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Article 123 was lost on 24 May 1963 during a low-altitude, subsonic flight to test an inertial navigation system. While flying in heavy clouds above 30,000 feet, CIA pilot Ken Collins saw erroneous and confusing air speed and altitude readings just before the A-12 pitched up, stalled, and went into an inverted spin. Unable to regain control of the aircraft, Collins “punched out” at around 25,000 feet. The A-12 spiraled down and crashed near Wendover, Utah.
After parachuting to earth, Collins made his way back to the test site. Wearing a standard fabric flight suit, he avoided having to make difficult explanations to protect OXCART’s cover. According to the story given to the press, the accident involved an F-105. The wreckage was recovered in two days, and witnesses were identified and required to sign secrecy agreements. The A-12 fleet was grounded for a week until the cause was determined. So great was the need to find out what went wrong that Collins willingly took truth serum to help his memory. Finally, the inquiry concluded that ice had plugged a tube used to determine airspeed, causing faulty readings that led to the stall and spin.
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