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XHunter

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 #1 
On the 26th of February, 1978, Darryl Greenamyer was flying out of Mojave Airport in California, practicing for his upcoming attempt at setting the FAI absolute altitude record. Just four months earlier, he and his beautiful, painstakingly pieced together winged hot rod had set the world low-altitude absolute speed record at 988.26mph around 60 ft above the ground where a malfunction, blink or sneeze would cause you to die before you knew what had happened. The power boosting water-injection system he was testing had worked flawlessly and Darryl was feeling pretty good about the upcoming run when, with about 20 minutes of fuel left, he turned downwind for a landing. As the gear came down he noticed that his left gear down and locked light did not illuminate. He cycled the gear a few times and even changed the bulbs in the lights just to make sure it wasn't something simple that was giving him a bad gear warning. With no change in the lights status and fuel running low Greenamyer turned for Edwards AFB to see if he could bounce the aircraft at 200mph along the 15,000ft runway to see if the left gear was in fact locked. Edwards tower reported to him that the gear seemed to be collapsing slightly on impact and, running out of fuel and light, he added power, cleaned up the gear and headed for the range area to the east and prepared to punch out. Then, at 10,000ft he throttled back to 200mph, shut the engine down, pulled the ejection handle and reluctantly consigned 13 years of blood, sweat and tears to crash out on the Edwards range. As the chute blossomed above him he saw the Red Baron head away from him to a distance of around 5 miles and then make a 180 degree turn. The one of a kind F-104 flew back past him low to the left, impacting flat and level among the Joshua trees deep in the desert.

And then today, nearly 34 years after the Baron pancaked into the sand, AFFTC Museum Director George Welsh, NASA Historian Pete Merlin, Air Force Master Sgt, Tony Accurso and myself, using recently discovered photos of the site, literally drove up to the wreckage, spotting it from the cab of the truck before we even got out to search for it and thought we would share what was a pretty good day of wreckchasing out at Edwards.

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theronmoon

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 #2 

Jealous. Very cool Tony. Must have been pretty cool to see that stuff. That was one hot 104!


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MHensarling

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 #3 
Losing an F-104 and later B-29 Kee Bird - Greenamyer has seen some hard losses to swallow that's for sure. He's still up right though and that's what matters most!

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Matt Hensarling
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xplaneguy

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 #4 
One fun part of this story is how a Hasegawa 1/48 Red Baron F-104 plastic model kit provided a little inspiration/motivation. Box art attached.

Tony, thanks for allowing me to be a part of this great wreckchasing day at Edwards!

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xplaneguy

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 #5 

Here's a few photos from the site.

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ChrisBaird

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 #6 

Wow Tony!

 

What an awesome and very unique find.   

 

Love the photos.

 

Excellent work.   :>

 

--> Chris B.

AAIR

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 #7 

I've often wondered about this site!


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ThunderPigC130

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 #8 
  Man that guy has bad luck.  Mhensarling beat me to it, but when i saw the greenamyer name i remembered the story of the Kee Bird - Saw it on TV right as i was getting into wreckchasing.  If you have not seen it, it is an incredible story.  The whole thing is on youtube in 6 parts.  It is called "Frozen In Time"  Highly recommend it -



XHunter

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 #9 
Oh, I don't know, he kind of seems okay in the luck department. He was an SR-71 test pilot, set a speed record in a Bearcat, won Reno six times in the same plane before donating it to the Smithsonian, reluctantly left the Red Baron in a untested, mixed parts ejection seat, drag raced, recently flew Sport Class at Reno and unfortunately, all anybody remembers is the "Kee Bird". I talked to him on the phone today and sent him some of the photos of his crash site. I told him while I was out there I thought of how hard it must have been to leave her after all he'd been through.  I could almost hear him shrug when he said "It was one tough day...but I'm alive". I've asked him if he would like to visit the site and possibly tell the story of that day one more time and he said he'd think about it. I sure hope he says "yes".

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MHensarling

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 #10 
I see XHunter's point and agree with what he says about Greenamyer  - but unfortunately some of his greatest successes weren't the topic of a documentary nor do we do a lot of wreck chasing based on successful flights. With that though, any time you can walk away from a mishap it is certainly alright in the luck/skill department(s)! 
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Matt Hensarling
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 #11 
Did you happen to find the wing tip tanks?
XHunter

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 #12 
There weren't any tip tanks on this aircraft. Instead, it had 24" wing tip extensions which housed the RCS thrusters. They were borrowed from the NF-104 that's in front of TPS at Edwards and belongs to the AFFTC Museum. We don't hold this against him....we'll make new ones

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MichaelHjorth

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 #13 
I have just put up a new post with recent photos from the 1947 Kee Bird site in North Greenland.

Enjoy:

http://pacaeropress.websitetoolbox.com/post/kee-bird-in-greenland-7288134?pid=1286119031#post1286119031

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Michael Hjorth
Copenhagen

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Jeff_Wilkinson

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 #14 
Greenamyer also crashed a YC-125 here in Oklahoma: 

https://oldmachinepress.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/northrop-n-23-pioneer-and-n-32-yc-125-raider/


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Jeff Wilkinson
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 #15 
I hate to say it, but 988 is NOT the fastest low level record.  That is only the OFFICIAL record.  When my Dad was in the Air Force in the 70's, an Australian Air Force pilot named Andy Pellequin, who was in the states for training, took an F-111 through Death Valley at 200 feet in full afterburner until "max speed or windshield failure" (according to my Dad, who flew F-111s).  They got 1263 ktas indicated, and the shockwave destroyed a western movie set miles away, which is what got them caught.  That is 1,400 mph folks.
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