Col Steve Austin - M2-F2 Crash

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."

All jokes aside, the test 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 inherantly 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 still evident, even with the presence of 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 attempted to bring it under control. Peterson recovered, only  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 was pulled from the wreckage, and rushed to the March Air Force Base Hospital, then the UCLA Hospital where he recovered but unfortunately lost vision in his right eye.

Peterson admitted he hated seeing that test flight crash over and over in the opening sequence of "Six Million Dollar Man" as the popular TV show aired Peterson's crash sequence in the start to each episode 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 





  • Gary Olson

    Col Peterson was commander of the squadron I was in, USMC Reserves.

  • Cameron Fraser

    Not to quibble, but only two of the photographs are of the M2-F2…the shot of it being dropped from the B-52 and the post crash wreckage. All the other pictures are the HL-10

  • Mark Scarbrough

    Sorta like being known as the agony of defeat for decades on ABC’s Wide World Of Sports.

  • Lee McQueen

    Pssst, General Zod, no they didn’t.

  • General Zod

    Pssst…in the pic of him standing by the aircraft…you photoshopped in Steve McQueen, not Lee Majors.

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