SR-71A Blackbird flown by B. Weaver and J. Zwayer, 25 January 1966, Edwards AFB, US Air Force

During a test flight on January 25, 1966, Bill Weaver and Jim Zwayer lost control of their SR-71 Blackbird at Mach 3.2, a speed at which an ejection provided little chance of survival. The aircraft literaly broke up and Weaver was miraculously thrown out unharmed. Tragically, Zwayer did not survive the catastrophic event.

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  • A3 (16.53" x 11.69")
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Text:

SR-71 “Blackbird”

SR-71A s/n 61-7952
Edwards AFB, California
25 January 1966

On January 25, 1966, Lockheed test pilot Bill Weaver took off in Blackbird 61-7952 with Jim Zwayer to investigate reduced drag and improved high Mach cruise performance procedures with a center of gravity located further aft than normal, thus reducing the aircraft’s longitudinal stability. After refueling from a KC-135, they climbed to 38,000 ft and accelerated to Mach 3.2, a speed at which an ejection offered little chance of survival. During a scheduled turn, the Blackbird’s right J-58 engine suffered an inlet unstart, resulting in asymetric thrust. The aircraft violently rolled to the right and pitched up, and was subjected to extremely high G forces, rapidly causing Weaver to lose consciousness as the aircraft disintegrated. Against all odds, he was thrown out of the aircraft, regaining consciousness moments later to realize he was free-falling back to Earth. He parachuted safely to the ground and was found by a rancher. Sadly, Jim Swayer did not survive the catastrophic breakup of the Blackbird at supersonic speed and high altitude and was instantly killed.

Artist: Gaëtan Marie

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