Bill Weaver, the SR-71 pilot who bailed out after his Blackbird disintegrated while flying at Mach 3, has just passed away

Bill Weaver, the SR-71 pilot who bailed out after his Blackbird disintegrated while flying at Mach 3, has just passed away

By Dario Leone
Jul 29 2021
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In 1966 he bailed out after his SR-71 disintegrated while flying at Mach 3.18 at 78,800 feet and by some sort of miracle he made it down to New Mexico alive and well. The RSO Jim Zwayer was not so lucky.

On Jul. 28, 2021 the aviation community lost another of its icons, Lockheed test pilot Bill Weaver.

Weaver was born on Dec. 6, 1928 in the Hollywood Hospital in Los Angeles.

According to Roadrunners Internationale, he attended college at UCLA for a year before being accepted at Annapolis. Graduating June 1951, 25% of the graduates from Annapolis and West Point were offered the choice of joining the US Air Force formed in 1947. He chose the Air Force where he went through flight training at the Hondo Air Base near San Antonio, (South Texas Training Center & South Texas Regional Airport), built 4 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor in a record 90 days. Weaver graduated in class 52E and was sent to Williams AFB for advance training before deploying to Kaegu, Korea (T-2) in 1952 where he flew 89 missions in the F-89 Scorpion and F-86 Sabre.

This SR-71 pilot survived to his Blackbird disintegration at a speed of Mach 3.2
Bill Weaver

Leaving the USAF, he joined the Lockheed Skunk Works where his second cousin, Engineer Dorsey Kammerer worked for Kelly Johnson. During a span of 30 years at Lockheed, Bill flight tested all models of the Mach-2 F-104 Starfighter and the entire family of Mach 3+ Blackbirds–the A-12, YF-12 and SR-71. Weaver subsequently was assigned to Lockheed’s L-1011 project as an engineering test pilot, became the company’s chief pilot and retired as Division Manager of Commercial Flying Operations. He flew the Orbital Sciences Corp.’s L-1011, modified to carry a Pegasus satellite-launch vehicle. An FAA Designated Engineering Representative Flight Test Pilot, he was also involved in various aircraft-modification projects, conducting certification flight tests.

According to Roadrunners Internationale Weaver once said, “Among professional aviators, there’s a well-worn saying: Flying is simply hours of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror. And yet, I don’t recall too many periods of boredom during my 30-year career with Lockheed, most of which was spent as a test pilot.”

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model
This model is available in multiple sizes from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

By clicking HERE, you can read Weaver’s most memorable flight that occurred on Jan. 25, 1966 when Jim Zwayer, a Lockheed flight test reconnaissance and navigation systems specialist, and he were evaluating those systems on an SR-71 Blackbird test from Edwards AFB, Calif.

‘We lost a brave patriotic American Bill Weaver. Our sincere condolences go to his family. Bill flew in test flight every member of the Blackbird family. In 1966 he also bailed out after his SR-71 disintegrated while flying at Mach 3.18 at 78,800 feet and by some sort of miracle he made it down to New Mexico alive and well. The RSO Jim Zwayer was not so lucky. He [Weaver] had a long successful career as a test flight pilot. I was told he was still flying into his 80s. We salute you,’ Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) says on her Facebook Page Habubrats.

SR-71 print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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