Seeking the Dirty Bird
By Peter W. Merlin

Loss of a Dirty Bird

Members of the recovery crew survey the wreckage of the U-2 prototype. Little of the aircraft was salvageable following its spin from 70,000 feet.
On 4 April 1957, Robert Sieker took Article 341 up for a Project RAINBOW test flight against radar operated by EG&G, Inc., near Indian Springs. Airframe heat build-up caused a flameout at 72,000 feet, and Sieker's pressure suit inflated when cabin pressure was lost. The clasp on his faceplate failed, however, causing him to lose consciousness. Article 341 stalled and entered a flat spin at 65,000 feet. Sieker regained his senses at a lower altitude and attempted to bail out. He released the canopy and jumped, but was struck by the aircraft's tail and killed. The aircraft impacted on its belly and caught fire.

It took search teams several days to locate the wreckage. It was spotted by Lockheed test pilot Herman "Fish" Salmon and Ray Crandall while flying a borrowed Beechcraft Bonanza. The silver airplane, shattered, but recognizable, lay in sagebrush on level ground. Its tail remained upright and the wings were partly intact. The engine was exposed amidst the burnt out center section of the fuselage. The cockpit was broken up, but had not burned. Sieker's body lay just 200 feet away.

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