957 was lost on Thursday, January 11, 1968.  One of only 2 SR-71B trainer models built (the other being #956), she crashed just a few miles from Beale AFB after limping home almost 1000 miles from where she suffered double generator failure over Washington State.  Both student pilot (SP) Capt. David Fruehauf and his instructor (IP) Lt. Col. Robert "Gray" Sowers ejected safely.
Don Person, crew chief of #969, witnessed the accident; he recalls:

".... There were two SR-71's flying that afternoon, 957 and my aircraft 969.  An emergency was declared, but we did not know which aircraft had trouble.  We were waiting on the taxiway looking north and saw an SR-71 approaching.  About 2 miles out it took a pitch up and we then saw two chutes.  Aircraft crashed in the dreager ponds where gold was mined.  My heart was thumping as you can imagine, when another SR-71 came into view and it was an "A" model, 969.  Boy was I glad to see it land...."
According to Fruehauf, after the crew ejected, the aircraft slowed down, stalled, inverted into a flat spin and came down like a big leaf.  It landed on its tail and fell over backwards, as seen in the photo below:

file photo (Jan 1968) by George Irizary courtesy of the Appeal-Democrat newspaper
Fruehauf recalls that there was some discussion on who should egress the plane first.  In a normal ejection, the RSO in the back seat will eject first, followed shortly thereafter by the pilot.  In the trainers, there is no RSO; the IP sits in the back seat while the SP occupies the front seat.  Fruehauf argued that Sowers should eject first, since he was occupying the rear seat; however, Sowers was both the mission commander and the more senior officer, and he declared that Fruehauf exit the plane first.  Eventually Fruehauf did as instructed and ejected first; after landing on the ground and removing his helmet and survival kit, he found Sowers already on the ground, smoking a cigarette.

Gray Sowers and Dave Fruehauf at the 2017 Blackbird Reunion - photo by David Allison
Because the airframe came to rest on its back, the emergency crews were able to access the bottom engine access panels and remove the generators from the aircraft.  Taking the generators to the Lockheed plant at Burbank that night, they were evaluated and found to have contamination in the generators, which caused them to fail.  As a precaution, the rest of the SR-71 fleet was checked.  At least six aircraft were found to have at least one generator with similar contamination, and would have suffered similar failures had they not been caught in time.

A year later, a replacement trainer was built from the aft end of YF-12 #934 and the SR-71 static test model, assigned serial number 981 and designated as an SR-71C.

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

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