BE REPOSITIONED TO PROVIDE MAXIMUM FORWARD THRUST TO THE MAN/PARACHUTE MASS AND THE EIGHT NUTS AND BOLTS ON THE FRONT OF THE SEAT SECURING THE ROTARY ACTUATOR STRAPS BE REVERESED.
- THAT THE LAP BELT AUTOMATIC RELEASE MECHANISM BE REWORKED TO PREVENT TENSION OR SIDE LOAD BINDING OF THE PAWL LATCH LEVER AND A READILY ACCESSIBLE MANUAL LAP BELT RELEASE LEVER BE DEVELOPED.
- THAT THE SHOULDER HARNESS LOOPS BE SEWN TO PREVENT SLIPPING OVER THE AUTOMATIC LAP BELT LATCH LEVER HOUSING.
- THAT THE DEVELOPMENT OF EMERGENCY FACE PLATE HEATER AND THE PROTECTIVE COVER FOR THE OXYGEN CONTROLLER ASSEMBLY BE EXPEDITED.
- THAT A D-RING CABLE CUTTER BE INSTALLED.
- THAT ALL FUTURE MODIFICATIONS TO THE EJECTION SYSTEM RECEIVE THOROUGH INVESTIGATION AND QUALIFICATION PRIOR TO ISSUANCE OF TCTO KITS OR SERVICE BULLETINS. T O P S E C R E T TOR: 190418Z JAN 67
Crashed on approach to Groom Lake, Thursday, January 5, 1967