Watch: The XB-70 Valkyrie’s Mid-Air Collision With A F-104
The 500,000 lb XB-70 Valkyrie was easily the most amazing bomber aircraft of its time. The Valkyrie was capable of flying at Mach 3 speeds and altitudes of more than 70,000 feet. This big aircraft was nearing the end of its phase 1 test program by the time this collision happened. On 8th June 1966, an XB-70 took off for a routine cleanup mission. Onboard, the aircraft were a veteran North American test pilot Al White and copilot Major Carl Cross who was flying his very first XB-70 mission.
After the task of XB-70 was completed for the day, it made a formation with an F-5, F-104, an F-4, and a T-38 for a photoshoot. Formation flying was done at 30,000 feet and for about 20 minutes aircraft were flying in a pattern that was best for the camera.
Then when it was almost time to break the formation, for some unknown reason the F-104 which was flown by long-time NASA pilot Joe Rocker got tucked under the right wing of the XB-70. His tail struck the underside of the wingtip. The F-104 then rolled on its back and slid across the top side of the XB-70 shearing off its vertical stabilizers and then the aircraft burst into flames.
Al White later reported that there was nothing found inside XB-70 for a reason why it happened. There was no change in the altitude and for several seconds the aircraft continued flying straight and level. Pilot Al White could get out of the aircraft but for some unknown reason, Major Cross even failed to initiate the ejection and he was inside the aircraft when it hits the ground.
Al White was heavily injured and this collision left two women widows. This collision also cost the flight research team this valuable aircraft.