In May of 1957, 23 year old USAF pilot Lt. David Steeves was responsible for flying a Lockheed T33 training jet from San Francisco California to Selma Alabama. This was to be a routine flight but shortly after departure, his plane disappeared from radar. After a search failed to find any trace of Steeves or his aircraft, he was presumed dead, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. That was until June 30th, when Lt. Steeves stumbled out of the wilderness after surviving in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains for 53 days. According to Steeves, his aircraft malfunctioned and an ensuing explosion knocked him unconscious. During this time the jet drifted off course, and when he regained consciousness, the jet was out of control. Instead of flying down the San Joaquin Valley as planned, he instead tracked further south over Kings Canyon National Park. It was here, in a region still locked in winter's icy grip that he was forced to eject and so begin his 53 day ordeal of survival.
Lauded briefly as a national hero, questions began to surface about the location of the T33 jet. Fuelled by the Cold War, many wondered whether Steeves fabricated the story after selling the jet to the Russians or the Mexicans? As subsequent searches failed to turn up any sign of the missing jet, the public began to doubt his account. Though he fought to clear his tarnished name his life took a downward spiral as he was branded a liar, and worse a traitor. He was granted discharge from the military, and spent his remaining years as a test pilot and aircraft designer. Sadly, he was killed in 1965 when an test aircraft he was piloting crashed.
The mystery faded from public memory until 1977, when a troop of boy scouts hiking in Kings Canyon National Park discovered an airplane cockpit cover with a serial number that matched that of the missing jet. His name was posthumous cleared, but the larger mystery of the missing jet still remains.
2010 will see the Adventure Science team travelling deep into the high Sierras to search for the wreckage in hopes of putting final closure to this mystery. Once again, teams of adventure athletes will scour the high alpine for signs of the wreckage. The team will analyse all available technical and scientific data to help ensure success, but in this high altitude playground, mother nature will ultimately control the outcome of the search.
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