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Article

129

Serial

60-6932

Service History

60-6932 accrued 268 flights and 409.9 hours of flying time.

60-6932 was outfitted for operational use.

Between 22 and 28 May 1967, Weeks flew 60-6932 from Nevada, diverted at Wake Island to correct an equipment malfunction and finished the trip to Kadena AFB, Okinawa.

Last Flight

Wednesday, June 5, 1968

NOTE: the official report says June 4, but most other sources say it was June 5

Don Person (one of the first crew chiefs of the SR-71, and among the first group to be assigned to Det-1 at Kadena AFB), was one of the last people to see Jack Weeks alive. He recalls:

Our KC-135Q tanker was inbound from Beale AFB on 5 June.  Before
landing we were gathered together and notified that upon landing we
would see things we probably were not aware of and not to talk about
what we would see (otherwise on a "need to know basis").  The tanker
landed and spotted in a revetment.  Once the large cargo door was
opened and steps were in place we departed to the flight ramp.  As
soon as we were on the ground I heard the sound of J58 engines coming
down the taxiway.  As 06932 passed the tanker I noticed this was no
ordinary SR-71: no RSO canopy, and red numbers [on one side, white
tail numbers on the other].  Just seeing the red numbers instead of
the SR-71 white was enough to say this was not a Beale SR-71.  We
watched it taxi to the active runway and departed a short time later.
I can remember we all looked at each other in amazement but did not
discuss it as previously advised.

Rumors soon circulated that this aircraft was missing.  SR-71 #974
(which I was crew chief of) was generated for flight and flew the next
day.  Her mission was to look for the missing aircraft.  No such luck.
Months later, I found out about the A-12 aircraft and put two and two
together.

Not until several years ago did I see another A-12; landing at San
Diego you can see one in the Balboa Park.  Also driving by the
battleship Alabama museum in Mobile Bay I also saw what I thought was
a SR-71 on display.  Again not true, it also is an A-12.

Because no trace of neither 932 nor her pilot, Jack Weeks, was ever found, some have speculated that Weeks “defected to the other side.”

Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 02:28:37 EDT
From: Xelex@aol.com
Reply-To: skunk-works@netwrx1.com
To: skunk-works@netwrx1.com
Subject: Re: Birdwatcher and lost A-12

Here is some information on the Birdwatcher system and the loss of
A-12 #129.  Please excuse the length of this post (or rejoice in it).

The Birdwatcher constantly monitored various vital aircraft system
functions, as well as equipment functions.  If and when established
limits and equipment activity were sensed, the Birdwatcher would key
and modulate the HF transmitter with a coded signal.  The coded signal
was a multiplexed sample of each monitored item, including the item
which triggered the Birdwatcher.  Thus, the intended receiver operator
could determine which aircraft system or equipment triggered the unit
and could monitor the status of all remaining items.  There were 40
channels available, though not all were necessarily used.

The system was controlled from the cockpit with a control panel shared
with the ECM and SIP controls on the righthand console.  The
Birdwatcher unit utilized the HF transmitter, and was located in the
lower right side of the E-Bay, just behind the A-12 cockpit (C-Bay).
Items monitored by Birdwatcher included generator fail, transformer
fail, altitude low, fuel quantity low, destruct active, fuel flow low,
hydraulic pressure low, System "A" and "B" active, "A" and "B"
hydraulic pressure low, oxygen pressure low, compressor inlet
temperature high, System "B" manual jam on, pitch and yaw
acceleration, cockpit pressure low, seat ejected, Code "A" and "B",
angle of attack high, fire warning, System "C" and "F" activity, oil
pressure low, and EGT [Exhaust Gas Temperature] High Derich on.

If the Birdwatcher sensed a system limit or equipment activity, it
would key the HF tranmsitter and transmit three short, consecutive
half-second bursts, each separated by a five-second quiet period.
During each burst, the condition of all monitored items , as well as
aircraft identity, was transmitted.  Upon transmission, the pilot
heard three "chirps" in his headset, and an activity light illuminated
on the Birdwatcher control panel.  "Code A" and "Code B" switches on
the panel could be used to retrigger the Birdwatcher to indicate pilot
awareness of Birdwatcher operation.  By prearrangement, activation of
the "Code A" switch could indicate "pilot aware - no emergency." In
that case, "Code B" switch activation might indicate "pilot aware -
emergency condition."

Having transmitted, the Birdwatcher would not key the HF transmitter
again until another system limit was reached or another equipment
activity was sensed, or if the original triggering system returned
within limits and exceeded them again.

On 4 June 1968, Mr. Jack Weeks flew A-12 (#129) on a redeployment
preparation and functional check flight due to replacement of the
right engine.  Taxi and takeoff were uneventful, as evidenced by the
reception of the required Birdwatcher "Code A" transmission and the
lack of any HF transmissions from the pilot.  Refueling, 20 minutes
after takeoff, was normal.  At tanker disconnect, the A-12 had been
airborne 33 minutes.  The tanker crew observed the A-12 climbing on
course in a normal manner.  This was the last visual sighting of the
aircraft.  No further communications were received until 19 minutes
later when a Birdwatcher transmission indicated right engine EGT was
in excess of 860 degrees C. Seven seconds later, Birdwatcher indicated
the right engine fuel flow was less than 7500 pounds per hour and
repeated that EGT exceeded 860.  Eight seconds later, Birdwatcher
indicated that the A-12 was below 68,500 feet, and repeated the two
previous warnings.  This was the final transmission.

Several attempts were made to contact Weeks via HF-SSB, UHF, and
Birdwatcher, but without success.  Operation of recording and
monitoring facilities at the home base continued until the time that
the aircraft's fuel would have been exhausted, but no further
transmissions were received.  The aircraft was declared missing some
500 nautical miles east of the Phillipines and 600 nautical miles
south of Okinawa.  The accident report declared that "No wreckage of
aircraft number 129 was ever recovered.  It is presumed totally
destroyed at sea."

Peter W. Merlin The X-HUNTERS Aerospace Archeology Team

Flights

268

Hours

409.9

Present Location

Crashed into the sea near the Phillipines, Wednesday, June 5, 1968

Sources

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/a-12/finding-a-mission.html

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/a-12/inventory-of-a-12s.html

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/a-12/images-and-thumbnails/blackShieldmissions.jpg

http://habu.org/a-12/06932.html

http://www.netwrx1.com/skunk-works/