|03/06/2013 Trip Notes: Harvey, his neighbor Richard and I drove out into the desert north of Barstow California, in search of the June 8th, 1966 crash site of the XB-70 VALKYRIE (Fig. 01). Knowing that after 47 years our luck of finding anything at the site would be remote, we thought it might be worth a try. |
On the way out the to area of the crash site, we missed a turn and nearly drove into the National Training Center at Fort Erwin. The equipment in the triptych below (Fig. 03), were on displace at the entrance. This base and training center provides tough, realistic, joint and combined arms training in multi-national venues across the full spectrum of conflict to prepare leaders and soldiers for success in the Global War on Terrorism. After getting back on track, we eventually came to the radar and tracking station (Fig. 04) which is located on a hill (elevation 4,212-feet) overlooking the crash site, about 3/4 of a mile away. Refer to the map in (Fig. 02) above. As you can see from these pictures, this entire area is covered with Joshua Trees (Fig. 05). In fact, in the area below the radar site we saw what was the largest Joshua Tree (Fig. 06) any of us have ever seen. The final picture was a view west that was captured from a spot near the bottom left corner of the map in (Fig. 02)
|The Crash History: The second XB70 prototype, the AV-2, flew a total of 46 times over 92 hours and 22 minutes. On June 6th, 1966 it flew a sonic boom test, obtaining a speed of Mach 3.05 at 72,000 feet. Two days later, on June 8th, 1966, Major Carl Cross sat in the Valkyrie's cockpit for the first time, with Al White in the pilot's seat. Their flight plan was simple: make several passes over recording instruments at a speed of Mach 1.4 at 32,000 feet, then, at the request of General Electric, fly in formation with 4 other GE-powered aircraft so that GE photographers can take some publicity pictures. The boom-testing went smoothly, then, dropping subsonic speed and raising the wingtips back to 25 degrees, the Valkyrie joined up in formation with the other aircraft, including, just off her right wingtip, an F-104 Starfighter piloted by Joe Walker. As the photo shoot progressed, the photographers asked several times for the formation to close up, until all five planes were in close proximity, and had been for over 45 minutes. [The purpose of the mission was to provide General Electric, the manufacturer of the engines for the planes in formation, a photo for the cover of their brochures to be presented at an upcoming shareholders' meeting] Immediately after the crash, Mr. Bill Houck, the NASA monitor at our station, requested I give him the tape for dispatch to NASA at Dryden.) |
At 9:26 am, the photographers were done, and everyone prepared to break formation and return to Edwards when disaster struck as somehow, Walker's F-104 collided with the Valkyrie. The complex airflow surrounding the XB-70 lifted the F-104 over her back ,spun the Starfighter around 180 degrees, causing it to smash down along the center of the Valkyrie's wing, tearing off both vertical stabilizers and damaging the left wingtip before falling away in flames and killing Joseph A. Walker, one of America's greatest pilots. Sixteen seconds after the impact, the XB-70 started a slight roll. Al White corrected the roll -- and instantly recognized the Valkyrie's peril as she began a snap roll to the right. Ramming the number six engine's throttle to maximum afterburner, he tried to save AV/2 - but after 2 slow rolls, the plane broke into a sickening spin, taking any hopes of recovery with it. Although Al White ejected just moments before AV/2 slammed into the ground a few miles north of Barstow, California, Carl Cross was not so lucky. Still in his seat, he impacted the ground with AV/2 in a relatively flat configuration and was killed instantly.
|Brief History of the XB-70 VALKYRIE: In 1959, North American Aviation was awarded a contract to build "Weapons System 110" (WS-110). On paper, the project's goals seemed insurmountable; not just the biggest craft ever to take to the skies, but is was to be the fastest as well, to cruise at 3 times the speed of sound, at a time when no plane had yet flown that fast. The final requirements for the contract were: a cruise speed of Mach 3 (2,000mph), a cruise altitude of 70,000 feet, a "shirtsleeve" environment for the crew, a 50,000 pound payload, a range of 7,500 miles, and that existing runways, hangers, etc. that had already been built for the B-52 could be used without further modification.|
In the 1960's a 10-man crew of electronic engineers and technicians operated the NASA High Range Tracking Station at Beatty, Nevada. Initially, their primary mission was the tracking of X-15 missions originating at Dryden/Edwards AFB in California. When the XB-70 test flights began, NASA's Dryden, Beatty, and Ely tracking stations, along with Air Force, tracked the initial flights originating at Palmdale. It wasn't long before these two magnificent craft were moved to Dryden/Edwards and flown under the management of NASA at Dryden and those contracting for NASA at the Beatty and Ely, Nevada High Range Tracking Stations.
The North American XB-70A Valkyrie, originally conceived as a supersonic bomber, instead became the world's largest experimental research aircraft, flying from September 21, 1964, until February 4, 1969. Two experimental prototypes of the XB-70A were under construction when the bomber program was canceled. At the same time there was growing interest in an American supersonic transport (SST), and the Valkyrie seemed a perfect test-bed for SST research. The two prototypes were kept alive for a joint NASA-Air Force flight research program.
Although intended to cruise at Mach 3, the first aircraft, AV-1, NAA Model Number NA-278, USAF S/N 62-0001, was found to have poor directional stability above Mach 2.5, and it never flew faster than Mach 2.55 in its flight research at the NASA FRC between 1967 and 1969. However, NASA Ames wind-tunnel studies led North American Aviation, Downey, California, to build its sister ship, AV-2, NAA Model Number NA-278, USAF S/N 62-0207 with an added 5 degrees of dihedral on the wings. It handled much better, and achieved Mach 3.08 on April 12, 1966. On May 19th, flight number 39, AV/2 flew at Mach 3 for 33 minutes, and a total of 62 minutes beyond Mach 2.5. In just 91 minutes, the Valkyrie traveled over 2,400 miles -- an average speed of more than 1500 miles per hour, including takeoff and landing!