60-6941

Lockheed photo via Tony Landis
941 about to take off from Groom Dry Lake, with D-21 drone #505 mounted.  She's been fitted with metal rudders from 930, although they've been swapped left for right so the numbers only show on the inside. - Lockheed photo via Tony Landis

Lockheed file footage of 941 in flight


941 was one of two M-21s used as a launch platform for the D-21 drone.

Lockheed file footage of 941 being preflighted


When mated with the drone, the combination was known as an "M/D-21."   Contrary to some reports, both 941 and her sister ship 940 were built from the ground up to be M-21s, and were not "converted" from existing A-12s.  Unlike 940, in most photos 941 appears painted all black, and was the only M/D-21 used in actual D-21 launches (all of 940's M/D-21 flights were load and aerodynamic test flights).

Lockheed file footage of 941 taxiing with D-21 #506 mounted

Lockheed file footage showing 941 taxiing with D-21 #506 mounted on back

She was lost on Saturday, July 30, 1966.  Prior to this flight, there had been 3 successful D-21 launches from 941, but all 3 had been executed with the mothership in a .9g "dive," flying slightly downward to assist in blackbird/drone separation.  If the still-experimental M/D-21 were to be used in combat (real-world) missions, the crew might be under fire from missiles and fighter/interceptors, and so might not have the luxury of launching from a .9g dive.  In this fourth launch, the D-21 would separate in a level-flight, 1g configuration.


941 and D-21 #504 in flight, just after separation and just prior to collision. - Lockheed footage via Leland Haynes

For the first 2 to 3 seconds of the drone launch, everything went normally.  Unfortunately, the drone was not able to penetrate the shock wave coming off the mothership.  The D-21 (#504) had almost cleared the M-21's rudders when it encountered the shock wave, bounced off, rolled 45 degrees to the port (left) side, and impacted the mothership almost directly at Station 715, where the forward fuselage attaches to the wing root.  Between the impact and resulting explosion, #941 was for all intents and purposes cut cleanly in two. Leland Haynes posted video of the accident at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMyC2urCl_4.

Lockheed test pilot Bill Park and Launch Control Officer Ray Torick remained in the tumbling wreckage until a lower altitude where they ejected safely, but they landed in the open ocean, and Torick drowned when his pressure suit took on water.  Some reports attribute this to Torick prematurely opening the faceplate of his visor, but other informed sources have stated that the bouyancy of the David Clark suits would make this almost impossible.  Others have speculated that his suit was torn by schrapnel from the wreckage as he ejected.  In either case, no further M/D-21 flights occured; furthermore, a baylor bar was then added to the flight suit helmets to ensure that the faceplate could not accidentally be opened in similar situations.

All M/D-21 operations ended with the death of Ray Torick.  All subsequent flights of the D-21 were as D-21B's, which were reconfigured to launch the drone from an underwing pylon of a B-52 (much like the X-15 had been), boosted to Mach 3 by a rocket motor that was jettisoned after the D-21B's Marquardt ramjet was started.


Lockheed test pilot Bill Park, c.1980s

Lockheed test pilot Bill Park, who piloted all M/D-21 flights, shown here boarding a U-2R/TR-1
(photo courtesy Lockheed Martin)


17950 17951 17952 17953 17954 17955 17956 17957 17958 17959

17960 17961 17962 17963 17964 17965 17966 17967 17968 17969

17970 17971 17972 17973 17974 17975 17976 17977 17978 17979

17980 17981




Back to the Blackbird Photo Archive index


Back to the main page


Copyright © 1998-2013 Habu.Org