Have Blue 1001 never received an official DOD designation, nor did it get a USAF serial number. However, Lockheed did give the aircraft its own manufacturer’s serial number – 1001. This number was commonly used (Lockheed had a YF-12 that was #1001 as did Northrop have a B-2). The number did not mean Plant 10, aircraft number 1.
Have Blue 1001 was finished in November of 1977. Engine run tests were done on November 4, 1977. To hide the plane, 1001 was parked between two semi trailers and a camouflage net was draped over them. The tests were done at night, after Burbank airport had closed. The only attention the test attracted was a complaint from a local resident about noise. In order to keep the project away from prying eyes, the Have Blue prototype was shipped out to the Groom Lake Test Facility in Nevada in high secrecy on the morning of November 16, 1977 for the test flights. Groom Lake is located in a particularly remote area of the Nellis test range complex, and is a good location for the testing of secret aircraft. A camouflage paint scheme was applied to make it hard for unwanted observers at Groom Lake to determine the aircraft’s shape.
Seventy-two hours before the first test flight, the airplane began to seriously overheat near the tail during engine test runs. The engine was removed, and Bob Murphy and a helper decided to improvise by building a heat shield. They noticed a six-foot steel shop cabinet. “Steel is steel,” Murphy said to his assistant. “We’ll send Ben Rich the bill for a new cabinet.” They began cutting up the cabinet to make the heat shield panels between Have Blue’s surface and its engine. It worked perfectly.
1 December 1977
The first flight of the Have Blue took place shortly before 7am on December 1, 1977, with veteran Lockheed test pilot William M. “Bill” Park being at the controls. (Park was so highly regarded at Skunk Works that Ben Rich obtained a special exemption from the air force so he could be chief test pilot. As a note: Park was not a test pilot school graduate, nor did he have an advanced engineering degree.) As the plane took to the sky, Kelly Johnson slapped Ben rich on the back and said, “Well, Ben, you got your first airplane.” At an early stage, Bill Park was assisted in the flight test program by Lt. Col. Norman Kenneth “Ken” Dyson of the USAF.
4 May 1978
On May 4, 1978, Lockheed’s Bill Park was landing Have Blue 1001 on it’s 36th flight when the high-sink-rate tendency of the aircraft caused it to hit the ground hard. The extremely high sweep of the wings and fast approach speed (around 180 mph) meant that either a single-wheel belly landing or a semicontrolled landing on the nose and uneven main gear would have the same outcome: the plane would tumble sideways down the field, breaking apart, and the pilot would be killed.
Bill Park recounted this before his death in Ben Rich'sbook “Skunk Works”:
"Stealth would rule the skies. So everyone involved in testing was impatient to get test data, but it was my ass on the line if something went wrong. And I wasn't about to risk it by cutting any corner's or rushing into flight tests prematurely. A helicopter with aparamedic on board was always airborne whenever I was doing test flights.And by May 1978, a year and a half into the program, with about fortyflights under my belt, we were on the verge of graduating into the nextphase and beginning actual testing against radar systems. On the morningof May 4, 1978, Colonel Larry McClain, the base commander, stopped my atbreakfast to say he would be flying chase for me that day and wanted toscrub the paramedic from test flight because he needed him at the baseclinic. I shook my head. I told him, "I'd rather you didn't do that,Colonel. We're not entirely out of the woods yet with Have Blue, and I'djust feel better knowing that a paramedic is standing by if I happened toneed him." As it turned out, I had just saved my own life. A couple hours later I was completing a routine flight and coming in for a landing. I came in at 125 knots, but a little high. I was just about to flare and put the nose down when I immediately lost my angle of attack and the airplane plunged seven feet on one side, slamming into the runway. I was afraidI'd skid off the runway and tear off the landing gear, so I decided to gunthe engines and take off and go around again. I didn't know that the hard landing had bent my landing gear on the right side. When I took off again, I automatically raised my landing gear and came around to land.Then I lowered the gear and Colonel McClain, my chase, come on the hornand told me that only the left gear was down. I triedeverything-all kinds of shakes, rattles, and rolls-to make the right gearcome down. I had no way of knowing it was hopelessly bent. I even camein on one wheel, just kissed down on the left side, hoping the jarringeffect would spring the other gear loose-a hell of a maneuver if I have tosay so-but it proved useless. By then I was starting to think serious thoughts. While I was climbing to about 10,000feet, one of my engines quit. Out of fuel. I radioed, "I'm gonna bailout of here unless anyone has any better idea." Nobody did. I would've preferred to go a little higher before punching out, but I knew I had to get out of there before the other engine flamed out too, because then I had all of two seconds before we'd spin out of control. Ejecting makes a bignoise-like you're right up against a speeding train. There was flame andsmoke as I got propelled out. And everything went black. I was knockedunconscious banging my head against the chair.(Possibly hitting his head on the headrest when his seat failed to separate) Colonel McClain sawme dangling lifelessly in the chute and radioed back, "Well, the fat's inthe fire now." I was still out cold when I hit the desert floor face down.It was a windy day and I was dragged on my face about fifty feet in thesand and scrub. But the chopper was right there. The paramedic jumpedout as I was turning blue. My mouth and nose were filled with sand and Iwas asphyxiating. Another minute or two and my wife would've been awidow.(Some reports state that his heart had stopped.) I was flown to the hospital. When I came to, my wife and Ben Rich were standing over my bed.Ben had flown her in from Burbank on company jet. I had been forced to bail out four times over fifteen years of flight testing for the SkunkWorks, and I never suffered a scratch.(This includes both a Mach 3.2580,000 feet collision in a SR-71 with a D-21 drone where the SR-71 broke upin flight around him and his launch operator, and an ejection from a SR-71that began to flip on takeoff. His chute opened just as his feet hit the ground, yanking him upward as he was impacting and leaving 3 inch deepheel prints in the sand.) This time I had an awful headache and a throbbing pain in my leg, which was in a cast. A brokenleg was not fatal in the test flight business but my pounding headache was. I had suffered a moderate concussion and that was the end of theline for me. The rules were very strict about the consequences of headinjuries to professional pilots. My test-flying days were over. Ben named me chief pilot, putting me in charge of administrating our corps oftest pilots.
The aircraft reportedly came down like a falling leaf, wobbled around, lost control, went inverted, and went straight in. The wreckage was secretly buried somewhere on the Nellis test range complex.