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(Gizmodo)   Man with enormous balls of steel describes flying the pride of Cold War-era American aviation   (gizmodo.com) divider line 42
    More: Hero, American Aviation, Cold War, Americans, spy planes, flight engineers, aeronautics, North Vietnam, aerospace engineering  
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7681 clicks; posted to Geek » on 28 Jun 2012 at 7:04 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-06-28 03:59:55 PM
Oblig story told by another SR-71 driver:

"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 "Houston Center voice." 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 Houston controllers, 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 in Beech. "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." 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 read-out? 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 was an everyday request. "Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground."
 
2012-06-28 05:10:51 PM

vossiewulf: Oblig story told by another SR-71 driver:


Nice.

/I used to hunt with a friend of my Dad who was a retired SR-71 pilot. They definitely can have some good stories. I just wish I could accurately remember one.
//I was stoned a lot in High school.
 
2012-06-28 05:14:38 PM
b.johnwurth.com

You just know it was a blast.
 
2012-06-28 07:51:36 PM
not everyone gets to become a ballsy military test pilot. thanks FSM there are drugs for the rest of us.
 
2012-06-28 08:03:43 PM

vossiewulf: Oblig story told by another SR-71 driver:
.


Awesome
 
2012-06-28 08:32:49 PM
'Yea verily, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for I am Mach4 at 65,000 feet, and climbing.'
 
2012-06-28 08:44:19 PM
Obligatory link to the full version of the story of Bill Weaver coming down from 80,000 feet while traveling at Mach 3.

"I could not have survived what had just happened. Therefore, I must be dead. Since I didn't feel bad--just a detached sense of euphoria--I decided being dead wasn't so bad after all. AS FULL AWARENESS took hold, I realized I was not dead, but had somehow separated from the airplane."

RIP Jim Zwayer.
 
2012-06-28 09:00:59 PM

vossiewulf: Oblig story told by another SR-71 driver:


At first I was TLDR; but then i did read it. Awesome story, bro.
 
2012-06-28 09:04:58 PM
Weird that they spell the port of Haiphong as "Hai Feng". I guess that's the Chinese equivalent?
 
2012-06-28 09:25:24 PM

snuff3r: vossiewulf: Oblig story told by another SR-71 driver:

At first I was TLDR; but then i did read it. Awesome story, bro.


Brian Shul tells a great story. I've heard him talk a few times.

Another good one is his story of flying over Libya and outrunning missles.

"I pulled the throttles to idle just south of Sicily, but we still overran the refueling tanker awaiting us over Gibraltar."
 
2012-06-28 09:37:51 PM
Another good Brian Shul story:


Speed Is Life

Never underestimate the importance of an instrument cross-check

By Brian Shul
As a former SR-71 pilot, and a professional keynote speaker, the question I'm most often asked is "How fast would that SR-71 fly?" I can be assured of hearing that question several times at any event I attend. It's an interesting question, given the aircraft's proclivity for speed, but there really isn't one number to give, as the jet would always give you a little more speed if you wanted it to. It was common to see 35 miles a minute. Because we flew a programmed Mach number on most missions, and never wanted to harm the plane in any way, we never let it run out to any limits of temperature or speed. Thus, each SR-71 pilot had his own individual "high" speed that he saw at some point on some mission. I saw mine over Libya when Khadafy fired two missiles my way, and max power was in order. Let's just say that the plane truly loved speed and effortlessly took us to Mach numbers we hadn't previously seen.

So it was with great surprise, when at the end of one of my presentations, someone asked, "What was the slowest you ever flew in the Blackbird?" This was a first. After giving it some thought, I was reminded of a story that I had never shared before, and relayed the following.

I was flying the SR-71 out of RAF Mildenhall, England, with my back-seater, Walt Watson; we were returning from a mission over Europe and the Iron Curtain when we received a radio transmission from home base. As we scooted across Denmark in three minutes, we learned that a small RAF base in the English countryside had requested an SR-71 flypast. The air cadet commander there was a former Blackbird pilot, and thought it would be a motivating moment for the young lads to see the mighty SR-71 perform a low approach. No problem, we were happy to do it. After a quick aerial refueling over the North Sea, we proceeded to find the small airfield.

Walter had a myriad of sophisticated navigation equipment in the back seat, and began to vector me toward the field. Descending to subsonic speeds, we found ourselves over a densely wooded area in a slight haze. Like most former WWII British airfields, the one we were looking for had a small tower and little surrounding infrastructure. Walter told me we were close and that I should be able to see the field, but I saw nothing. Nothing but trees as far as I could see in the haze. We got a little lower, and I pulled the throttles back from the 325 knots we were at. With the gear up, anything under 275 was just uncomfortable. Walt said we were practically over the field-yet, there was nothing in my windscreen. I banked the jet and started a gentle circling maneuver in hopes of picking up anything that looked like a field.

Meanwhile, below, the cadet commander had taken the cadets up on the catwalk of the tower in order to get a prime view of the flypast. It was a quiet, still day with no wind and partial gray overcast. Walter continued to give me indications that the field should be below us, but in the overcast and haze, I couldn't see it. The longer we continued to peer out the window and circle, the slower we got. With our power back, the awaiting cadets heard nothing. I must have had good instructors in my flying career, as something told me I better cross-check the gauges. As I noticed the airspeed indicator slide below 160 knots, my heart stopped and my adrenalin-filled left hand pushed two throttles full forward. At this point, we weren't really flying, but were falling in a slight bank. Just at the moment that both afterburners lit with a thunderous roar of flame (and what a joyous feeling that was), the aircraft fell into full view of the shocked observers on the tower. Shattering the still quiet of that morning, they now had 107 feet of fire-breathing titanium in their face as the plane leveled and accelerated, in full burner, on the tower side of the infield, closer than expected, maintaining what could only be described as some sort of ultimate knife-edge pass.

Quickly reaching the field boundary, we proceeded back to Mildenhall without incident. We didn't say a word for those next 14 minutes. After landing, our commander greeted us, and we were both certain he was reaching for our wings. Instead, he heartily shook our hands and said the commander had told him it was the greatest SR-71 flypast he had ever seen, especially how we had surprised them with such a precise maneuver that could only be described as breathtaking. He said that some of the cadet's hats were blown off and the sight of the planform of the plane in full afterburner dropping right in front of them was unbelievable. Walt and I both understood the concept of "breathtaking" very well that morning, and sheepishly replied that they were just excited to see our low approach.

As we retired to the equipment room to change from space suits to flight suits, we just sat there-we hadn't spoken a word since "the pass." Finally, Walter looked at me and said, "One hundred fifty-six knots. What did you see?" Trying to find my voice, I stammered, "One hundred fifty-two." We sat in silence for a moment. Then Walt said, "Don't ever do that to me again!" And I never did.

A year later, Walter and I were having lunch in the Mildenhall Officer's Club, and overheard an officer talking to some cadets about an SR-71 flypast that he had seen one day. Of course, by now the story included kids falling off the tower and screaming as the heat of the jet singed their eyebrows. Noticing our HABU patches, as we stood there with lunch trays in our hands, he asked us to verify to the cadets that such a thing had occurred. Walt just shook his head and said, "It was probably just a routine low approach; they're pretty impressive in that plane." Impressive indeed.

Little did I realize after relaying this experience to my audience that day that it would become one of the most popular and most requested stories. It's ironic that people are interested in how slow the world's fastest jet can fly. Regardless of your speed, however, it's always a good idea to keep that cross-check up...and keep your Mach up, too.
 
2012-06-28 09:38:02 PM
Just read a book about area 51 that went into the whole development of the sr-71. The politics we interesting but the pilot stories were fascinating.
 
2012-06-28 09:40:22 PM

Arkanaut: Weird that they spell the port of Haiphong as "Hai Feng". I guess that's the Chinese equivalent?


The same reason Bombay is now Mumbai and Peking is now Bejing. The old ways English imperialists mispronounced things have been corrected somewhat. But that makes sense since the English mispronounce most English words as well. Listen to Louisa Lim on BBC radio - "Sewiouswy, thwee gulls wuh found fwoating in the wiver..." A whole nation that needs speech therapy... for their own language.

I kid...no, not really.
 
2012-06-28 09:55:32 PM
I guess they're not denying the existence of Area 51 anymore.
 
2012-06-28 10:02:05 PM
I saw an SR71 flyby at an airshow in CA, probably 20+ years ago. It came in slow and then banked, nosed up, and punched afterburners. The sound was indescribable and within seconds it was just a dot in the sky. Damn.
 
2012-06-28 10:39:05 PM

ScouserDuck: Just read a book about area 51 that went into the whole development of the sr-71. The politics we interesting but the pilot stories were fascinating.


WTF. What's the name of the book, lol?
 
2012-06-28 10:50:29 PM

1000Airplanes: ScouserDuck: Just read a book about area 51 that went into the whole development of the sr-71. The politics we interesting but the pilot stories were fascinating.

WTF. What's the name of the book, lol?


http://www.amazon.com/Area-51-Uncensored-Americas-ebook/dp/B004THU68Q/ ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

The reviews are iffy but i really liked it. It isn't all aliens and conspiracy but rather goes into the base as a military instalation. Super in depth about the politicking and fighting between the CIA and the Air Force over the SR-71 and includes a bunch of insane stories about the test flights and pilots of the plane.
 
2012-06-28 11:06:36 PM
"You know the part in 'High Flight' where it talks about putting out your hand to touch the face of God? Well, when we're at speed and altitude in the SR, we have to slow down and descend in order to do that."
- USAF Lt. Col. Gil Bertelson
 
2012-06-28 11:19:50 PM
To counterpart the speed story, one other one I heard (but can't find now) had a sled driver radioing a tower for an altitude change along the lines of

"Tower, request altitude change to angels 70" (70k feet)
"Seriously? Ok, if you can make it"
"Roger tower, descending from angels 80"

Possibly apocryphal, but amusing anyway.
 
2012-06-28 11:35:29 PM

Glockenspiel Hero: To counterpart the speed story, one other one I heard (but can't find now) had a sled driver radioing a tower for an altitude change along the lines of

"Tower, request altitude change to angels 70" (70k feet)
"Seriously? Ok, if you can make it"
"Roger tower, descending from angels 80"

Possibly apocryphal, but amusing anyway.


I heard it as:
"Center, requesting clearance FL600" (60,000 feet)
Chuckling, "if you can get there, you can have it."
"Roger, descending to FL600."
 
2012-06-28 11:48:53 PM
Another excellent book by Ben Rich, the guy who was the head of the Skunk Works after Kelly Johnson. Some area 51 stuff, including how it was first decided where to locate it:

Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed
 
2012-06-29 12:03:06 AM

Aquapope: The same reason Bombay is now Mumbai and Peking is now Bejing. The old ways English imperialists mispronounced things have been corrected somewhat.


Except Peking is the Cantonese pronunciation, so it's not really wrong.
And if you pronounce Myanmar correctly, it sounds very close to "Burma".

Anyway, back to the subject. My dad was a Marine spy pilot during the Korean war. He just turned 88 a few days ago. He flew with his sphincter in his throat the whole time because back then they flew low and slow(er) than Chinese Migs.
 
2012-06-29 01:26:04 AM

1000Airplanes: WTF. What's the name of the book, lol?


I think Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works - The Official History is the best place to start. Seriously detailed design histories and background of the A-12/SR-71 (which looked a lot alike but were completely different aircraft) plus similar info on the U-2, F-117, etc.
 
2012-06-29 02:46:27 AM

0Icky0: Anyway, back to the subject. My dad was a Marine spy pilot during the Korean war. He just turned 88 a few days ago. He flew with his sphincter in his throat the whole time because back then they flew low and slow(er) than Chinese Migs.


Yeah, until the advent of drones the two primary techniques for avoiding detection were to fly so fast that a wrong turn could result in the air resistance turning you to scrap, or to fly so slow and low that radar monitoring couldn't tell you from a flock of birds taking off or a bit of cloud. Which of the two required bigger balls is a matter of opinion, but either way it's impressive they could keep bollocks that massive in the air.

Of course, being able to put up a half million dollar drone with the actual wingspan of an albatross kind of negated the need to spend several billion on a plane with radar-dampening to give it the apparent wingspan of an albatross either way.
 
2012-06-29 04:23:08 AM

Jim_Callahan: but either way it's impressive they could keep bollocks that massive in the air.


Nahhh. Even a house brick will fly if you strap large enough engines to the thing. I cite the F-4 Phantom & English Electric Lightning as an example of this design philosophy.

OFC willingly taping engines of that size to your gonads... impressive... most impressive.
 
2012-06-29 07:42:26 AM

Krumet: Another excellent book by Ben Rich, the guy who was the head of the Skunk Works after Kelly Johnson. Some area 51 stuff, including how it was first decided where to locate it:

Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed


A second vote for that one. Lots of fun little tidbits in it that may or may not be fully true, but are fun to read.
 
2012-06-29 09:02:21 AM
Went to the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum last weekend and saw the SR-71 there. Much smaller than I ever imagined, but just a beautiful aircraft. Would loved to have flown in one of those
 
2012-06-29 09:09:38 AM
When I was a kid, one of my scout masters was an engineer for the SR-71. I remember being in his garage and seeing blueprints/pictures of it. That plane is simply amazing.

My father was a commander and I grew up on naval basses. I got to see (up close) all sorts of neat planes, boats and subs but the SR-71 will always be my favorite. Never got to see one of those up close when I was a kid.

Is there still one there on display in Huntsville?
 
2012-06-29 09:43:04 AM
My first green evar!!!

YAY!!!
 
2012-06-29 10:48:11 AM

Strategeryz0r: My first green evar!!!

YAY!!!

media.giantbomb.com
 
2012-06-29 12:13:28 PM
Hey, Strategeryz0r, congrats for your first greenlight. I've only had a few, but remember each as oddly satisfying. A cool link, and then some great stories in the thread--thanks to all!

/remembers helping a friend build a Monogram or Revell plastic model of the SR-71 back in the day, IIRC..
 
2012-06-29 12:49:38 PM
SR-71 is the greatest thing humans have built to date
 
2012-06-29 01:10:34 PM

0Icky0: Aquapope: The same reason Bombay is now Mumbai and Peking is now Bejing. The old ways English imperialists mispronounced things have been corrected somewhat.

Except Peking is the Cantonese pronunciation, so it's not really wrong.
And if you pronounce Myanmar correctly, it sounds very close to "Burma".

Anyway, back to the subject. My dad was a Marine spy pilot during the Korean war. He just turned 88 a few days ago. He flew with his sphincter in his throat the whole time because back then they flew low and slow(er) than Chinese Migs.


Dude is seriously badass; and if that's the recon Panther or Cougar, (or shudder, the original Phantom) he's lucky to just stay in one piece anyway...
 
2012-06-29 02:34:11 PM
good farkin thread guys. my cousin who is a pilot got a chuckle out of all the stories.
 
2012-06-29 02:44:23 PM

Contrabulous Flabtraption: SR-71 is the greatest thing humans have built to date


Yeah, what is up with that? How did our aeronautical performace peak come in the 1950's?
 
2012-06-29 02:46:14 PM
we had an A-12 on display at MSP until the damn CIA came and took it.

note to self:
re-read The Right Stuff.
 
2012-06-29 04:01:57 PM

StingerJ: Obligatory link to the full version of the story of Bill Weaver coming down from 80,000 feet while traveling at Mach 3.

"I could not have survived what had just happened. Therefore, I must be dead. Since I didn't feel bad--just a detached sense of euphoria--I decided being dead wasn't so bad after all. AS FULL AWARENESS took hold, I realized I was not dead, but had somehow separated from the airplane."

RIP Jim Zwayer.


Bill Weaver is still flying. His current job is flying the Orbital Sciences L-1011 "Stargazer" and launching Pegasus rockets into mufuggin' orbit. Scroll down for a picture of Bill in the pilot's seat.

Bad. Ass.
 
2012-06-29 07:28:26 PM
There is a SR-71 at the Strategic air museum in Omaha NE, They have it hanging from the ceiling as soon as you walk in the doors. I will never forget that sight when i first walked in and BAM! there it was pointing right at you. I got to go there for a work unveiling. Everyone else was busy looking at the newest machine and i grabbed a couple of beers and pretty much had the place to myself.

csb.
 
2012-06-29 07:50:57 PM

mainsail: Dude is seriously badass; and if that's the recon Panther or Cougar, (or shudder, the original Phantom) he's lucky to just stay in one piece anyway.


upload.wikimedia.orgF2H-2P Banshee
He really liked that plane, except that one time when he couldn't eject one of his wing tanks before landing...very nearly bought the Korean farm until he got it off at the last second.
- You can see the cameras placed on the floor there in front of the extended nose.
 
jvl
2012-06-29 08:14:15 PM

Aquapope: The same reason Bombay is now Mumbai and Peking is now Bejing. The old ways English imperialists mispronounced things have been corrected somewhat.


You're exactly wrong about Bombay. The English name "Bombay" is a from the Portuguese "bom baim" which simply means "good bay." The name "Mumbai" comes from India intentionally renaming the city with a name that sounds like "Bombay."
 
2012-07-01 01:24:41 PM
Jim_Callahan

The albatross has a wingspan of 11 feet. The predator has a wingspan of 47 feet. Wingspan => Glide Ratio => Fuel efficiency.
 
2012-07-02 01:57:39 AM
 
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