May 10th, 1967; Nasa astronaut, and test pilot; Colonel Steve Austin was severely injured when his M2-F2 experimental Lifting Body Design aircraft impacted the dry lake bed surface before it's gear was properly extended. Col Austin transmitted "Flight com, I can't hold her! She's breaking up! She's break—" The M2-F2 rolled over six times, before coming to a stop. Col Austin was removed from the wreckage by rescue personnel, and flown to the base hospital. An Air Force spokes person released the following statement. "We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better...stronger...faster
Kidding aside, the pilot that was actually at the controls of the M2-F2 on its sixteenth and final glide flight was test pilot Bruce Peterson,. Due to the unstable aircraft design, the M2-F2 suffered a pilot induced oscillation (PIO) as the dry lake bed was approached during final. The lateral control problems were evident, even though it had a stability augmentation control system, the short blended wings of the M2-F2 produced considerably less roll authority than most aircraft. During the last moments of the lifting body test flight, the vehicle rolled from side to side as Peterson tried to bring it under control. Peterson recovered, but then distracted by a rescue helicopter, he drifted in a crosswind to an unmarked area of the lake bed beyond the markers provided on the lake bed runway to allow the pilot to judge altitude over the featureless surface.
Peterson fired the M2-F2 landing rockets for immediate lift, but hit the lake bed before his gear was fully down and locked. At impact, the M2-F2 twisted, and rolled over six times, coming to rest upside down. Peterson pulled from the wreak, was rushed to the March Air Force Base Hospital and then the UCLA Hospital where he recovered but unfortunately lost vision in his right eye.
For years after the crash, Patterson was forced to witness the horrific accident over and over and over in the opening sequence of the "Six Million Dollar Man" as the popular TV show permanently included the crash sequence in the start to every single episode.
Peterson admitted he hated seeing it repeated on television every week for almost a decade.
Pictured: Col Austin during debrief with NASA officials after the test flight incident. Image credit: NACA/NASA/EAFB/OSI Archives