Chuck Yeagers NF-104 Crash Site

On December 10, 1963, Chuck Yeager, a legendary test pilot, crashed while flying an F-104 Starfighter at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mohave Desert of California. The incident resulted in serious injuries for Yeager and the grounding of the entire NF-104 fleet.

NF-104 Starfighter under rocket propulsion.
NF-104 Starfighter under rocket propulsion.


The NF-104 and F-104 are both variants of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter aircraft, but they have some significant differences.

The F-104 is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft that was developed in the late 1950s for the United States Air Force (USAF). It was widely used by many countries, including Canada, Italy, Germany, and Japan. The F-104 had a single engine and was designed to be a high-performance interceptor aircraft. It had a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 and was capable of flying at high altitudes.

The NF-104, on the other hand, was a modified version of the F-104 that was used for high-altitude flight training. The “NF” stands for “NASA Flight” because it was used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for astronaut training. The NF-104 was fitted with a rocket engine that allowed it to climb to higher altitudes than the F-104. The ceiling of the aircraft was supposed to be 125,000 feet. It was also equipped with a reaction control system (RCS) that allowed it to simulate the handling characteristics of a spacecraft.

Overall, the main differences between the F-104 and the NF-104 are that the latter had a rocket engine and RCS, which made it suitable for high-altitude flight training, while the former was a high-performance interceptor aircraft.

Chuck Yeager, on the other hand, was a highly experienced test pilot with a distinguished career. He was the first person to break the sound barrier in level flight, flying the Bell X-1 in 1947. Yeager was also known for his contributions to the development of several other aircraft, including the F-86 Sabre, the F-100 Super Sabre, and the B-58 Hustler.

The Crash

On December 10, 1963, Yeager was conducting a test flight of an NF-104 Starfighter equipped with a rocket engine at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The purpose of the flight was to evaluate the aircraft’s performance at high altitudes and high speeds. Yeager was flying at an altitude of 80,000 feet and a speed of Mach 1.5 when he experienced a loss of control.

According to Yeager’s account of the incident, he had just completed a steep climb to 108,000 feet and was beginning to level off when the aircraft suddenly pitched up and rolled to the left. Yeager attempted to recover the aircraft using the reaction control thrusters on. and applying opposite rudder and aileron, but the NF-104 continued to roll and dive and eventually fell into a flat spin.. Yeager ejected from the aircraft at an altitude of around 8,500 feet and landed safely, but he suffered several injuries, including a broken collarbone, several ribs, a punctured lung and severe burns to his face.


Chuck Yeagers NF-104 crash site is located in the Mojave Desert
Chuck Yeagers NF104 crashed in the Mojave Desert

Following the crash, the United States Air Force launched an investigation to determine the cause of the incident. The investigation revealed that the F-104 had a notoriously difficult flight envelope, with a high stall speed and a tendency to enter a flat spin at high angles of attack. The investigation also revealed that Yeager had been flying with a faulty attitude indicator, which may have contributed to the loss of control.

However, the investigation ultimately concluded that the cause of the crash was pilot error. The investigation found that Yeager had exceeded the aircraft’s design limitations by flying at an altitude and speed that were beyond the F-104’s safe operating range. The investigation also found that Yeager had not received adequate training on the F-104 and had not been briefed on the risks associated with flying the aircraft at high altitudes and speeds.


The consequences of the NF-104 crash were significant. The incident highlighted the dangers of flying high-performance aircraft without adequate training and briefing. As a result, the United States Air Force grounded the entire NF-104 fleet until additional training and safety measures could be implemented. The incident also led to changes in the way that test pilots were trained and briefed on new aircraft.

In 1922, the movie Top Gun: Maverick featured a similar incident written into the story of the movie. Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick is attempting to reach a new speed record or Mach 10, when, at high alititude he is forced to bail our of the experimental plane he was piloting.

Crash Location

Chuck Yeager’s NF-104 cam to rest in the Mohave Desert, just west of I-14 and south of California City Blvd.


NameChuck Yeagers NF-104 Crash Site
LocationMojave Desert, Los Angles County, California
Date of IncidentDecember 10th, 1963
Latitude, Longitude35.1236, -118.1469


YB-49 Crash Site

The YB-49 was a prototype jet-powered flying wing aircraft designed and built by Northrop Corporation in the 1940s and 1950s. On June 5, 1948, the YB-49 experienced a catastrophic crash near Mojave in Los Angeles County, California, which resulted in the death of all five crew members on board. Captain Glen Edwards was the co-pilot of the flight, and the namesake of Edwards Air Force Base. The crash was a significant event in aviation history, as it raised questions about the safety of experimental aircraft and the future of jet-powered flight.

On June 5, 1948, the YB-49 experienced a catastrophic crash that resulted in the death of all five crew members on board.
On June 5, 1948, the YB-49 experienced a catastrophic crash that resulted in the death of all five crew members on board.

The YB-49 was designed as a successor to the earlier Northrop XB-35 flying wing bomber, which had been developed during World War II. The YB-49 was a radical departure from traditional aircraft design, with no tail or fuselage and a single large wing that housed the crew, engines, and weapons. The aircraft was powered by eight General Electric J35 turbojet engines and was capable of speeds up to 500 miles per hour and altitudes up to 40,000 feet.

On the day of the crash, the YB-49 took off from Muroc Air Force Base in California for a test flight. The flight was routine until about an hour into the flight, when the aircraft suddenly went into an uncontrolled spin and crashed into the desert floor. The cause of the crash was later determined to be a malfunction in the aircraft’s flight control system, which caused the elevons (the wing-mounted control surfaces that control pitch and roll) to become stuck in a partially raised position. This caused the aircraft to become unstable and enter the spin.

Brave Men Lost

The crash of the YB-49 cost these men their lives:

  • Major Daniel H. Forbes, Jr. – Pilot
  • Captain Glen W. Edwards – Copilot
  • Lt. Edward L. Swindell – Flight Engineer
  • Clare C. Lesser – Air Force civilian engineers
  • Charles H. LaFountain – Air Force civilian engineers

Muroc AFB was renamed Edwards AFB on December 5, 1949 in honor of the late Capt. Glen W Edwards

The crash of the YB-49 was a major setback for Northrop Corporation, which had invested significant time and resources into the development of the flying wing design. It also raised concerns about the safety of experimental aircraft and the need for more rigorous testing and evaluation of new designs before they are put into service. In the years following the crash, Northrop continued to develop and refine the flying wing design, eventually leading to the development of the B-2 stealth bomber, which entered service with the U.S. Air Force in the 1990s.

The crash of the YB-49 was a tragic event that highlighted the risks and challenges of experimental aircraft design. However, it also spurred innovation and development in the aviation industry, leading to the creation of new and advanced aircraft designs that continue to shape the field of aviation today.

YB-49 Crash Site Location summary

NameYB-49 Crash Site
LocationMojave Desert, Los Angeles County, California
Latitude, Longitude35.04243, -117.9926

YB-49 Trail Map

The YB-49 came to rest East of Mojave just North of Highway 58. The site contains a small memorial and one should remember that this is the location of the deaths of five brave men.


Happy Bottom Riding Club

Pancho Barnes, Happy Bottom Riding Club.  Photo Curtesy of the U.S. Air Force
Pancho Barnes, Happy Bottom Riding Club. Photo Curtesy of the U.S. Air Force

The Happy Bottom Riding Club was a legendary dude ranch and restaurant located in the Mojave Desert in California. The club was opened by aviator and screenwriter Pancho Barnes in the 1930s and quickly became a popular hangout for Hollywood celebrities, pilots, and other socialites.

The History of the Happy Bottom Riding Club

Pancho Barnes, born Florence Lowe Barnes in 1901, was a pioneering aviatrix who set numerous speed and altitude records in the early days of aviation. She was also a talented screenwriter who worked on several Hollywood films, including “Hell’s Angels,” directed by Howard Hughes.

In the 1930s, Barnes purchased a ranch in the Mohave and converted it into a private airfield. She named it the Happy Bottom Riding Club, after the nickname she earned as a pilot for her daring landings in dry lakebeds. The airfield quickly became a popular destination for pilots and aviation enthusiasts, who would fly in for weekend parties and barnstorming exhibitions.

Barnes also built a large clubhouse on the property, which she turned into a nightclub. The club was decorated with aviation memorabilia and had a western-themed bar and dance floor. Barnes hosted lavish parties at the club, inviting Hollywood celebrities, politicians, and other high-profile guests.

The Happy Bottom Riding Club was famous for its rowdy, freewheeling atmosphere. Barnes was known for her colorful personality and love of partying, and she encouraged her guests to let loose and have fun. The club was also known for its raunchy sense of humor and off-color jokes.

Despite its reputation as a wild party spot, the Happy Bottom Riding Club was also a place of innovation and progress. Barnes used the club as a base for her aviation business, which included flight instruction, aircraft maintenance, and aerial photography. She also provided a space for women pilots to gather and share their experiences in a male-dominated industry.

Decline of the Happy Bottom Riding Club

In the 1950s, the government took over her airfield and turned it into a military base. Barnes was forced to sell her property and move her business elsewhere. The club was a favorite haunt of many test pilots and future astronauts, perhaps the most famous was Chuck Yaeger who became the first man to break the sound barrier.

The Happy Bottom Riding Club continued to operate under new ownership for a few more years, but it was never the same without Barnes’ larger-than-life personality at the helm. The club eventually closed its doors in the 1950s and the building was demolished.

Despite its relatively short lifespan, the Happy Bottom Riding Club remains a legendary spot in aviation and Hollywood history. The ranch is destroyed by fire on November 13, 1953. Today, the ranch is located on land controlled by Edwards Air Force base.

Legacy of the Happy Bottom Riding Club

Today, the Happy Bottom Riding Club lives on in popular culture as a symbol of a bygone era of glamour, adventure, and fun. It has been referenced in movies, TV shows, and music, and continues to inspire people around the world to pursue their dreams and live life with gusto.

In 1988, a group of aviation enthusiasts founded the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate, which works to preserve Barnes’ legacy and promote aviation education. The organization has hosted several events and fundraisers over the years, including a biennial fly-in at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

In 2009, a feature film about Barnes’ life and career, titled “The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club,” was released. The film, directed by Amanda Pope, received critical acclaim and helped introduce Barnes’ story to a new generation.


Monte Cristo Campground

Monte Cristo Campground is a serene camping destination located in the Angeles National Forest, just outside of Los Angeles, in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California. The campground is situated in a beautiful natural setting, surrounded by towering pine trees and offering a peaceful escape from the city. The campground is situated at an elevation of 6,300 feet (1,920 meters) above sea level and is surrounded by towering pine trees.

The campground offers 19 campsites that can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs up to 22 feet in length. Each campsite is equipped with a picnic table, a fire ring, and a grill, making it easy for campers to cook and enjoy meals outdoors. The campground also has vault toilets, drinking water, and trash collection facilities.

One of the main draws of Monte Cristo Campground is its proximity to outdoor recreation activities. The campground is located near several hiking trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail, which offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The nearby Monte Cristo Creek is also stocked with trout for fishing, making it a popular spot for anglers.

Overall, Monte Cristo Campground offers a peaceful and enjoyable camping experience for anyone looking to escape the city and enjoy the outdoors. The campground’s proximity to Los Angeles makes it a convenient destination for city dwellers looking for a quick getaway, while its natural setting provides a serene and beautiful backdrop for camping and outdoor recreation activities.

Campground Summary

NameMonte Cristo Campground
LocationSan Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles County, California
Latitude, Longitude34.3422, -118.1081
Elevation6,300 feet (1,920 meters)
Number of sites19
Amenities picnic tables, fire rings & grill, vault toilets, drinking water, and trash collection facilities.

Campground Map

Table Mountain Campground

Table Mountain Campground is situated in the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California. The campground is surrounded by a beautiful and serene forest environment, with stunning views of the mountain range. It is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a peaceful camping experience.

The campground offers a variety of camping options, including tent sites, RV sites, and cabins. The tent sites are situated on a grassy area, with fire rings, picnic tables, and access to water nearby. The RV sites offer full hookups, including water, electricity, and sewage. The cabins are well-equipped with modern amenities, including kitchen facilities, bathrooms, and heating.

One of the best things about the campground is its location. It is situated near several hiking trails, offering visitors the chance to explore the mountain range and the surrounding forests. The trails range in difficulty, from easy strolls to challenging hikes. Some of the most popular trails include the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through the campground, and the Table Mountain Trail, which offers stunning views of the valley below.

In addition to hiking, the campground offers plenty of other activities for visitors to enjoy. There is a playground for children, a volleyball court, and a horseshoe pit. There is also a campfire area, where visitors can gather around the fire and enjoy the peace and quiet of the forest.

The campground is well-maintained, with clean and modern facilities. There are restrooms and showers available, as well as a laundry facility. The staff are friendly and helpful, and are always on hand to answer any questions or provide assistance.

Table Mountain Campground is a great place to visit for anyone looking for a peaceful and relaxing camping experience. Its beautiful surroundings, modern amenities, and variety of activities make it the perfect destination for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. Whether you are looking to hike, explore, or simply relax in nature, this campground has something for everyone.

Campground Summary

NameTable Mountain Campground
LocationSan Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles County, California
Latitude, Longitude34.3863, -117.6894
OpenSpring – Fall
Elevation7,261 Feet
Number of Sites111 single site(s), 2 double site(s)
AmmenitiesVault Toilets, Potable Water

Campground Map