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David Steeves (1934 – October 16, 1965) was a U.S. Air Force lieutenant and experimental aircraft test pilot. He is best known for an incident in 1957, when he was unjustly accused of giving a Lockheed T-33A trainer jet to the USSR during the Cold War.
Lieutenant Steeves was ordered to fly a jet from Hamilton Air Force Base near San Francisco, California to Craig Air Force Base near Selma, Alabama on May 9, 1957. Something went wrong with the jet and Steeves was forced to eject and parachute out. Badly injuring both ankles, for 15 days he crawled nearly 20 miles over impassable mountains without food in freezing weather. He found a ranger's cabin in Kings Canyon National Park that had fish hooks, beans and a canned ham. Meanwhile the military declared him dead unable to find any trace of the plane or Steeves. 52 days after the accident, Steeves was found by a pack-train guide and brought out of the mountains on horseback.
When the Air Force could not find any wreckage, Steeves was accused of giving the jet to Russia or shipping it piecemeal to Mexico. Even though no charges were brought against the lieutenant, he requested discharge from the Air Force, which was granted. After returning to civilian life, Steeves found work flying experimental models of new aircraft and designing his own craft. In 1965, Steeves was killed in a demonstration flight of a new aircraft.
In 1977, some Boy Scouts from Los Angeles on a hiking trip in Dusy Basin in Kings Canyon National Park came across a cockpit cover. The serial number on it matched the missing T-33A jet that Steeves had piloted, finally vindicating his story. Since the bulk of the wreckage has yet to be found, one possibility is the plane had enough momentum to crash into the Pacific.
Author Eric Blehm is reportedly at work on a book about Lt. Steeves.
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