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SR71 Blackbird, a great read

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by harlenm, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. harlenm

    harlenm Millennium Member

    Jul 20, 1999
  2. JBnTX


    Aug 28, 2008
    I remember watching them take off at Kadena AFB on Okinawa in the early 1970's.

    Awesome airplane.

  3. Powers77


    Jun 2, 2012
    Vegas Baby
    The author, Major Brian Shul, spoke at one of our corporate events a year or so ago.
    If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, DO IT. He has an amazing story and tells it very well.
    Probably the best speaker I've ever heard and I've seen a few.
    Very motivational speaker.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  4. HollowHead

    HollowHead Firm member

    May 16, 2005
    Where the buffalo roam
    Considering Kelly Johnson designed this with a slide-rule, just imagine what we have now that's secret. HH
  5. rick458

    rick458 USS Texas BB-35

    Jan 31, 2003
    La Porte Texas
    I wonder just how smart Kelly Johnson was.
  6. scwine

    scwine ^%(#@$^!!!!!!!

    Jul 16, 2007
    New Braunfels, TX
    Read those excerpts from his book a few years back. Pretty cool. I just cant seem to spend $425 for it though. [ame=""]Sled Driver : Flying the World's Fastest Jet: Brian Shul: 9780929823089: Books@@AMEPARAM@@[/ame]
  7. Indianashooter


    Aug 16, 2012
    Great read! I believe that the Air Force never should have retired it. The only thing I can think of is they must have developed a usable scram jet.
  8. JMS

    JMS 02

    May 6, 2007
    Check out the new Air and Space Museum in VA, they have the Blackbird along with the Concorde, etc, etc, etc. I'm not even into planes and I felt like a kid in a candy shop.
  9. jfost11


    Aug 18, 2012
    In the woods, VA
    The SR-71 is probably the greatest leap forward in aviation history since the wright brothers. It's development spawned so many other creations. Sled Driver is the one SR-71 book I still want. I have several. I have lived a few minutes away from tail number 968 at the VA Aviation Museum for five years.
    I attended an annual SR-71 forum there in 2008 when Blair Bozek was a guest speaker. Bozek was the RSO on board the last Blackbird to be lost due to mechanical failure in '89, number 974. In case you were wondering what one who has gone over 3 and a half times the speed of sound drives, the answer would be a new BMW M3.
    Here's one of my favorite pilot stories.
  10. 686Owner

    686Owner NRA Life Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Not about the Sr-71 Specifically, but the book Skunkworks written by Ben Rich is a great read. Talks some about the U2, SR71 (which he designed the intakes for) as well as the F117 and even mentions the F22.
  11. AK_Stick

    AK_Stick AAAMAD

    Jan 20, 2004
    Alaska, again (for now)
    Would have been a mean fighter if it had panned out.
  12. janice6

    janice6 Silver Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    I love reading that story. I can imagine how it felt.

    As for the genius of Kelly Johnson. The difference between a good Engineer and a great engineer is how much they love what they do.
  13. AtlantaR6


    Jul 29, 2004
    Yeah, I heard him speak last month. Great speaker although too many pics.
  14. GVFlyer

    GVFlyer Senior Member

    Sep 9, 2008
    Somewhere in the air.
    Just an observation - I went to the Amazon link, then read the reviews for Sled Driver. The first was from the author of the book, Brian Shul. In it, he describes Shiela K. O'Grady, who is listed as a co-author, as being merely a typist and asks Amazon to make that correction.

    While she may have been a typist for his manuscript, Major O'Grady was also the Chief of Stan-Eval for the T-38 ACE program at Beale Air Force Base and is quite an accomplished aviator in her own right.
  15. IvanVic


    Apr 19, 2012
    Read this a few months ago - it's awesome... that book can be bought for cheaper than $400, BTW.

    Outdoor Hub mobile, the outdoor information engine
  16. HollowHead

    HollowHead Firm member

    May 16, 2005
    Where the buffalo roam
    Does anyone know the loss rate? I heard it was in excess of 60%...:dunno: HH
  17. GVFlyer

    GVFlyer Senior Member

    Sep 9, 2008
    Somewhere in the air.
  18. robin303

    robin303 Helicopter Nut

    Sep 27, 2009
    Austin, TX
    real (allegedly) funny air traffic controllers and pilots conversations

    From AW (Mar 2010):
    I met an SR-71 pilot a few years ago. (SR-71 was the USAAF advanced 'stealth' reconnaissance aircraft known as the Blackbird). He told me this story from his first flight with a new co-pilot: An SR-71 and crew were flying over Southern California when a bug smasher came on the airwaves in a dorky voice: Cessna 152: Ground Control, What's my airspeed? Ground Control: 100 at FL 100. A few moments later a cocky voice came on: Mooney M20: Ground Control, What's MY airspeed? Ground Control: 240 at FL 240. By this time the SR pilot was seething, but since communications were the duty of his new co-pilot, he remained silent. A few moments of radio silence passed, and in the calmest voice imaginable the co-pilot keyed in: SR-71: Ground Control, What's our airspeed? Ground Control: 1875 at FL 800. There were no more speed checks called in that afternoon, and the pilot knew that he had a cool partner in the back seat.
  19. AK_Stick

    AK_Stick AAAMAD

    Jan 20, 2004
    Alaska, again (for now)
    IIRC, there were something like 12 lost from a fleet of 30 or 32 airframes.

    my math is a little rusty, but thats like 37% or so if those numbers are infact true.
  20. mikeflys1

    mikeflys1 Pastafarian

    Jun 19, 2007
    There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe. Even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

    It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet.

    I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us, tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions, when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn't match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury. Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.

    We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot asked Center for a readout of his ground speed.

    Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.”

    Now the thing to understand about Center controllers, was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional, tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the “HoustonCenterVoice.” I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country’s space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the HoustonCenterControllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that … and that they basically did. And it didn’t matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios.

    Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed.

    “Ah, Twin Beach: I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.”

    Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren.

    Then out of the blue, a Navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check.”

    F-18 Hornet (Navy)Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it —ol’ Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet.

    And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion:

    “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.”

    And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done —in mere seconds we’ll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now.

    I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn. Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet.

    Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?”

    There was no hesitation, and the reply came as if it was an everyday request: “Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.”

    The SR-71, our fastest jet, a manned aircraft, flies at Mach 3.5. The Concorde could do up to Mach 2.I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks. We’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.”

    For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the HoustonCenterVoice, when L.A. came back with, “Roger that Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.”

    It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work.

    We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.