Today in History – July 9, 1964 – Bill Park ejects safely from 200 feet.

9 July 1964 – “In May 1962, Lockheed Test Pilot Bill Park joined Lou Schalk as the 2nd pilot for the A-12 program. On 9 July 1964, he was on approach to Groom Lake in A-12 (#60-6939) following a Mach 3 speed test when the flight controls locked up, forcing him to eject at an altitude of 200 feet in a 45 degree bank angle.”(2) “The cause of the accident was temperature gradients in the outboard elevon serve valve.”(1)

“On 30 July 1966, Park and LCO (Launch Control Officer) Ray Torick were test flying the second A-12 Article to be converted to an M-21 for launching the D-21 reconnaissance drone. Upon launch, the D-21 pitched down and struck the M-21, breaking it in half. Both Park and Torick stayed with the plane a short time before ejecting over the Pacific Ocean. Both made safe ejections, but Torick opened his helmet visor by mistake and his suit filled up with water, causing him to drown, and Kelly Johnson to cancel the M-21/D-21 program.

An impressive demonstration of the OXCART capability occurred on 21 December 1966 when Lockheed test pilot Bill Park flew 10,198 statute miles in six hours. The aircraft left the test area in Nevada and flew northward over Yellowstone National Park, thence eastward to Bismarck, North Dakota, and on to Duluth, Minnesota. It then turned south and passed Atlanta en route to Tampa, Florida, then northwest to Portland, Oregon, then southwest to Nevada. Again the flight turned eastward, passing Denver and St. Louis. Turning around at Knoxville, Tennessee, it passed Memphis in the home stretch back to Nevada. This flight established a record unapproachable by any other aircraft; it began at about the same time a typical government employee starts his work day and ended two hours before his quitting time.

Park continued to fly at Groom Lake, flying the first Have Blue prototype at Groom Lake early in 1978. In May 1978 he crashed in the first of the two Have Blue craft tested at Groom Lake. The prototype was destroyed and Park injured in the ejection. He survived the accident but had injuries serious enough to remove him from flight status.

Park was born March 8, 1926 in Columbia, S.C. he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1945. He flew 112 combat missions in Korea in the Lockheed F-80 jet which earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross and numerous other decorations. After the Air Force, Park worked for Convair flying F-102 jets until 1957 when he joined Lockheed Aircraft Corporation as an engineering test pilot. At Lockheed, Park tested the F-104 Starfighter where he made the first of four career ejections during test operations. Park was one of five test pilots inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor during ceremonies in Lancaster, CA on September 16 and 17, 1995. Park was also awarded two Kincheloe Awards for outstand achievements in flight test.”(2)

Sources (1) Wikipedia; (2)

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