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The Race To Find The Doomed SR-71 Blackbird Crashed In South China Sea

The Race To Find The Doomed SR-71 Blackbird Crashed In South China Sea
SR-71A #61-7974 in formation with T-38 #64-13271. USAF photo via Tony Landis

The SR-71A (61-7974 / 2025) was lost on 21 April 1989 over the South China Sea and is the last loss of any Blackbird.

After taking off from Kadena AFB, her right engine exploded, taking several hydraulic lines with it and crippling the flight controls.

Pilot Maj. Daniel E. House said the left engine blew up and shrapnel from it hit the right-side hydraulic lines, causing a loss of flight controls. House and RSO Capt. Blair L. Bozek ejected and came down safely in the ocean.

Her crew attempted to abort to a base in the Philippines but as RSO Lt.Col. Blair Bozek put it, “we could have made it on one engine with no problem, but with no hydraulics and no flight controls, the aircraft became a derelict and we were forced to eject. Dan [Lt.Col. Dan House] bailed out first; I wanted to make sure I had good ejection position and had everything aligned properly, and ejected about 3 seconds after him.” Both pilot and RSO ejected safely.

They had been able to broadcast their position before abandoning the Blackbird, and rescue forces were immediately on the way. However, the crew was rescued by a native fisherman.

 

In the above Video jeff of TAOFLEDERMAUS Youtube Chanel share the story of the doomed flight, In fact, the very last flight of SR-71 61-7974.

on April 21st, 1989 this SR-71 left Kadena Air Base piloted by Dan house with RSO Blair Bozak in the back seat.

The Race To Find The Doomed SR-71 Blackbird Crashed In South China Sea
Photo by Bill Flanagan

The exact mission is still shrouded in mystery probably classified but it was heading in a southwesterly direction towards Vietnam.

The crew had just refueled sr-71s takeoff with a very light fuel load for safety and then once airborne they top up the tanks with an air refueling tanker and off they go.

The Race To Find The Doomed SR-71 Blackbird Crashed In South China Sea
A left side view of an SR-71 aircraft moving toward a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft for inflight refueling. The SR-71 is from the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.  USAF photo by Ken Hackman

The crew had just reached operational altitude and crew speed of Mach 3 when all hell broke loose.

The main bearings on the left engine seized up causing the engine to explode fragments from the engine penetrated the fuselage and severed both hydraulic systems A and B.

The pilot was hoping to maintain control and make it all the way to Clark Air Force Base, unfortunately, they reached the point where they had almost no control at all so they decided to bail out at Mach 2.

Immediately ships and aircraft were dispatched to try to locate the crash site and also try to recover the missing crew members

Somewhere in the Philippine Sea house and Bozek were bobbing around in the water in their full pressure suits, not the best thing to be wearing while swimming

Now the search was not limited to just the Americans by sheer coincidence Russian naval ship was also in the area they would have loved to have captured those two crew members and interrogated them but they would have had a treasure trove of information had they found the wreckage and unveiled some of the mysteries of this fascinating plane.

Now it turns out that house and Bozak almost made it to land they splashed down in the water about 300 yards from the coastline, fortunately, they didn’t have to swim all the way to shore as some local fishermen saw him come down they paddled out there pulled him out of the water took him to shore and they ended up in the local village at the mayor’s house.

Search and rescue at this time still had no idea they were safe much less on land safe and being fed and given drinks by the local mayor.

The crew tried in vain just a telephone Clark Air Force Base to let him know without any luck finally using their emergency radio they made contact with a p3 Orion which was part of the search team and HH-53 helicopter was dispatched and picked him up at a nearby rice paddy.

From there they were flown directly to Clark Air Force bases south of them they were given an exam everything checked out good but if it wasn’t for those quick-acting fishermen this story would have had a completely different ending.

Meanwhile, the search to find the wreckage of the plane was still on by both the Americans and the Russians no one seemed to know the exact location where that plane eventually crashed

After nearly a week of searching for the wreckage, they finally had the insight to ask one of the fishermen who rescued the crew

Did you happen to see that plane go down?

One of the fishermen who spoke perfect English said oh we thought you knew where was that.

I know exactly where it’s at.

what do you mean you know exactly where it’s at?

The fisherman replied yeah we saw the plane go down and right before we went out to rescue the crew I put three sticks in the ground to indicate where the crash site is.

The fisherman took him over to where the sticks were and it said if you triangulate off these three sticks the plane is about two miles out in the water there and that is how they found the missing sr-71

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