SR-71 Stories written by Blackbird Pilots - Page 3

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  1. #21
    289FIA_Cobra's Avatar
    289FIA_Cobra is offline Senior Member
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    Well, I got in touch with Brian Shul and here's his reply:

    Herman,
    Thanks for your note, I'm always glad to hear that people have enjoyed my book. I might suggest that you look into acquiring the new Limited Edition Sled Driver, it's ten times the book that the old original was and took 2 years to put together. Completely re-written, some new photos, and 4 signatures, patch, certificate, and limited to only 3500 copies. We now only have 290 of these expensive editions left in stock. When they are gone, that's it. It makes the original look like a brochure. Check out our website at Welcome To The World Of The Sled Driver and learn more about it.
    There were not videos sent to engineers or anything like that. This was the most top secret plane ever and the least photographed. That's why my photos are so valuable now. To highlight them better, we printed the new book in a horizontal format in order to show the photos full frame instead of having to reduce them for a vertical page. Much nicer.
    Thanks again for writing and good luck with your Mach 0.34 Cobra project.


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    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 photos recording the damage our F-111s 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 Maj. Walter Watson, the aircraft’s reconnaissance systems officer (RSO). We had crossed into Libya and were approaching our final turn over the bleak desert landscape when Walter 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.
    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. I pulled the throttles to idle just south of Sicily, but we still overran the refueling tanker awaiting us over Gibraltar.

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    Let's Mess with the New Guy: In the AF, it is a common practice to mess with, and embarrass the new kids. In the SR-71 branch, we were no different. First, they had to be initiated with the start carts. These are the twin v-8 powered carts we used to start the engines of the SR-71. We would take the kids out back and have them participate in the starting of these units. We would get it rolling down hill, with all pushing, and an experienced mechanic would start the unit. When it was all over, we would have them believing that starting one of these was the same as popping the clutch on your car. Next was the voice activated light cart. We would place a mechanic inside the unit, and close it back up. Then we'd bring the new kids out and show them this state of the art unit. We would tell them to command the unit to start. They would say "light-all on", and the mechanic inside would start it. Usually, each new guy would embarrass himself naturally. Usually, when participating in their first launch, they would accidentally walk behind the running engine, and get blown over. They only did this once, and were quick learners. These were traditions that everyone went through.

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    Because of the higher latitude of England, winter days were very short. In my Air Force career, I had not done much flying at the higher latitudes and did not realize how intriguing it might be. As Walt and I took off from Mildenhall early on one cold January day, I had no idea that I was about to witness some of the most interesting sights in my twenty years of flying. In the cold dense air at our low field elevation, the Sled did not just takeoff but literally leapt from the runway.

    Our route took us far to the north that day, as we would be looking at some Soviet missile sites that housed a new type of mobile SAM. Additionally we would be updating positions of Soviet submarines.

    During our first refueling north of Scotland, we were flying at 350 knots looking to rendezvous with our tanker. Walt, ever the vigilant companion, noted some airborne signals on his scope and said to look out the window and see if anyone was there. Sure enough, two Norwegian F-16 fighters had been scrambled, and were now joined on our wing as a friendly escort. An SR-71 had recently made an emergency landing in Norway and it had been quite a popular thing with the press there. Our two companions seemed to enjoy being a part of a formation that included the secret American spy plane. This sort of meeting was unplanned and rarely occurred, although we had often seen the British Jaguars joining on us over British soil, mostly to take pictures. I knew the F-16s wouldn’t stay with us too long as our course was taking them further away from their base, and they would soon have their own fuel problems to contend with. Loaded with wing tanks, though, they stayed with us throughout our refueling, waving, taking pictures and respectfully keeping a safe distance.

    Refueling complete, I came off the tanker and saw our two little chicks still hovering there around the black mother ship. As they moved in closer, I knew immediately what they wanted. Like teenagers cruising the block on Saturday night, these young NATO pilots wanted to see just what we had under the hood, and through some universal pilot signals, I knew they wanted to drag. Now the Sled, full of fuel, at 310 knots, doesn’t exactly leap off the line like a hundred yard dash sprinter, or the F-16. She was more like a quarter miler who continues to build speed more gradually, and then sustains it. So I watched as the two Norwegians proudly lit their little ‘burners and scampered ahead in a straight line abeam us. Easing my throttles forward, I lifted them into the afterburner range, and felt the familiar push in my seat as TEB exploded in the two large afterburner sections in a plane built before anyone even conceived of an F-16. Watching engine temperatures soar, and then settle, I pushed the throttles full forward to MAX AB and watched as the airspeed indicator came alive instantly in that cold air. I would have waved to the Norwegians, but they were just a minor blur on my window as we roared by them. Rocked by our turbulence, I could see them fall out of formation and turn homeward in my mirrors. They were probably proud to tell their mates how they had been spanked by the Blackbird. I pointed our nose toward the deep blue and let the Sled push skyward, and Walt and I settled into our routine of the more serious matters at hand.

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    "To more fully understand the concept of Mach 3, imagine the speed of a bullet coming from a high powered hunting rifle. It is travelling at 3100 feet per second as it leaves the muzzle. The Sled would cruise easily at 3200 feet per second, with power to spare."

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    On the last Blackbird flight out of Beale they were delivering the airplane to the National Air and Space museum and set 4 transcontinental speed records. Los Angeles to Washington DC in 64 minutes, an average of 2145 miles per hour.

  8. #27
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    Great stories!
    Dave

    '03 SVT Cobra

  9. #28
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    In another famous SR-71 story, Los Angeles Center reported receiving a request for clearance to FL 600 (60,000ft). The incredulous controller, with some disdain in his voice, asked, “How do you plan to get up to 60,000 feet?

    The pilot (obviously a sled driver), responded, “We don’t plan to go up to it; we plan to go down to it.” He was cleared.
    08' M3 coupe M-DCT

  10. #29
    ajindfw is offline Senior Member
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    Amazing pilots and the stories about the development and flights of the SR-71 never get old.

  11. #30
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    great stories-keep em' comin'!
    "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." Albert Einstein

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