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The Ultimate Ground Speed Check - Tales from the Blackbird

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. ( More...

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blueashflyer 13
Same story happened to me in reverse. In the late 80s, while flying out of Parks College (ILL) our practice area was near Scott AFB. A group of F-4 Phantoms was on frequency asking Scott tower for ground speed checks, tower answered back with 300s, 400s, 500s and was also giving mach number readouts .5 .6 .7 etc. We radioed in from our Cessna 152 and asked for same, and you could hear the exasperation in the controllers voice. We were moving so slow, he had to wait a few seconds for the radar beam to swing around again and hit us and notice a difference on his scope. You could almost hear him using the pencil on paper to calculate such a low number. He finally radioed back, "Cessna, ground speed 78, mach .1" We were high-fiveing each other inside the 152! "Yeah, we're going ONE TENTH the speed of sound!" Good times.

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josh homer 2
Are you responding to blueashflyer or did spam get deleted? His story is great!
There was a spam here. The story is amazing.
Jeez! Brian Schul could sell a million copies of his book if it were reprinted!
Checked out a copy on inter-library loan. Good read and the photos are great. But I don't think the book is worth $400+ which is the going price that I've found on the used book market.
You haven't lived until you've heard Brian Shul tell this story (and the story of the rest of his remarkable career) in person. Heard him speak two years ago at our annual convention - there wasn't a dry eye in the house. (And scored an autographed copy of Sled Driver.)
If you get the chance to hear him, grab it!
Brent Romanik 4
I just wish I could find a copy of Sled Driver that the wife wouldn't have fit about the cost.
Guy Cocoa -1
It's only $4,269.00 on Amazon (plus $3.99 shipping):
My copy would be a lot more expensive than that :).
Peter Rabyk 3
This story never gets old. I always get a kick out of it. From the tie I first read it in Sled Driver until now.
Robert Black 2
IMHO, the Blackbird is the best, most impressive aircraft ever built. Were I as rich as Crosseus (think Bill Gates or Warren buffett), I'd love to have one. Unfortunately, they are all museum pieces now.
Bill Bailey 2
Oh, it's true.
I spent an afternoon as Mr Schul's escort at a Museum back when the book fisrt came out and he told that story to several of us just standing around the bookstore.
I believe he's as honest a man as I've ever met, his bio. is an amazing tale of getting thrown off the horse and getting back on, he has no reason to inflate it.
Rick Gull 2
Heard Brian tell that story in person at a speaking engagement of his. Great speaker with a powerful message...
oowmmr 2
Go Blackbird...
I was a manager for several of the cameras installed in the Bird.The window or camera ports, were synthetic quartz (BK-7) and coated in gold to minimize heat transfer. Never the less we had to recoat these ports due to friction erosion at high speed. Gold is a great conductor but soft. WRC
Peter Rabyk 1
I can't believe USED copies of the book are going for $400+.
Victor Engel 1
This is the first time I've seen it. Thanks for posting.
What a story. I can only imagine the smiles that were beaming from inside those helmets!
I read this story before;
It always bring a smile when i imagine those guys, dressed in suits like old time knights,, zipping around the planet.

I am a slow flyer with over 1600 hours of touch n goes in that wonderful, but damn slow C150.
rodney harris 1
I've also had the honor of meeting Brian Shul. He was in Cleveland for the Labor Day Air Show @BKL (forgot what year). Got him to sign ALL of the books (Sled Driver, The Untouchables, Blue Angels: A Portrait of Gold - My Favorite! and Summer Thunder). He was kind enough to share a little something about each of those wonderfully written books with me, even though there was many, many people also waiting for an autograph. A Genuine American Hero!
Dick Audiss 1
ASPEN story: On 11/5/74 I was working the ONL high sector at MSP ARTCC. I had a flight plan on ASPEN 39 coming from DEN Center into my airspace. The DEN controller called to tell me that ASPEN had exited air refueling (AR 105 as I recall) and had started to climb but was experiencing mechanical problems and was now descending. I had several jets in my airspace so I asked DEN for current altitude. ASPENs mode C indicated he was level at FL350. He was going to be a problem for 2 westbound jets at FL350. I issued headings to get them out of the path of the ASPEN and did they ever turn on a dime. No questions asked, one radar update they were going west and the next they were heading north. I have always wondered how many G's they pulled in that turn. And, the ASPEN got his problem solved and was soon above FL600 and making a three state turn back to the west.
canuck44 1
The happiest guy around had to be the LA Center controller. He had probably been itching to stick it to one of the jet jockeys, but had no way to do so without a smack down from the non-combatants in the FAA. You can bet this series got passed around the ATC network albeit in tape format of the day.
Andrew Taylor 1
I have always loved this story, but it always makes my eyes leak. Similarly the story of dimming the lights and hoping not to upset the plane, and outrunning a missile lock and covering a lot of miles before he throught to throttle back.
josh homer 1
I've seen this story a million times, and I read it every time. I've just always wondered about the validity. Kinda like the emails from that crazy racist uncle about conspiracy theories.
Robert Fleury 0
No need for a "squawk ident!" when a controller observes on an old scan converter display slashes 1.5 inches apart while other jets are printing at half inch. Came over Quilnik Island (Labrador) one night SW bound towards the US. About 30 minutes on the screen...
smoki 0
Fascinating stories those, but I'm left with the question: Why, if Walt was so concerned about the speed during the low pass as he obviously indicated in the debriefing, didn't he just come up on the intercom and a give speed call as the BB continued to decel? A little too much trust can be a bad thing sometimes in a multi-crewed machine ala Asiana 214.
Gary Bennett -1
There is I'm sure a little truth in stories like these. Just like I read it "a million times" Its a good read and makes us all wish we were there when and if it happened...


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