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Saturday, March 8. 2008
This piece by Major Shul came in over the transom:
In April 1986, following an attack on American soldiers in a
I was piloting the SR-71 spy plane, the world's fastest jet, accompanied by Maj Walter Watson, the aircraft's reconnaissance systems officer (RSO). We had crossed into
After several agonizingly long seconds, we made the turn and blasted toward the
Scores of significant aircraft have been produced in the 100 years of flight, following the achievements of the Wright brothers, which we celebrate in December. Aircraft such as the Boeing 707, the F-86 Sabre Jet, and the P-51 Mustang are among the important machines that have flown our skies. But the SR-71, also known as the Blackbird, stands alone as a significant contributor to Cold War victory and as the fastest plane ever-and only 93 Air Force pilots ever steered the 'sled,' as we called our aircraft.
As inconceivable as it may sound, I once discarded the plane. Literally. My first encounter with the SR-71 came when I was 10 years old in the form of molded black plastic in a Revell kit. Cementing together the long fuselage parts proved tricky, and my finished product looked less than menacing. Glue,oozing from the seams, discolored the black plastic. It seemed ungainly alongside the fighter planes in my collection, and I threw it away.
Twenty-nine years later, I stood awe-struck in a Beale Air Force Base hangar, staring at the very real SR-71 before me. I had applied to fly the world's fastest jet and was receiving my first walk-around of our nation's most prestigious aircraft. In my previous 13 years as an Air Force fighter pilot, I had never seen an aircraft with such presence. At 107 feet long, it appeared big, but far from ungainly.
Ironically, the plane was dripping, much like the misshapen model had assembled in my youth. Fuel was seeping through the joints, raining down on the hangar floor. At Mach 3, the plane would expand several inches because of the severe temperature, which could heat the leading edge of the wing to 1,100 degrees. To prevent cracking, expansion joints had been built into the plane. Sealant resembling rubber glue covered the seams, but when the plane was subsonic, fuel would leak through the joints.
The SR-71 was the brainchild of Kelly Johnson, the famed Lockheed designer who created the P-38, the F-104 Starfighter, and the U-2. After the Soviets shot down Gary Powers' U-2 in 1960, Johnson began to develop an aircraft that would fly three miles higher and five times faster than the spy plane-and still be capable of photographing your license plate. However, flying at 2,000 mph would create intense heat on the aircraft's skin. Lockheed engineers used a titanium alloy to construct more than 90 percent of the SR-71, creating special tools and manufacturing procedures to hand-build each of the 40 planes. Special heat-resistant fuel, oil, and hydraulic fluids that would function at 85,000 feet and higher also had to be developed.
In 1962, the first Blackbird successfully flew, and in 1966, the same year I graduated from high school, the Air Force began flying operational SR-71 missions. I came to the program in 1983 with a sterling record and a recommendation from my commander, completing the week long interview and meeting Walter, my partner for the next four years. He would ride four feet behind me, working all the cameras, radios, and electronic jamming equipment. I joked that if we were ever captured, he was the spy and I was just the driver. He told me to keep the pointy end forward.
We trained for a year, flying out of Beale AFB in
One day, high above
The Blackbird always showed us something new, each aircraft possessing its own unique personality. In time, we realized we were flying a national treasure. When we taxied out of our revetments for takeoff, people took notice. Traffic congregated near the airfield fences, because everyone wanted to see and hear the mighty SR-71. You could not be a part of this program and not come to love the airplane. Slowly, she revealed her secrets to us as we earned her trust.
One moonless night, while flying a routine training mission over the Pacific, I wondered what the sky would look like from 84,000 feet if the cockpit lighting were dark. While heading home on a straight course, I slowly turned down all of the lighting, reducing the glare and revealing the night sky. Within seconds, I turned the lights back up, fearful that the jet would know and somehow punish me. But my desire to see the sky overruled my caution, I dimmed the lighting again. To my amazement, I saw a bright light outside my window. As my eyes adjusted to the view, I realized that the brilliance was the broad expanse of the Milky Way, now a gleaming stripe across the sky. Where dark spaces in the sky had usually existed, there were now dense clusters of sparkling stars. Shooting stars flashed across the canvas every few seconds. It was like a fireworks display with no sound. I knew I had to get my eyes back on the instruments, and reluctantly I brought my attention back inside. To my surprise, with the cockp lighting still off, I could see every gauge, lit by starlight. In the plane's mirrors, I could see the eerie shine of my gold spacesuit incandescently illuminated in a celestial glow. I stole one last glance out the window. Despite our speed, we seemed still before the heavens, humbled in the radiance of a much greater power. For those few moments, I felt a part of something far more significant than anything we were doing in the plane. The sharp sound of Walt's voice on the radio brought me back to the tasks at hand as I prepared for our descent.
The SR-71 was an expensive aircraft to operate. The most significant cost was tanker support, and in 1990, confronted with budget cutbacks, the Air Force retired the SR-71. The Blackbird had outrun nearly 4,000 missiles, not once taking a scratch from enemy fire. On her final flight, the Blackbird, destined for the Smithsonian National Air and
The SR-71 served six presidents, protecting
I am proud to say I flew about 500 hours in this aircraft. I knew her well. She gave way to no plane, proudly dragging her sonic boom through enemy backyards with great impunity. She defeated every missile, outran every MiG, and always brought us home. In the first 100 years of manned flight, no aircraft was more remarkable!
With the Libyan coast fast approaching now, Walt asks me for the third time, if I think the jet will get to the speed and altitude we want in time. I tell him yes. I know he is concerned. He is dealing with the data; that's what engineers do, and I am glad he is. But I have my hands on the stick and throttles and can feel the heart of a thoroughbred, running now with the power and perfection she was designed to possess. I also talk to her. Like the combat veteran she is, the jet senses the target area and seems to prepare herself.
For the first time in two days, the inlet door closes flush and all vibration is gone. We've become so used to the constant buzzing that the jet sounds quiet now in comparison. The Mach correspondingly increases slightly and the jet is flying in that confidently smooth and steady style we have so often seen at these speeds. We reach our target altitude and speed, with five miles to spare. Entering the target area, in response to the jet's new-found vitality, Walt says, 'That's amazing' and with my left hand pushing two throttles farther forward, I think to myself that there is much they don't teach in engineering school.
Out my left window,
Only the Mach indicator is moving, steadily increasing in hundredths, in a rhythmic consistency similar to the long distance runner who has caught his second wind and picked up the pace. The jet was made for this kind of performance and she wasn't about to let an errant inlet door make her miss the show. With the power of forty locomotives, we puncture the quiet African sky and continue farther south across a bleak landscape.
Walt continues to update me with numerous reactions he sees on the DEF panel. He is receiving missile tracking signals. With each mile we traverse, every two seconds, I become more uncomfortable driving deeper into this barren and hostile land. I am glad the DEF panel is not in the front seat. It would be a big distraction now, seeing the lights flashing. In contrast, my cockpit is 'quiet' as the jet purrs and relishes her new-found strength, continuing to slowly accelerate.
The spikes are full aft now, tucked twenty-six inches deep into the nacelles. With all inlet doors tightly shut, at 3.24 Mach, the J-58s are more like ramjets now, gulping 100,000 cubic feet of air per second. We are a roaring express now, and as we roll through the enemy's backyard, I hope our speed continues to defeat the missile radars below. We are approaching a turn, and this is good. It will only make it more difficult for any launched missile to solve the solution for hitting our aircraft.
I push the speed up at Walt's request. The jet does not skip a beat, nothing fluctuates, and the cameras have a rock steady platform. Walt received missile launch signals. Before he can say anything else, my left hand instinctively moves the throttles yet farther forward. My eyes are glued to temperature gauges now, as I know the jet will willingly go to speeds that can harm her. The temps are relatively cool and from all the warm temps we've encountered thus far, this surprises me but then, it really doesn't surprise me. Mach 3.31 and Walt is quiet for the moment.
I move my gloved finder across the small silver wheel on the autopilot panel which controls the aircraft's pitch. With the deft feel known to Swiss watchmakers, surgeons, and 'dinosaurs' (old- time pilots who not only fly an airplane but 'feel it'), I rotate the pitch wheel somewhere between one-sixteenth and one-eighth inch location, a position which yields the 500-foot-per-minute climb I desire. The jet raises her nose one-sixth of a degree and knows I'll push her higher as she goes faster. The Mach continues to rise, but during this segment of our route, I am in no mood to pull throttles back.
Walt's voice pierces the quiet of my cockpit with the news of more missile launch signals. The gravity of Walter's voice tells me that he believes the signals to be a more valid threat than the others. Within seconds he tells me to 'push it up' and I firmly press both throttles against their stops. For the next few seconds, I will let the jet go as fast as she wants. A final turn is coming up and we both know that if we can hit that turn at this speed, we most likely will defeat any missiles. We are not there yet, though, and I'm wondering if Walt will call for a defensive turn off our course.
With no words spoken, I sense Walter is thinking in concert with me about maintaining our programmed course. To keep from worrying, I glance outside, wondering if I'll be able to visually pick up a missile aimed at us. Odd are the thoughts that wander through one's mind in times like these. I found myself recalling the words of former SR-71 pilots who were fired upon while flying missions over
I see nothing outside except the endless expanse of a steel blue sky and the broad patch of tan earth far below. I have only had my eyes out of the cockpit for seconds, but it seems like many minutes since I have last checked the gauges inside. Returning my attention inward, I glance first at the miles counter telling me how many more to go, until we can start our turn. Then I note the Mach, and passing beyond 3.45, I realize that Walter and I have attained new personal records. The Mach continues to increase. The ride is incredibly smooth.
There seems to be a confirmed trust now, between me and the jet; she will not hesitate to deliver whatever speed we need, and I can count on no problems with the inlets. Walt and I are ultimately depending on the jet now - more so than normal - and she seems to know it. The cooler outside temperatures have awakened the spirit born into her years ago, when men dedicated to excellence took the time and care to build her well. With spikes and doors as tight as they can get, we are racing against the time it could take a missile to reach our altitude.
It is a race this jet will not let us lose. The Mach eases to 3.5 as we crest 80,000 feet. We are a bullet now - except faster. We hit the turn, and I feel some relief as our nose swings away from a country we have seen quite enough of. Screaming past
The TDI now shows us Mach numbers, not only new to our experience but flat out scary. Walt says the DEF panel is now quiet, and I know it is time to reduce our incredible speed. I pull the throttles to the min 'burner range and the jet still doesn't want to slow down. Normally the Mach would be affected immediately, when making such a large throttle movement. But for just a few moments old 960 just sat out there at the high Mach, she seemed to love and like the proud Sled she was, only began to slow when we were well out of danger.
I loved that jet.
Major† Brian Shul is a former Air Force pilot who flew over 200 missions in Viet Nam and sustained severe injuries when he was shot down; after a lengthy recuperation period (and many surgeries) he recovered sufficiently to resume a 20-year Air Force career that ended with his retirement in 1990. Since then, Brian has operated his own photography studio in northern
Speed - Mach 3.5 Altitude - 80,000 Feet Over Enemy Territory
This morning at Maggies Farm, one of the most fascinating and inspiring articles in a long time. "After several agonizingly long seconds, we made the turn and blasted toward the Mediterranean. 'You might want to pull it back,' Walter suggested. It was then that I noticed I still had the throttles full forward. The plane was flying a mile every 1.6 seconds, well above our Mach 3.2 limit. It was the fastest we would ever fly." - Major Brian...
Weblog: AMERICAN DIGEST
Tracked: Mar 08, 11:29
Saturday, March 08, 2008 07:53 PM
A great post at Maggie's Farm: "I loved that jet". "Only the Mach indicator is moving, steadily increasing in hundredths, in a rhythmic consistency similar to the long distance runner who has caught his second wind and picked up the pace... With the...
Weblog: Critical Section
Tracked: Mar 09, 07:04
“I Show You At 1,742 Knots On The Ground”
Maggie's Farm has a wonderful appreciation of the SR-71 Blackbird written by Major Brian Shul, one of the few men to fly the 'sled', as she was known to those who loved her. ...
Weblog: Blue Crab Boulevard
Tracked: Mar 09, 09:21
Instapundit linked up this colorful recollection of what it was like to fly the SR-71. When you're talking about what is still the world's fastest jet, it's hard not to stray into superlatives....
Tracked: Mar 09, 10:57
I saw one of these things fly once. I guess the conditions would be similar to seeing Mark Martin drive his car in a Thanksgiving parade. It was at the Naval Air Show at Point Mugu, California in the early
Weblog: Mazurland Blog
Tracked: Mar 09, 13:46
One Reason Khaddafi is Now Our Pal
Who Says You Can't Draw Flies With Vinegar? Think your life is interesting? Well, it's not. Sorry....
Weblog: Hog On Ice
Tracked: Mar 09, 13:53
Remembering the Blackbird
The SR-71 was an awesome airplane. A former pilot remembers:One day, high above Arizona, we were monitoring the radio traffic of all the mortal airplanes below us. First, a Cessna pilot asked the air traffic controllers to check his ground speed. 'Ninety
Weblog: From The Maas
Tracked: Mar 09, 17:04
Whatever Speed We Need
Everyone is linking to this piece by an SR-71 pilot, for good reason. Not unlike Tom Wolfe, if you first gave his prose a snark-ectomy.† The comments are good, too. Excerpt: As my eyes adjusted to the view, I realized that the brilliance was the broad...
Tracked: Mar 09, 21:20
Tales of a Blackbird
Earlier today business partner Jim Bennett passed this SR-71 story along to me. Mach 3.5 at 80,000 MSl... It just makes me go all quivery inside. Not a single SR-71 was scrapped: every last one has been given an honoured and well-cared for retirement. Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved...
Tracked: Mar 10, 00:00
Tracked: Dec 29, 12:29
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Kelly Johnson was a true genius... due to the inherent secrecy of his work he never received the accolades he deserved.
The Jetstar... a four engined corporate jet, the first of its kind, was conceived, designed and built in less than a years time. Try doing that today.
The SR-71 is a wonderful aircraft to view in person... you will stand in awe at the beauty of its design and engineering. It is worth a trip to do so...
This list is old, but likely still accurate. Museums displaying the aircraft.
Well, I am stunned. That is the single best essay I've read in a long time.
Great plane. Great pilot. Great memoir.
Thank you, Maj. Shul.
My first CIA assignment was working in the Directorate of Science and Technology, Office of Special Projects. We tasked the SR-71 missions and on many occasions I flew to bases to brief the crew on the mission.
The Yom Kippur War was a busy time as many of our "allies denied us airspace and refueling rights. Operation "Long Reach" developed quickly.
Those were the great days. We ran Hexagon ,Rhyolite,Kennan(KH-11) as well as put to bed Oxcart, the CIA's SR-71, known as the A-12, that was faster and could fly higher.'
I knew Kelly Johnson as well as other more important operational men such as Carl Duckett and Dick Bissell.
It was a neat time for a young dude.
Later other tasks came my way (we didn't call it multi-tasking though) .
I know the thread says it was known as the Blackbird, which it was, it was also Habu...just ask the Okinawans, where on Okinawa sits Habu Hill and was the first site outside CONUS to get the SR-71..Det-1.
God what memoroies. Thank you.
Wow. Just ... wow.
There's no false pride or empty bravado about it -- just supreme confidence and bravery.
I'm not ashamed to say that I teared up a bit with pride in America on reading this piece. And I am humbled to realize that I have done nothing to deserve to live in a country that produces the kind of men who build and fly and do such things as these.
Thanks for passing this along.
well sir what can i say some people live their dreams and others just dream . you certainly lived yours . :-)
what a story! What a writer! The passage about the dark cockpit and the Milky Way is just stunning.
Lovely piece of writing. Thanks so much for offering it to us.
What an absolutely beautiful narrative! An entire novel in a few paragraphs. I envy and admire your experience and service and thank you so much for sharing.
I was in the Med, aboard USS BIDDLE (CG-34) when the fly over happened. We saw about 4 "paints" on the air search. My blog entry is at this link: http://www.chaoticsynapticactivity.com/2005/05/23/i-didnt-know-i-had-seen-this-guy-before/, discussing that event. The "rest of the story" about the ops off Libya in 1986 is covered in a series I wrote, beginning at: http://www.chaoticsynapticactivity.com/2006/01/12/a-journey-into-history-part-i/.
I had the priviledge to guard an SR-71 which developed engine trouble and landed at U-Tapao Thailand in 1967. It is truly an incredible aircraft, poetry in motion even when sitting on the ground. It just LOOKS FAST. Unique and its true speeds and altitudes have never been revealed, I doubt seriously if there is ANY aircraft in the world that can out run her or outfly her. The pilot I met had his astronaut wings. that tells you something.
April, 1986: I was there, too, toiling away in the belly of USS ENTERPRISE, waiting for my first for-real General Quarters to sound. Fortunately, by the time we got there, your Air Force guys had it wrapped up for us. Kudos for a job well done.
I spent most of 1980-81 on Okinawa.
I'll never forget watching the Habu come in off the South China Sea so high, high in the air, and circle the horizon twice before lining up for landing at Kadena.
After I'd been there about nine months, my section chief idly asked if I'd done the math about those circuits; just how far, how fast, did the Habu fly on those two go-arounds?
low whistle I don't remember the number, but I remember it was fast~!
Mach 3.5 and 84,000 ft with late 1950 early 1960 technology! What could we do now?
Although I've been out of the loop for years my sense and experience tells me we've already done "it". That we have platforms that exceed what the SR-71 did.
My sense, and a certain feeling of letdown is that whatever "it" might be is unmanned, flown from an air conditioned building at Groom Lake or Alice Springs ,MenwithHill, or a dozen other possible sites. Physically, man can only withstand so much and many of those missions were edge of the seat stuff. That was not an easy bird to fly, the astronaut pilots had to endure a good deal of unrelenting mental pressure as well as the "go fast aspect".and speaking from first hand knowledge some of the missions came very close to failure, very close.
Our new relations with former Soviets now independent countries also allows us much more freedom in "dash" capability. But you are very right....the mind boggles at what we did and what we can and probably are doing.
That said I can only join those who have seen what a beautiful bird the SR-71 is. I knew at the time I worked with it that it was a special time in my life. At that time the world did not know of it's existence so it made it even more exciting.......but the Soviets knew, they just couldn't do a damn thing about it and we loved that...in your face Ivan.
Absolutely great piece! I see Memeorandum picked it up. My Dad was on hand when they launched Powers the day he was shot down. He worked for the company that developed the cameras on the U-2.
Probably an apocryphal story, but I recall reading that in one of the last interviews Kelly Johnson ever gave, he was asked by some network talking head how fast the SR could really go.
He responded with the standard "Mach 3.5 plus". Then came the question "Well, how much is 'plus'?". Johnson answered... "A whole shit-load."
to read more, get a copy of Skunkworks, written by Kelly Johnson's successor Ben Rich. It goes into great detail about the development of the Blackbird, as well as the U2 and the Stealth fighter & bomber. It includes sections written by "other voices", often the test pilots. Great reading.
The moon landings still blow my mind. Not just that they were done with 60s tech, but the whole swashbuckling attitude -- i mean, those guys were freakin' NUTS to try to fly to the MOON, land on it --and then fly back to splash down in the middle of earth ocean -- all done with near-zero margin for error anywhere in the whole mission.
"Salute" is too mild a word --
"My Dad was on hand when they launched Powers the day he was shot down. He worked for the company that developed the cameras on the U-2."
Your Dad worked for Itek? So did I, although not in its glory days.
What was his name? Maybe I knew him.
I was assigned to the B-2 program from 92-96. I shared a cubicle wall with one of the original test pilots for the Blackbird. It was hard to believe he was such a badass during his youth as he looked like someone's grandfather. He told me many stories about his "glory" days being on the team. A team which consisted of only 168 members. Amazing. The B-2 "Team" consisted of thousands. He also said that each and every airplane was slightly different. I got to see the Blackbird take off once from Edwards AFB at dusk. It was amazing.
I have had the honor in 1987 of writing a few lines of code for the SR-71.
Always love hearing stories of the aircraft.
Beale AFB was my first active duty assignment (1983-1985) as a navigation systems tech. The first aircraft I touched as a maintenance person was the SR-71. It was always my goal to work on one; the reason I joined as an avionics systems tech.
Just think, this beast was designed using slide rules and T-squares!
In many ways, modern computers give us the means to do more intricate designs, but the designers often do not have the same feeling of physical intimacy with the craft. Why "think" about what you are doing when you can set up the computer to run a Monte Carlo and spit out the answer in less time? The problem is, it only gives you answers to the specific questions you ask, without the same process of spontaneous discovery that is the product of the human mind alone on this Earth.
that's what i was trying to get at re the pony-express-like Apollo program. "let's just saddle this thing up and ride it" --
Thank you for an extraordinary piece of writing. People such as Major Shul and Kelly Johnson continually reaffirm my faith in our country, and its ability to create, reform, and reshape this world for the better. There are not problems, only solutions waiting to be discovered.
Fascinating read. Weird coincidence that I came across a copy of a catalog for Mach 1 a company that specialized in aviation books and other media. This particular catalog featured Brian Shul's book "Sled Driver". It had some awesome pictures along with excerpts, some of which are included above. My favorite anecdote is of the speed check. THe book os still available but where, in 1994 it cost a mere $38.00 it is now a limited edition reprint avaiable for "only" (my word) $427.00.
Another budgetary reason for retirement was the fact that SR-71 came out of the AF's budget while all other platforms(U-2, satalites, etc.) came out of the hide of the CIA, NSA, et al. With dollar demands for stealth a/c on horizon AF chose its poison. Besides, recce was always the step-child within the "warrior" community.
And I should know, for I was part of that "community."
Saw the first SR to go operational at Beale in '66, and pulled security on them for about a year. I think everyone who was ever around them any length of time loved them.
Shul's book is excellent. Lockheed also put out a glorious film on them with fantastic photography, great music, and a very moving narrative letter to Kelly Johnson.
Watching the SR take off at night with the shock diamonds in the exhaust flames was truly memorable.
Thank you, Mr. Johnson!
I spent my first few years in the AF as a technician on the SR-71 at Beale, Kadena and Mildenhall. I was one of the techs that tuned the AICS (Air Inlet Control System) that Maj. Shul references. The spikes and doors were an ingenious design that enabled the aircraft's engines to generate tremendous thrust at speeds and altitudes that would otherwise destroy the engine - and the aircraft. As Maj. Shul wrote, each airplane had its own personality. Some were a bit faster than others and some were more prone to unstarts. An unstart was a rapid and uncontrolled change in pressure in the nacelle that was jarring to the air crew to say the least. It was like someone pulling the emergency brake in your car without you knowing it. The system would sense the unstart and restart both nacelles within seconds. But for all their idiosyncrasies, the SR-71 is one of, if not the, most unique and fascinating aircraft in the world. I went on to eventually become a pilot (not SR-71, but F-15) and ironically one day over Nevada I was overflown by an SR-71 making quite a bit better than my sloth-like mach 2.4. Though I could not see them, but just knowing they were still there made me again proud to have been associated with the program and proud to be an American.
Good grief, what an exciting recollection! Thank you for that.
I flew KC-135s out of Kadena in 69/70. Some of them were fitted out to refuel the SR-71. They had wired-down safety switches on the main tanks so that, when flying an SR-71 mission, you would not screw up and try to feed the 135 on SR-71 fuel. Such an action would have resulted in unhappiness all around. Also, the 135s had special strobe lights at the wingtips and tail for use in radio silent SR-71 refueling missions.
When the SR-71 took off from Kadena, they would close the curtains on the commercial terminal so the locals couldn't see it. Of course, they then just went outside to watch.
The takeoff was a thing of beauty. Stunning, especially the last bit when it went almost vertical and dissapeared straight up.
Coming back from a B-52 refueling mission we were at FL450 when we saw a speck high above us. We heard the ATC controller out of Kadena get a position report from an aircraft that reported just that he was "very high".
The best bit is setting four records on the way to mothball.
I attended a USAF school with Jim Sullivan, who set the NY to London speed record. Quite a personable guy. It amazed me when he said the Habu got its best fuel range at its max speed because you can only cram fuel in at a max rate, but the bird has some legs left. Sorry about the bassackwards posts...thought the first one posted.
Major Shul may have missed his true calling. That was one heck of an article, I actually felt like I was in the cockpit. I saw the Blackbird in 1966, when I visited my best friend during an easter week break from college. He served aboard KC135's based at Beale, the first time I saw the Blackbird I about fell over and have been in love with them ever since. There is nothing like American technology.
Fantastic insight into the mission.
I come from the opposite end of the surveillance spectrum, the turbo prop Grumman OV-1 Mohawks.
During the cold war we only flew safe sides of borders doing stand off collection of targets that did not rate expenditures of Air Force assets. I was a T.O. Technical Observer - part navigator, part mission specialist, part ballast. Some missions we were extremely active, and some mission profiles were lessons in sheer boredom as we flew race-track patterns gathering radar imagery out of harms way.
Hitching a ride on something that went faster than 300 Knots was something our guys all dreamed of doing.
Now we can live vicariously through this tale.
At a quick check they can be had on Amazon for well under that. Even say a first print.
Anyway, excellent read.
Thank you for putting pen to paper.
Or fingers to keyboard... shrug
As someone who is completely against big government, I do not believe that "freedom from government" and glorification of the US military are at all consistent.
The US "defense" system is the most expensive project ever undertaken by humanity. When it was tested on September 11 this defense failed completely; but instead of saying, "We must fix our defenses right now," literally trillions have been poured into failed foreign wars.
The US spends more money on weapons than all other countries put together; and it does it largely on credit, through massive borrowings from other countries.
You're spending your children's and grandchildren's money on killing foreigners that never offered you the slightest harm, people in countries like Iraq (remember, 9/11 was done by Saudis, so says the CIA and FBI anyway...) and you venerate the war machines and warriors over everything else.
I really believe in the Constitution and what America once stood for but if this is all that's left, perhaps it's better it's all being swept away.
Wow! Thank you for sharing that, Major.
FWIW the first one I saw was at Utapao ('68?) when one made what the rumor mill said was an unscheduled landing. It was hustled into one of phase docks, doors shut, and the SPs quickly established a perimeter around that hangar.
I missed the takeoff some days later but was told the whole base stopped and all eyes were on the flightline area to watch it depart. I understand that the show didn't last very long as it was in the clouds in no time at all.
I spent some time at U-Tapao RTAFB in Thailand in 1971 as a C-130 Crew Chief. Never got to see a SR-71 but did see a couple of U-2's take off. Then they sent me to a little place called NKP where they had quite an unusual assortment of aircraft.
"Kelly Johnson was a true genius... due to the inherent secrecy of his work he never received the accolades he deserved."
He won the Collier Trophy twice and is arguably the most famous aircraft designer after the Wright Brothers. The list of awards and accolades for Kelly Johnson spans 52 years and includes 50 instances of awards or honorifics. That hardly seems like he "never received the accolades he deserved". They may have occasionally taken a little longer, but they were there.
I believe the Blackbird had another trick that I've never heard mentioned. In the early 70s while working in the woods between the Middle and South Forks of the Yuba River, not far from Beale AFB, a huge black plane flew over me silently at tree-top level. People less than half a mile away didn't see or hear a thing, and ribbed me about my claim.
A few days later two fellows approached me in Nevada City and asked if I was the guy who saw the "big black jet." Admitting I was, they informed me they too had see it when it flew over a road cut they were driving down. Scared them too!
When I asked a few young airmen from Beale about a big black jet, they went kind of stiff, averted their eyes, and said "no sir, never saw anything like that." Well disciplined, but bad liars.
Later I identified the plane from photos.
what a great article! For anybody in Southern California, there's a retired SR-71 sittin on sticks in front of the San Diego Aeronautical museum: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM25JD
Appallingly ignorant twisted half-truths, Teacher. And re your last line, I suppose you think you're gonna like what comes after?
I truly felt like I was there. What a trip! Great writing, great piloting!
In '71, we saw it fly up Squaw Valley and disappear over the headwall. Chaos on the slopes!!
Here's a blog post with a link to where all the Blackbirds are nowadays at http://guntrash.blogspot.com/2007/12/flock-of-blackbirds.html"
And for comment #13, R DeFulgentis - You sure it wasn't '68? I was stationed at Udorn in 66-67 and didn't PCS to Utapao '68 and I clearly recall one landing there during that timeframe. Or perhaps Utapao had 2 occurences of "broken" birds landing there.
Major Shul did two "coffee table books", "Sled Driver" and "Where Others Dare Not Fly" (i think that's right - mine
are packed up at the moment) and they are well worth the trouble to hunt down. I am also proud to say I have one of the autographed blow-ups of the cover photo - a view of Habu that very few people have seen (at least not for very long!) - a view looking backwards into her face *in flight*. It was taken by Major Shul from a refueling tanker.
The SR-71 was a singular work - there was no "focus group", no market survey in a mall somewhere. It was built to be the unassailable best at what it did with no compromises and certainly no apologies. It was blessed with a Purity Of Essense which few projects ever enjoy, especially in these days of MBAs and multi-mission mediocrity.
Burt Rutan's essay for the Wright Centential issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology is a most righteous screed in which he laments that the greatest airplanes ever designed are in museums instead of *flying*. Let's hope we recover the enthusiasm for excellence and innovation while we still have people around like Major Shul who remember what that's like for inspiration.
I had the pleasure of seeing an SR 71 at Udorn Thailand in 1972. We were allowed to do a walk around if in uniform so I was able to get a very close look. A very impressive aircraft, even more so when you consider it is 50's technology. What we could have done had we pushed on with our technology instead of running off to fix the unfixable social issues.
I also had the pleasure of seeing the Bird climb out after take off, interesting in that from the rear it looked like what one would expect a flying saucer to look like.
I read once that it was originally going to be used as a bomber, that would have probably ended the cold war on the QT, ruskies had no hope of competing and no effective response.
SMSgt Evan Cowart
Teacher, if the US were to do as you wish, drop out, drop the world cop role, guess where the world would be, peace and serenity is not the answer.
We have fished the worlds bacon out of the fire for most of the last century and are still doing it. If we quit, in a very short time we will see anarchy as the norm around the world. We are the only nation on the face of this earth that has gone out and won wars while expecting nothing but a little assistance and cooperation in return. Usually we got little or no help, just a lot of bad mouth an arrogance while they hide behind the skirts of lady liberty.
I shudder to think where we will be after this next election.
SMSgt Evan Cowart
There are two Blackbirds at the Air Park in Palmdale, LA county. One is a SR-71. Another is an A-12, its predecessor. There are also -21 Drones and a variety of other aircraft. The newest aquisition is a B-52D.
Here's yet another KC-135 guy who is writing to send you kudos for writing such a great article about such a kick ass jet. I too flew the Q model and T model that was designed to carry the jelly fuel you guys burned in separate tanks that wouldn't mix with the JP-4.
I never got the chance to refuel you in 22 years of service, but I was ready.
START THE WATER. Nobody Kicks Ass Without Tanker Gas...Nobody.
tmjUtah, in 80-81 I was at Futema MCAS shaking my head at the fact that we as service folks couldn't carry cameras when the Habu took off but the locals could go to the end of the runway and snap as many shots as they wanted.
I had the joy of working on this bird in '72. I worked in nav aids and my roommate was in the instrument section. He told me they had one come back to Kadena that had a missile shot at it over N. Viet Nam. He said the instrument that recorded speed throughout the mission read over Mach 4..... Loved that bird!
I saw one flying over Lake Michigan during the 1981 Chicago Air Show. From what the announcer said, it was extremely unusual for one to appear in a public air show. I was already familiar with the plane and knew it was awesome technology. As I recall, it flew all the way from its home base in northern California to overfly the lake close to the beach, and then headed back home.
I've spent the last 30 years in helicopter flight test (yeah, it ain't mach 3.5, but no SR-71 ever hovered, either). This article reminds me of something we sometimes forget when we're tied up in administrative detail -
All great machines have a soul.....
You can quote me.
this is very possibly the most beautiful plane i have ever seen fly and i've seen a lot of planes in my hubby's 24 years in the air force this plane has more grace than a dancer thank you for being there when you were needed my family and i are grateful
Thanks for a superb essay.
During an assignment to Seoul for four years in the mid-1970s, the daily passage of SR-71 flights was a great comfort to Americans and (South) Koreans alike. An impressive pair of booms for west-east and east-west passes if you happened to be anywhere in the city.
One fine day my wife and I were at my son's school out toward Kimpo in a classroom that looked like part of a traditional farm house. The wall and sliding doors were all glass panes in light wooden frames. When the first transit came over, it seemed that we would have shards all over the place. The 60 or so pieces of glass stayed put, but rattled like a deranged chandelier. The kids and school staff paid no attention, but visiting parents got a jolt. Great show.
Watched a takeoff from Osan, and before the impressive flight demonstration, we groundlings were all taken by the image of the crew: pressure suits with fish-bowl helmets, tube and cables, and boots that clanked like spurs on gunslingers in a wild west movie.
Had the pleasure of standing watch with a USAF officer with his "3-Plus" coffee mug. Cool fellow, and an honor to serve with him as we monitored several events of major military and political interest.
Did anyone noticed that the Major never mentioned his top speed ?? Clasified to this day
Start that water, you folks almost caused me a heart attack when I was stationed at Offut in 68, had just got back from a tour in sunny Vietnam, based outside of Siagon, fun year. Anyway, I was driving the 4 lane that passed beneath the active runway, minding my own business, saw the sign about aircraft noise, and then my world ended, a KC on take off role, probably doing water based on the db level scared me half to death. Did not wreck, but I sure don't know why. At that point I had been in the USAF for about 5 years, fighters and cargo, noise not new, but it was an attention getter that evening.
You cannot keep spending more and more money you do not have to start foreign wars. You cannot keep killing hundreds of thousands of people who never offered you any harm.
No one is proposing to shut the US military; but you can't keep writing blank checks, particularly when it's very clear to a disinterested observer that you're been ripped off left and right since there is no effective fiscal oversight of military spending.
One way or the other, it will catch up to you. You can't spend more than you earn for very long.
I had the honor of working in the SR-71 program during the early years at Beale when the aircraft along with it's engines, avionics and related systems was still in the "research and development" phase.
Thanks to the combined effort of the many professionals, both military and civilian assigned, and especially outstanding and dedicated aircrews of the same caliber as Major Shul and his backseater Major Watson, the SR completed it's phase II testing at Beale and replaced the "brand X" operation at Kadena in Okinawa in early '68.
There were a myriad of problems peculiar to operating such a sophisticated aircraft in a regime of high altitude and temperatures and speeds above mach 3. Kelly Johnson was right about the "top speed." She could fly a "shit-load" faster than Mach 33.5 as long as the air temperature to the engine inlet did not exceed a certain degree which was actually the limiting factor on how fast she could safely fly. The "Achilles Heel" was actually the titanium 1st stage compressor blades. I can remember only one occasion when the maximum CIT was exceeded resulting in the replacement of both engines. I can only guess what the CIT was on 960 at 80,000 feet above Libya that day but I'll bet it was close to the limit.
I still cherish a titanium blade from an SR-71 engine that I was given at my retirement dinner along with many memories of the very special people I was privileged to serve with.
Brian Shul's essay was a pleasure to read again. In addition to being one of the greatest pilots to fly the "Blackbird" he's very a articulate writer. Along with many others who were involved in the program, I always fantasized flying the SR above mach 3. After reading that essay I "feel" that I have.
Thank you, Brian.
Great jet. Does a wonderful airshow display too. The CIA website also released Oxcart mission profiles over NK from many many years ago. That funny short-lived piggyback drone for the 71.
A-1, A-26, O-2A and Jolly greens when I was there in 67. Worked the A-1, it too was a great A/C--haul it's own weight in bombs and hang over target for hours+. If you were "down" you wanted A-1 cover over you, not F-4s / fast movers.
The US investment in the military is a contribution to stability and a guarantor of TRILLIONS in commerce worldwide.
It is a bargain.
We do not 'kill hundreds of thousands' that is obtuse. The US military conducts the most accurate, humane warfare in history, to it's own detriment IMO.
This is a tribute to American can-do attitudes and technical problem-solving, not a whiny 'why do they hate us' Code Pink self-loathe-a-thon.
Teacher you have nothing to teach and much to learn.
I worked on OV-10 Broncos when I was there, nice little FAC plane. They had all the planes you mentioned plus a few C-119 gunships and some mysterious gray Beechcraft. Once in awhile an F4 or 105 out of Ubon would do a flyby.
I was an aircraft mechanic @ Plattsburgh AFB from 69 to 73. While on tdy to Texas in the summer of 1970, to train on the FB111A, we had an air show with the XB70 and SR71 on static display. That following Monday I was working on the flight line and watched the SR71 take off. After a short take off roll, it broke ground and went almost straight up. What a plane!!! Definitely faster than the B52G's and KC135's I had worked on. The FB111A was cool too, but no where near the SR71. Thank you for your service Maj Shul. I will always have fond memories of my encounter with the "Blackbird'.
Cost? How much did WWII cost? You remember WWII, the war that could've been stopped with a 'small war' (such as OIF) intervention sometime in the 30s? But wasn't, because of people like you, Teacher, who prefer to let the world go until it explodes and kills 60,000,000 people?
And if you don't think the same forces are at work now as then, then, as the man said above, you have nothing to teach and lots to learn.
But lucky for you, and thanks to the American military, you do have the freedom, the time, and the opportunity to learn whatever you wish.
Do us a favor and make it a little smidgen of "human nature" and "history", wouldja please?
I was a mechanic, 9th oms, beale and kadena 77-81, first assignment out of fighter tech school. everything about the habu was amazing, starting those j58's with twin buick 400 open header start carts at full rpm driving a single output gear then the teb chemical ignition fuel kicked in with a boom and you were in the game. We later changed to an air start system, not nearly as impressive, I'll never forget the jp7 showers right before launch, and the life support crew loading the pilot and rso in space suits into the cockpits, as close as i'll ever get to a space shot. Great story revived lots of great memories.
Excellent reminisces from all you vets... makes the Major's story even better somehow.
Thank you all for your service.
The amount of money spent on the military, which employs millions and pushes inovation, is tiny compared to what the government spends on Medicare (35 Trillion in unfunded liabilities over the next 20 years) and other social programs. Military spending isn't going to bankrupt the US. As far as I am concerned that investment has paid for itself tenfold. If you are a history teacher in the US, God help us.
I second that. Word fail me in expressing my gratitude properly, but I will say that pages like this justify every penny I've ever spent on the internet.
As a mere civilian I stand in awe of you gentlemen, and appreciate everything you've ever done for me.
On the SR-71, I have several "favorite" planes (and boats and tanks), but the Blackbird makes the short list every time. It truly is everything that has been said about it and more.
Thank you all again, and God bless America.
Buckley ANGB, Colorado, 1983... I remember an SR-71 made an emergency landing right before my shift started.
Armed guards had swarmed over it, and little canvas coverings went over every little bulge on the fuselage. No one got near it.
I was lucky enough to return for my shift the next day just as she took off. Dear God almighty, I thought every window in the hangar would blow out, and as I recall, many did.
The thing is, if you turn your head away from her even for a SECOND on takeoff, you can barely find her again in the sky. And then, of course, it's too late.
But I DID see her take off. That was enough for me. Those engines were pointed nearly straight at me in the weather office, and I have never heard a sound like that again in my life.
I worked on the Sr-71 for several years at Beale fron 77-81 and from 88-91. as a sensor systems tech. I worked on a lot of aircraft in my A.F carreer and always considered the SR-71 one of my favorites. The imagery that the platform could produce was amazing. i remember one time that we were tasked to do a damage assesment from Mt. Saint Helens when she blew. The mapping radar was used because the cloulds and smoke from the explosion and subsequent fire were inpenatrable. The side looking airborne radar system provided clear imagery of the damaged area in high resolution. An amazing site. an amazing aircraft. B.C.
The one at the San Diego Aeronautical museum is an A12.
I was there just a few weeks ago and almost cried at it being on a post instead of in the air.
Teacher, re your ''You can't spend more than you earn for very long'':
Yes, you can, forever, so long as you pay less for the loan than the loan returns.
Currently Treasury is paying under four percent for a ten-year loan of a dollar that can then be left untaxed away from the private sector, which--as measured by corporate profits--will add eight percent on the asset side for that four percent on the liability side.
So now that you understand "growth" (and its result, "upward mobility"), you can teach it, and thus prevent your students from becoming sour economic ignoramuses who--because they can't grasp the basics--will be doomed to make lifelong fools of themselves predicting America's demise.
BTW, people the world over invest in America (by buying our bonds at Treasury's open auctions--transactions which Democrats like to impugn as ''begging foreigners for loans") because America is a safe long-term investment, and because America keeps the global economic system trading rather than warring.
And how does America accomplish this miracle, which in addition to maintaining its own at 95% full employment, is also lifting global billions of human beings out of hand-to-mouth poverty (most of them for the first time in human history)?
By spending a few percent of GDP on the military establishment.
People with a lick of sense recognize the bargain and are very grateful for it.
Others are just happy to remain ignorant ingrates. Hard to understand why, except that for some reason it's politically comfortable for them. I dunno -- maybe they've been indoctrinated. What a shame.
A very impressive aircraft, and very competent pilot makes an excellent combination. No one has mentioned anything about the B-58 "Hustler." I don't know how long it was in service, but read recently that it needed a lot of maintenance. An acquantance of mine saw one take off, and like some commenters here, said that soon after it left the ground it went straight up.
As others have stated, we are fortunate to have men and machines (and the R&D) of this caliber.
...and let's remember THIS monster, the B-36 Peacemaker. Take a look at the third photo down, the B-29 and B-36 side-by-side:
This goes to show you people believe anything they read.
Simple math, if this plane was super secrete, I Doubt he was making models of it in 1951.
Plane Retired in 1990, so did this Pilot
29 years after he was building models of it , at the age of 10 he flew it. We Know the Plane Existed in the 50's
but this 1990 - 38 years puts the time frame @ 1951 he was building a model. I doubt it.
No Wonder The Republicans Brain wash you with Mainstream media.
I agree with what Tawni said about this. Major Shul says he built and discarded a model of the SR-71 when he was 10 years old. He also says he graduated from high school in 1966, which would have put him at 10 years old in about 1959. Problem is, U.S. President Jimmy Carter got in a crapload of trouble when he inadvertantly revealed the existence of the SR-71 while he was president, which was 1976-1980. I seriously doubt Revell was making SR-71 models 17 years or so before it was publicly known that the aircraft existed.
Has anyone verified the credentials of "Major Brian Shul"?
Revell used to make a lot of kits which as the company said in the kit literature were "based on artist's conceptions of experimental aircraft in development". I remember the phrase pretty well, as I also built models in the 50s.
(there's a lot -- just a click away, far less time than it took to compose and write comments #63 and 63.1 -- in Google on Maj Shul, including the above URL)
I've had a plastic toy (not kit model)SR-71 since at least 1970, but I think earlier. I enjoyed many happy hours of zooming,whooshing play.
#63 and #63.1 above - do some fact checking, you have no idea what you are talking about, and appear completely foolish.
The earliest "Blackbird" was the single seat A-12 built for the CIA and first flown 25-Apr-1962. LBJ reveled that existance of the RS-71 (Reconnaissance-Strike) 29-Feb-1964 (Leap Year!) AF Gen. Curtis LeMay had lobbied to change the designation to SR-71 (Strategic Reconnaissance) in Johnson's speech and it stuck. These was also an interceptor variant designated the YF-12A. I've seen all three variants and a D-21 drone. All of these also incorporated a high degree of stealth technology to reduce the airframes' radar cross section.
My Dad and I built a model of the SR-71 in 1967, and I still have it. Maj. Brian Shul is the real deal, I have the books he published and would love to meet him in person. He was horribly burned in a crash in Viet Nam (no not in an SR), but made it back to fly both the A-10 (low and slow) and the SR (high, fast, and mighty). He has more "credentials" than you could possibly fathom.
PS: for the "rational thinkers" out there, if you read between the lines in Maj. Shul's description of the Libya overflight, he seems to imply that his SR went well beyond the SR's published 3.5 Mach limit.
Seriously, the development of the Blackbirds is an incredible technical achievement, in my mind second only to the Apollo and X-15 programs for the display of American technical prowess in the 60's (OK I should also include Ballistic Missile subs and spy satellites). Its a shame that the American public isn't taught about the greatness of America, its genius, and its incredible achievements. Where ignorance lies, grows suspicion and conspiracy theories about everything, even easily verified FACTS, as exemplified by "Tawni" and "Lynn Clark" above.
for Tawni and Lynn:
Of course, if you don't believe that the US could have started developing the Blackbirds in the '50's, then this website must be a Republican disinformation site. You should just surf on over to the raving lunatic cesspools of the DU and KosKids where you'll find your "truth".
BTW: Tawni, I used to consider myself a Democrat and thought Republicans were evil nasty people, but then I grew up.
In the 1980s as a civilian working for Fort Sam bank, I was sent to Beale to open a loan processing center. They took us out and let look all over the Blackbird. Awsome machine. Then the pilots came, we were now outside. The engines started up and taxied out. Then
it was just gone. Also watched the U-2 take off
In 1993 or 94, a Blackbird was on static display in San Antonio with several others. I took pictures of most of them with a very good 35 mm camera.
When I got them developed, the pictures of the Blackbird was the only one that was all blank.
How did they do that?
I worked EW systems on the SR-71 from '74 to '79. I remember looking at the recoding strip (graphs on paper, drawn from data recorded on a 28-track tape recorder in flight) which showed a 'missile launch' indication over North Viet Nam. Then an indication that the jammer turned on, and promptly faulted. Then the mach indication climbing - and I still can't talk about the final number.
BTW. Habu refers to a snake found on Okinawa and Southeast asia, and the planes were named after them. Each plane also had a nickname.
Tail number 960 I seem to remember as "Cadillac II".
The planes did leak somewhat in the hangar, and the hangar floor was always covered with a thin sheen of fuel. The only time it was a problem was when the LOX tanks for crew oxygen were filled. The fuel would not light with a blowtorch otherwise.
There were a number of innovative items on the aircraft besides the engines and structure. The reconnaissance equipment and EW equipment is contained in a removable nose and in bays on each side of the 'chines'. The nose could contain either a panoramic camera which would take a picture of a 300 mile wide swath in one go, or the transmitter for the side-looking radar. The radar recorded its data as a hologram on film. The RSO had a polaroid version that he could use to look at snapshot sections of the images.
Cooling the equipment was often a problem. Our transmitters were cooled by boiling water. At altitude, the water boiled at around 75 degrees F. The equipment bays also were cooled by liquid nitrogen, held in a tank located aft of the cockpit. One plane came back from depot maintenance with no equipment in the bay, so the pilot did not turn on the bay cooling. Unfortunately, one of the depot maintenance workers had put plastic caps over the electrical connectors, and the plastic cap melted, ruining the connector.
Ok, maybe the last post on this.
In case anyone wants to see Maj. Shul's "Old 960" in person,
she's at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, CA.
Plenty of other significant aircraft there also.
I was stationed at Castle when Jimmy Doolittle flew in the B-17 for the museum. What a thrill, meeting him. He was quite old then, probably no longer with us.
Well, he couldn't have had a model of the plane when he was 10 (about 1958). Johnson announced the AMI program in 1964...but it's a nice romantic touch to the story.
Perhaps he didn't want to admit that we was 16 and was still building airplane models...that looked lousy.
Maybe you all remember the "F-19 Stealth" models that were around prior to the first grainy Air Force photos of the F-117 released in 1988. They didn't look much alike.
Either way...you all need to work on your math...and lighten up.
It may have been 1969, it was an engine malfunction and techs were brought in from Beale to replace the engine. I was there from 4-68 to 4-69, so you could be right, I don't remember two broken birds.
I questions the statement that the plane was flying a mile every 1.6 seconds. That's over 5700 miles per hour. The plane would disintegrate at that speed. The operational speed was Mach 3.2 maybe Mach 3.5 at most (2,500 miles per hour) How could he possibly take the plane to more than twice that limit? I'm calling BS on that one.
Mike, my figure comes to 2250mph with the stated 1.6 seconds per mile.
1.6 seconds per mile= 5280 feet per 1.6 seconds or 528 feet every .16 seconds. 0.16 goes into 1 second 6.25 times.
6.25 (1 second) times 528 = 3300 feet per second.
3300 feet per second times 60 seconds times 60 minutes equals 11880000 feet per hour. Divided by 5280 feet (one mile) brings us-2250 miles per hour-quite within any reasonable performance parameters for the SR-71/A-12 family of aircraft.
Also 'Mach'- the speed of sound, is a variable number depending on altitude over sea level. The speed of sound is lower the higher you get as the air is thinner (less molecules)
I call BS on your math teacher Mike- you got shortchanged-5700mph? Wow.- Alcohol and the internet are bad combos.
YES. Brian Shul is the real deal. His credentials can be taken at face value and his character is unquestionable.
Absolutely, but the math is a bit simpler than you reckon:
1.6 seconds per mile
60 seconds over 1.6 = 37.5 miles per minute
37.5 times 60 minutes = 2250 mph
Complication: knots are mph based on a 2000 yard mile!
I am always inquiring, skeptical of most emails and all politicians. I was politically a centrist until 1st the Kennedy's, 2nd "Slick Willie" aka Bill Clinton, and now 3rd Barack Obama, have completely forced me off center to the right. I am very much a capitalist, and have never had a problem with England or English people. I am a Arkansas Southerner by berth but always tolerant of Yankee's, humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. I only have a high-school education but was employed as a design engineer for many years, I do have ADD so I don't pay attention very well. I always have, and always will, at all cost, do my best to be just like I am. I am strong willed and therefore sometimes difficult to work with. I am a loyal friend but don't screw with me and expect me to remain one for long. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that I ask for. Most important is the fact you guys seem to have a handle on what is importing about life.
REPLY AND DITTO TO #71.1.1
and the most recent at that ,but to all you fine FELLOW U.S. VETS! I SAW THE SR-71 MANY MANY TIMES BUT FROM A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW. I WAS A RADAR COMPUTER OPERATOR FOR THE U.S. ARMY AND NATO.70-75. TO MOST OF OUR HI-PAR RADAR GUYS SHE WAS A UFO! MOST OF OUR ARMY
NIKE -HERCULES MISSILE MEN WERE NOT AIR CRAFT NUTS, LIKE I WAS. THEY ARGUED WITH ME ON MOST ANY THING. YET I KNEW SHE WAS OUT THERE. NOTHING COULD OUT RUN HER. I SAW HER FLY AROUND RAMSTIEN AFB MY TIMES WHILE THERE WITH NATO FOR 26 MONTHS, JUST A LITTLE WAYS FROM SEMBACH. WE'D WATCH THE OTHER A/C GO AFTER IT, BUT NONE COULD TOUCH HER.LIKE DOGS CHASING A CAT AT A DOGSHOW! LOTS OF OUR STORIES GO UNPRINTED DUE TO THE DEBRIEFINGS WE SIGN, NOT TO TALK FOR 18 YRS. I DID STEALTH TECH R&D OUT OF WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE THEY FLEW OUT OF DIFFERENT AFB IN THE SOUTH WEST. ALWAYS A SECRET AS WHERE THEY WOULD BE COMING AT US FROM.I WILL ALWAYS MARVEL AT GUYS THAT WORK THE AREA, THE ZONE OF LEADING EDGE TECHNOLOGY, WE ARE A PROUD BUNCH WE HAVE THAT LOOK, WE WALK THE WALK. AND I PITY THE FOOLS THAT HAVE TO WAIT FOR AN AIR SHOW. TO READ YOUR STORIES MAKES ME SO PROUD I COULDN'T STOP READING WHAT YOU ALL HAD TO WRITE. EACH AND EVERY STORY IN A PARAGRAPH, TELL A HUGE PROUD MOMENT, I KNOW,I KNOW THE FELLING. I JUST LEFT THE AERO SPACE VALLEY, WHAT I CALL ANTELOPE VALLEY, WHERE ALL OF OUR MIGHT A/C COME FROM. WHERE LOCKHEED SKUNKWORKS SITS JUST YARDS FROM THE RR TRACKS PARALELL TO SIERRA HIGHWAY, AND WHERE THE DRONE AND ONE SR-71 SITS BY THE SOUTH GATE ON AVE.P. THERE IN AEROSPACE VALLEY YOU CAN SEE THEM ALL FLYING LONG BEFORE ALL OTHER EYES. YES THE AURORA EXISTS! SHE SHOOTS DONUTS OUT THE BACK END, YOU DON'T SEE HERE,CAN'T HEAR HER ,BUT YOU SEE THE DONUTS!WATCHING THE SKY!EVERY KIDS HOBBY IN THAT AREA, BE IT PALMDALE ,LAKE L.A. OR BEAUTIFUL LITTLE ROCK. PAST THE DOG LEG OF PALMDALE BLVD,IS DRY LAKE EL MIRAGE.NORTH OF IT IS OF COURSE, THE GREAT EDWARDS AFB.I MISS THAT AREA, SITTING HERE NOW IN BOYLE HEIGHTS,THE "BIRTH OF EAST L.A." WHERE MY STORIES ARE LISTENED TO WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. I'M 60 NOW, ON MY PENSION.I DESIGN ,I INVENT,I BUILD. MOSTLY DREAM UP LOTS OF STUFF THAT MOST OF DOESN'T
MAKE IT TO PAPER(AUTOCAD OPERATOR) I CARRY THOSE IN MY HEARD , FOR FEAR
SOME FOOL MIGHT NOT BE ONE OF US.I DREAM,I READ JUST LIKE I KNOW KELLY JOHNSON,YEAGER,SHUL AND SO MANY OTHERS DID.THEY FILL LIBRARIES.TO WALK AROUND THE ON THE STREET WALK OF LANCASTER BLVD. IS NOT ENOUGH,YET SO MUCH IS PACKED INTO SO LITTLE SPACE.
SINCE I TOOK MY FIRST AIRPLANE RIDE IN MY COUSINS CROP DUSTER IN SOUTH TEXAS,UP THE NORTH SIDE OF A TELEPHONE POLE, I WANTED TO WORK ON A/C AND I DID,BEEN THERE DONE THAT.WITHOUT THE TECHS, WILL SHE GO 'ROUND IN CIRCLES OR WILL SHE FLY HIGH LIKE A BIRD UP IN THE SKY! HEY I LOVE YOU DUDES! AND THE LADIES THAT HAVE JOINED US TOO! GOD BLESS AMERICA!
The US spends more money on weapons than all other countries put together; and it does it largely on credit, through massive borrowings from other countries.
You're spending your children's and grandchildren's money on killing foreigners that never offered you the slightest harm, people in countries like Iraq (remember, 9/11 was done by Saudis, so says the CIA and FBI anyway...) and you venerate the war machines and warriors over everything else.
I really believe in the Constitution and what America once stood for but if this is all that's left, perhaps it's better it's all being swept away by a browsergame or something else.
The math is even simpler than that:
(3600s/hour) / (1.6s/mile) = 2250 miles/hour
And Kelly Johnson said it'll go way faster than that.
Ive had the slighty creepy task to check Major Shuls area badge when he was stationed at RAF Mildenhall in the 80s...He was horribly burned in a T-28D crash in Nam...It took him years of painful grafts and therapy sessions to become one of the elite pilots to fly this fantastic aircraft...
His face was tough to look at...He was also one of the nicest officers Ive ever met...After scaring the hell out of a few groggy SPs guarding the Det, he would cough, make some noise, etc. so he wouldnt give anyone nightmares...He even "joked" about needing no costume for Halloween...
I think that if Websters would put an illustration of hero to the definition, Id put a picture of the good Major there...He was always positive and very personable...He was always jazzed about his next mission, he also remembered what your favorite ball team was, or would re-visit something from your last conversation with him...You wouldnt get that with any flag officer...
I built that crappy model in 1971 from Revell, warped piece of crap it was...It was probably the 3rd rendition of it...LBJ spilled the beans on the SRs back in 1964...He called it the "A-11", but I've got pictures of it in a book by William Green in the same year..."The World's Fighting Planes" shows illustrations of the YF-12, which was to be the fighter version of the Blackbird...So the Major built models into his senior year...I still build/scratchbuild models...
classmate of brians-radford high school, honolulu,hi, class of "66. Spoke with him in '99...lost track of him-does anyone know his e-mail....or where he is?...or ever chat with him?....tell him i said hello and to give me a call if the spirit moves him......thanks
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I first saw the Habu at Edwards in 1969. BUT my grandfather, Chet Emery, was an electrical engineer at the Skunkworks, working directly under Kelly Johnson, since 1938. He had lots of hands on experience with it and other Skunkworks aircraft.
In 1975 I joined the USAF. I was in Aircrew Life Support. One of the aircraft I periodically worked with was the WB-57F, operated by NASA, which came to my base for high altitude tests. It required the use of full pressure suits. My job was to take care of the parachutes, survival equipment and flight gear of the pilots, meaning I dressed and undressed them for missions, and maintained the suits. That gave me a little experience on the David Clark S1033 suit.
In 1979 I was a civilian going to College when I got a letter from Jimmy Carter "inviting" me to put my uniform back on. I was being sent to Beale to work at PSD. Physiological Support Division was ( and still is for the U2/TR program) the people who do the suits and training of the Recce pilots and RSOs. So for the next two years I was in and out of the cockpits of the Blackbirds.
It was the highlight of a 16 year military career.
For a compiled video of the retired SR-71s see
Blackbirds gone to roost.
It has been an honor to work with this aircraft, and serve its flyers.
There is NOTHING that compares.
It was Lyndon Johnson who let teh cat out of the bag in 1964, and Major Shul would have been 10 in 1960. Yes Revell often made models of planes no-one had publicly seen yet, often VERY wrong, but alleged new planes were not out of their creativity. 1960 was when the "Article 10 and 11" projects were under development. My grandfather was a engineer at the skunkworks. I still have his slide-rule he used in the project. The advanced projects were concurrent not just after the U2 incident, The U2 incident just created more urgency. Much f the research from the X-15 went right into the SR-71 and its predecessors. It was a VERY focused project, and well thought out. It was one of the first compartmentalized construction projects. Special tooling and many locations, it wasn't until final assembly that anyone outside a few knew what was being built. It was simply called "The Article, project 11 (A-11)". Area 51 was built to test it.