FROM AN SR-71
PILOT.......Very interesting read....
|In April 1986,
following an attack on American soldiers in a Berlin disco,
President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Qaddafi's terrorist
camps in Libya ..
My duty was to fly over Libya , and take photographs recording the
damage our F-111's had inflicted.
Qaddafi had established a 'line of death,' a territorial marking across
the Gulf of Sidra , swearing to shoot down any intruder,
that crossed the boundary.
On the morning of April 15, I rocketed past the line at 2,125 mph.
|I was piloting the
SR-71 spy plane, the world's fastest jet, accompanied by a Marine Major
(Walt), the aircraft's reconnaissance systems officer (RSO).
We had crossed into Libya , and were approaching our final turn over
the bleak desert landscape, when Walt informed me, that he was
receiving missile launch signals.
I quickly increased our speed, calculating the time it would take for
the weapons, most likely SA-2 and SA-4 surface-to-air missiles, capable
of Mach 5 - to reach our altitude. I estimated, that we could beat the
rocket-powered missiles to the turn, and stayed our course,
betting our lives on the plane's performance.
agonizingly long seconds, we made the turn and blasted toward the
'You might want to pull it back,' Walt 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
It was the fastest we would ever fly.
I pulled the throttles to idle, just south of Sicily , but
we still overran the refueling tanker, awaiting us over
Picture 4 Needed
significant aircraft have been produced, in the 100 years of flight,
following the achievements of the Wright brothers, which we celebrate
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.
|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
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..
(WoW ! ! ! 40 planes???? I thought only 7.) Special heat-resistant
fuel, oil, and hydraulic fluids, that would function at 85,000 feet,
and higher, also had to be
|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 Walt, 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
He told me to keep the pointy end forward.
We trained for a year, flying out of Beale AFB in California , Kadena
Airbase in Okinawa , and RAF Mildenhall in England ..
On a typical training mission, we would take off near Sacramento ,
refuel over Nevada , accelerate into Montana , obtain a high Mach speed
over Colorado , turn right over New Mexico, speed across the Los
Angeles Basin, run up the West Coast, turn right at Seattle , then
return to Beale.
Total flight time:- Two Hours and Forty Minutes.
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
knots,' ATC replied. A Bonanza soon made the same request. 'One-twenty
on the ground,' was the reply.
To our surprise, a navy F-18 came over the radio, with a ground speed
I knew exactly what he was doing.
Of course, he had a ground speed indicator in his cockpit, but he
wanted to let all the bug-smashers in the valley, know what real speed
was, 'Dusty 52, we show you at 620 on the ground,' ATC responded.
The situation was too ripe.
I heard the click of Walt's mike button in the rear seat. In his most
innocent voice, Walt startled the controller by asking for a ground
speed check from 81,000 feet, clearly above controlled airspace. In a
cool, professional voice, the controller replied, 'Aspen 20, I show you
at 1,982 knots on the ground.' We did not hear another transmission on
that frequency, all the way to the coast.
|The Blackbird always
showed us something new, each aircraft possessing its own unique
In time, we realized we were flying a national treasure.
When we taxied out of our revetments for take-off, 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
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
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 cockpit 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
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,
Force retired the SR-71. The SR-71 served six presidents, protecting
America for a quarter of a century.
Unbeknown to most of the country, the plane flew over North Vietnam ,
Red China , North Korea , the Middle East, South Africa , Cuba ,
Nicaragua , Iran , Libya , and the Falkland Islands . On a weekly
basis, the SR-71, kept watch over every Soviet Nuclear Submarine, and
Mobile Missile Site,
and all of their troop movements. It was a key factor in winning the
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
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 Space Museum , sped from Los Angeles to Washington in
64 Minutes, averaging 2,145 mph, and setting four speed records.
SR-71 Windows Media
SR-71B Refueling A
Video (.WMV): 2,752KB. Length is 3:42 minutes. A film shot by
Dawson III from the KC-135Q refueling aircraft.
Record Breakers: Part 1 A
Windows Media Video (.WMV): 4,440KB. Length is 5:55 minutes. A Lockheed
edited for the New York to London speed record in 1974.
Record Breakers: Part 2 A
Windows Media Video (.WMV): 2,742KB. Length is 3:39 minutes. A Lockheed
edited for the London to Los Angeles speed record in 1974.
Incredible Blackbirds are Operational": Movie
February, 2005. This 14 minute film was
shot by the U.S. Air
Force in 1968 when the SR-71 became operational at Kadena AB, Okinawa
The movie file is 37MB and is in a streaming Windows Movie Video (wmv)
Followed A Link