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Look at All These SR-71 Blackbirds Together!

It's gorgeous. Pure airplane porn. A perfect occasion to re-read these excerpts from Sled Driver, the amazing book by one of the SR-71 pilots, Major Brian Shul: ( More...

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William Orcutt 10
Ok, I'll bite. I was in the SR-71 program from 83-89, and yes, it was the highlight of my military flying career. Not only was the plane so incredible in its design and performance, but the people who maintained it, supported it, and in-flight refueled it made up the best team of professionals, both military and civilian, that I have ever had the privilege of being associated with. It was alwaays a thrill. As I watched the MIGs try to catch us time after time, only to fall back as we blew by them, I recall the overwhelming pride in the Blackbird, then and now, its 25+ year's service to our country, with never a single one lost to enemy fire. What a plane! Bill Orcutt, Col, USAF Retired
preacher1 2
Bill: thank you for your response and congratulations on your career. Yes, it may have been the highlight of your career but as you can tell, the rest of us are green with envy and still
Bill Schmiett 7
I did my 3 leg solo cross country in 1968 from SJC to Marysville (Near Beale) and then on to Sonoma and back to SJC. As I was nearing Marysville a 71 took off from Beale and disappeared in about 15 seconds on what looked to be a ballistic trajectory. WOW.

2nd leg took me over Sacramento "Municipal" a 747 doing touch and goes directly underneath me.

Pretty nice day for flying that day.
Robert West 1
I was in a plane doing unplanned T&G's at Edwards one day. Well T&B's. It seems there was this astronaut trainer that was doing the steep descent shuttle landing practices also in the pattern. Before we could get gear on the ground he was right behind us again and tower was saying break left again. Dang that bird was fast.
Don Thomson 6
WOW. Great photo, compelling story. Ready to buy to book! Thanks
Toby Sharp 0
that book is incredibly expensive!!! out of print 2 years ago
Randy Michel 6
The stories I have listened to from those who worked near or on the Blackbird spoke with a high degree of reverence for it. It wasn't until I got to see the real deal up close at the USAF Museum and the B model at AZO that I had a much fonder appreciation for it, and the technological innovations that came as a result of its creation. We were certainly blessed to have geniuses like Kelly Johnson and his successor Ben Rich, on our side!
preacher1 3
There is one story in particular that is told about the 67 war in Israel, about how the tanker had to play coy with an inquisitive controller and a blip coming up behind him. Seems the bird was sent in from somewhere to overfly Israel and survey some damage ref an Isralei request for some more tanks. They didn't tell Israel they were coming; Israel went on high alert but it was in/out before they could ever do They also told of Nixon, in his first sit down with Chairman Mao, that the booms rattled their coffee cups as they were overflown while they were talking, so Mao knew he had to be halfway truthful. Probably lot's of stuff like that floating around. As I said below, if they could come up with that nearly 50 years ago, no telling what they are working on now.
Randy Michel 2
I believe this is in Sled Driver, but there was a story with the the SR-71 descending to find a sea of tankers, but what made theirs identifiable was when the boom operator saw them and shot a stream of JP-7 out to "mark their spot."
preacher1 5
Lot's of crap went on out there, both with them and the U-2's. Friend of mine that was stationed at Beale told me they were basically defueled on the ground and min fuel for takeoff, that because of their expansion joints the would leak like a sieve sitting on the ground. Seems to me this was one of the items that brought about their demise.Sad part is, they can say what they want about the sattelites, but the way they had these things spread out across the world, they could be out/back over a given territory before a satt. could make another orbit. Oh well, that's just the bug talking in all of
Will Sutton 2
Real reason for their demise was the cost of flying them, especially the cost to SAC, and their prep time. Not only was the cost per mission very high, most of the operating cost of flying them came out of SAC's operational budget, not from the "black" budget. And the agencies that actually used the intel from the bird's missions would not step up to the plate. The final straw was in the form of one of the last commanders of SAC (CINCSAC) who was actually a fighter jock more interested in the bottom line. Under this man SAC stopped fighting to keep it. To a lesser extent, their prep time did not help the cause. To get an SR-71 off the ground bothe the plane and some sensors needed 24 hrs.
I would rather ride in a BB than any other plane. Period!!
Loved this comment - "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"
Marcus Pradel 10
Love PlanePorn in the morning!

[This poster has been suspended.]

Todd Shaw 5
@ Jack, he was just responding the the fact that Flightaware used the word "pure plane porn" in the description and the web site's name used a form of the "F" word in the url.
Roland Dent 3
Ror those who have never seen in real life this bird I suggest you make a visit part of your next vacation.
Will Sutton 3
The "Frontiers of Flight" museum in Dallas, Tx (Love Field) has the only flight simulator ever built for the SR-71 and used by all crews that ever flew her. Also the web site has a listing of the final disposition of the entire Habu/SR/A-12 fleet, though it might not be up to date.
For those out west, Pima County Museum in Tucson has a really well done display. Was just there around Labor Day. Worth the trip!!
BC Hadley 2
We have one at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. The last time I was there was a quiet weekday, so I had the docent all to myself for a few minutes. To be that close to one was indescribable.
skylloyd 1
Don't forget the Museum Of Flight in Seattle,WA also has the a BB.
Alan Jacobson 3
The bird is awesome, during the after Cuba monitoring, probably looking at South America as it's last missions, after the crisis (maybe 10-12 years ago) one had to land at Macdill for a minor repair. THEY QUICKLY got her back in the air at 05:30 and the noise was heard 20 miles away in my condo. The TV crews who had a chance to shoot it got about three seconds.... I'm in the flight path for a few airports (TIA, PIE, SPG) and jet noise is taken for granted especially on the top floor where my condo is. This one blew the doors off.

I met Brian Shul early on the air-show circuit attending his seminar while he was talking about survival training. His parents lived in Tampa not far from MacDill. If you take the time to read Brian's story, his personal story of being shot down in Nam, severely injured, given last rites, pure survival, beating the odds many times and his incredible career, you will of defined the "human element" to it's greatest degree and fully relate the caliber of the individual who tamed the beast.

Few people In my life I have had the honor of meeting whom I remember the most in aviation. Brian Shul, Bruce Crandall and Bob Hoover... it's all about Man and Machine...
Paul Claxon 3
What airbase ?
Elgin airbase just outside Ft. Walton Beach, Florida has one at their museum. Destin, Fl is a great place to stay there. White sand beach, good restaurants, golf, and accommodations.
Darn computers. It is Eglin AFB.
Land at Kdts. It's right in the middle of everything.
bud landacre 3
Years ago while enroute from Cal. to TX in a lear I heard center come on the air and say
" (military call sign) show you leaving flight level 600, squawk VFR, good day". Don't know if it was a U-2 or SR-71 but I got a kick out of hearing it.
Peter Douglas 2
this is a good read!
preacher1 2
I remember in 1971, I had just gotten into Kunsan AB, ROK. Working Flight Surgeons office; Crash phone rang; modified B-57 on final with flame out on one enginge. Wing commander was on the line as well, and called for me by name, told fire chief to give me whatever I needed and all the rest that it was my show. I didn't have a clue as to what was going on. I had been at ABQ around the 57's and wern't nothing special about them. We got to the flightline, had a low cloud deck, and out of it came a blackbird. Had lost the one engine and there was some damage to the other so they put down there and there was a C-141 with equipment and full crew already lifting off at Kadena. I was the only one on base with PSD(Physiological support)experience from my U2 days at DM, to handle the suits and plane temperature. We got them recovered and in a hangar, under tight security, and the HABU APPROVED bunch from Kadena was in there in about 2 hrs. It was tore up bad enough that they were there nearly a week.
Brian Bishop 2
Wayne, I'm still waiting to buy a copy of YOUR book ol' buddy!
preacher1 2
You know, now that I actually have some time, I have done everything in the world to try and find a way to go back to work rather than just sit down and try to start putting that When that 200 gets ready here around Dec. 1, that will put me back in the air 3-4 days a week, so you are just going to have to wait a few years old
Toby Sharp 1
I know right?
Roland Dent 1
The bird had been shot at W? that what you think?
preacher1 2
I don't think that ever came out if it was on anybody's mind. I just think they had one shred and damage the other.I know one thing, that we had a real low deck that morning. They broke out about 1500' and couldn't do a go round, so it was in pretty bad shape. There wasn't any external damage best I remember and once them hangar doors were closed, nobody but the HABU crew from Kadena saw the bird again until it took off. Last I saw were the pilots in their suits sitting at base OPS talking to the WC. Then they were taken out to the hanger and about an hour later the bird took off and about an hour after that, that 141 lifted off and all was back to normal. I just know that skin temp was off the chart when they came in and I was in a foil heat suit. Once I started giving hand signals to the pilots, they were confident of who they had on the ground to handle the shutdown and recovery.
Roland Dent 1
I saw an experimental USAF here in the UK in 1967. We have seen another "UFO" since..well my son has...Thats why I believe most of the wierd stuff is from Groom Lake. In my view a lot of the stuff could be unmanned with high speeds and right angle turns etc.
preacher1 2
Well, I wouldn't disagree with you totally. If they had the technolgy back then to develop that, then the 117 and B2, ain't no telling what else they could do, and as long as they have the public thinking bout little green men, thats a perfect cover story.
Is "little green men" still PC correct? Hell, Blackbird probably won't work today!lol
preacher1 1
I don't know about PC and I'll put a Clark Gable right behind that, but some are saying gray now.LOL
I'll still live with being a redneck.:) I would love to hear a BB takeoff. Like the f104, I bet it is distinctive.
preacher1 2
Shall we say that wake turbulence is an
Ben Ryan 1
no kidding
Ben Ryan 1
caution wake turbulence for the the departing blackbird one-four miles ahead. LOL
Roland Dent 1
Haha James YES is that PC correct? Concorde made a hell of a racket when that took off.
Bill Owens 2
I've heard (and felt) both the SR-71 and the Concorde take off from close to runway 36 at Oshkosh. Still not sure which is louder.
Michael Neilan 2
OMG. I can neither confirm or deny that I got to sit in the cockpit of an SR-71. It was in the mid 80's at Mildenhall AFB England. It kinda looks like the interior of a T-38. I stayed in the Q rooms with the HABU pilots. Those guys are awesome. I have always loved the SR-71.
John Snelling 2
Back during the Falklands war I was training Hawk missile crews at Fort Bliss. One day while everyone was at lunch I was sitting at one of the two firing consoles in the control van tracking targets in and out of El Paso International when I caught some incredibly strong doppler in the headset. The target was invisible on the acquisition radars and absolutely pegged out the altitude and speed meters on the console. I tracked it way into Mexico before it outran the tracking radar, which didn't take long. Had to have been a 71.
ken young 2
yes..DROOL..I want to go see one. Where are they? And can the public go see one or them?
Peter Douglas 1
Wikipedia has an excellent account, including aircraft disposition, here:
8984p 2
I've met Brian Schull. He and all the other "Sled Drivers" are singular men of courage and nerves of steel.
I was lucky enough to be one of those that got the SR-71 experience at Oshkosh.Sat in on all the pilot lectures and witnessed up close and personal the power behing this machine. I dare say it lingers always.
preacher1 2
You know, what is funny here. All of us have been around or have seen these birds and are literally drooling, but there hasn't been a single sled pilot make a comment here. I can't believe that none of them aren't on FA. They probably are and just reveling in all this drooling and feeling that quiet fortune & satisfaction that comes with
Having met a few of them and some other types invovled with the space program, I can personally attest to the humility of these guys., I have found that that they are all so incredibly gracious and quiet about their acomplishments that the rest of us could all learn a thing or two about going quietly into that good night.
preacher1 2
Having reached what could be considered the pinnacle of a career, I can agree with that.
Ivan Levy-Hara 2
Amazing story!
Great article, I was stationed at Kadena in 1968 and saw the Blackbird up close. It was so futuristic at the time. These guys must hve been the crew. I wish I could have talked to them at the time. What a ride!!
perryatmsu 1
I too was stationed at Kadena in 1968 ... only I was a BUF pilot. All I can say is WOW. Our launches came to a halt when it was time for the BB to takeoff. They left the hanger and were on their way to FL(who knows what) in a matter of minutes. We would all just sit there in awe!!! Drooling!!
perryatmsu 1
DARN - sorry for the dupe!! (I'm new at this "posting" stuff)
perryatmsu 0
I too was stationed at Kadena in 1968 ... only I was a BUF pilot. Our launches would come to a halt when it was time for a BB to launch. We all just sat there with our jaws dropped open. They would leave the hanger, blast off, and be at FL (who knows what) in a minute or two. All I could say is WOW!!!! Talk about BB envy, I've had it a long time.
John Kuenning 2
I was stationed at Kadena AB between January 1972 and June 1973. No matter where you were when a "Habu" took off you stopped a marveled at its beauty. Nothing is more beautiful than an SR-71 when it pitches to the right just after takeoff.
Scott Brooks 1
When I was stationed in Okinawa we would feel the Habu before we would see it. The windows in the BEQ would start to vibrate, and several men would run outside and start looking into the sky as if we were kids. I recall seeing it take-off once right before my first AWACS flight as we were waiting near the fligth line at Kadena. Great memories.
Tim Bray 1
I remember getting to see one in Marietta, during the late 80's. At first I could not figure out what all the drip pans were for, but a Lockheed Enginer (friend's father) later told me all about it and gave me a little book with some specs and drawings. I think then was when I fell all out towards airplanes. That bird was simply amazing, just sitting there, surrounded by armed gaurds, it just looked like the supreme go fast machine. It actually had a Presence, like an aura.Thanks to Mr. S, I got to actually grasp how and what everything did that made those such special planes.
sparkie624 1
WOW, AWESOME Planes.... Wish they were still in service.
Charles Felipe 1
I had a chance to see the habu (SR-71) take off from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. What a awesome site it was. Also scene the plane land back at Kadena Air Base with it's very large orange parachute with the blackbrid colors it is hard to put into words in how it had taken my breathe away! So said to see this plane in retirement. Just think that this plane was built by Kelly Johnson a man did not use a computer to build this plane back in the day.
adobbs 1
The photo and excerpt from the book is fantastic. I have always been fascinated by and loved the SR-71, ever since I was a child. They sure don't make them like that anymore....
Eduardo Casara 1
Wow, beatiful photo.

Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Dee Lowry 1
WOW!...Awesome! I have seen the "Blackbird" upfront and personal at the Boeing Flight Museum in Seattle and that "Bird" is an amazing flying machine! Standing next to it, makes you feel like a pin prick! What will out perform the "Blackbird"? "Stealth", is a remarkable aircraft, as well! Love it!
Shadowstarz 1
Blaine Bailey 1
It is a pricey book, but well worth it. I bought my copy from Mr. Shul himself at the Reno Air Races several years ago!
Robert West 1
That is a beautiful story. Ahh the romance of aviation
fred nolan 1
Clicked on the link the only thing I get is gizmodo no BB
Hayden Lamb 1
Epic photo of the SR-71!
Ed Schijf 1
I enjoyed the story very, very much! Thank you, Bob!
Gene McAvoy 1
Look, up in the sky. It's a bird, it's a plane....nevermind, you missed it!
Loved watching these babies at Kadena in 1969. HMC(SS/SW), USN, Ret
Ben Ryan 1
absolutely beautiful. To imagine flying at mach 3.2 and outrunning a missile over the African desert must have been the most breath-taking thing in the world. Would love to see one of these sleds in real life one day. Thanks so much for the article!
Robert West 1
In Palmdale,California there is "Blackbird Airpark" where one might gaze upon the SR-71 and some other black aircraft. One should access the site on the internet prior departure for the airpark visiting hours. There is no entry fee and pasrking is free. Likewise for the Joe Davies Heritage next door which has more aircraft on display.
WARNING ! Attending these two aircraft parks without a camera can be extremely disappointing. VBG.....
You are clear for takeoff............................
Todd Shaw 1
Just an unreal pic! Sled Driver seems a must have.
David Harada 1
Magnificent !!!
Will Sutton 1
I believe all the excerpts dealing with the missions over Libya are actually from Maj Shul's second book, "The Untouchables", published in 1993. Whereas "Sled Driver" is full of anecdotes about training in and flying the SR-71, "The Untouchables' is solely about the Libya missions, from both aircrew and support points of view. Both are beautiful books, full of Shuls wonderful photos. I managed to order a second-edition copy of "Sled Driver" before they were sold out and found a first-edition copy of "The Untouchables" in the late '90's.
A couple of years after I left Beale and was stationed at Randolph AFB Tx, I ran into a Lt who had been the aide to the Air Division commander at Beale and was given an official copy of the SR-71 group picture.
Scott Colvin 1
I saw that people are having trouble seeing this article as I did (just saw this in my Monthly FA email) so I found it at the Australia Gizmodo site. I can't wait to read it after reading through all the comments.
I am very proud to say I have several of Maj. Shuls' books, all personally signed by him. He has an uncanny ability to relate his experiences in print and pictures and they are a delight to read. If you have never seen one of these menacing aircraft then I suggest a visit to the Steven F.Udvar Hazy museum adjacent to Dulles Airport near D.C. There's one parked inside just in front of the Space Shuttle Discovery. AWESOME!
If you'd like to read more about 'oxcart', the plane that the SR-71 was derived from and other things that fly, this is a good read:
Frank Gurnari 1
Absolutely incredible story. Thanks.
wayne gorsek 1
Truly amazing!
Wayne Gorsek
Embraer Phenom 300 pilot and owner
Founder & CEO
I wasn´tt wrong about my choice. It´s the most beatiful and amazing jet. The story about pilots asking atc about their ground speed and then the blackbird. Why do the call it sled
Toby Sharp 1 just point it the way you wanna go and go as fast as possible......
Ron Chambers 1
Was an AIO living on Kadena in the late 70's. Got pics of my 17 yr old blonde daughter getting suited up in the HABU's Q room. Seems a great figure and a pretty face bypasses security concerns every time. Worked PARPRO mission planning and take for a number of years. Beats spam in a can every time.
Chris Decinti 1
Omg! !!!! What a beautiful sight!
Worked in weapons control at NORAD's 27th Air division in Phoenix in the sixties. We got to control test flights out of Edwards AFB on the Blackbirds fighter version(YF12A).What a rush! Normal fighters of the day would run @ Mach .8-.93 @ 30K altitude in there cruise profile. The Norms for the Blackbird were Mach 3.25 @ 75k. and it could engage multiple targets at differant altitudes,directions&speeds without changing it's flight profile. What a machine.Makes you wonder of the classified specs on todays war planes.
Loyd Champion 1
Isn't there one missing?
James Mering 1
I was a flight surgeon at Beale AFB when the SR-71 became operational and deployed with the 9th SRW to Kadena subsequently. Everything about the operation - the science, the engineering, the organization was (and remains) awe inspiring to me. The level of professsionalism from the enlisted personnel in the PSD to the Pilots and Command Staff was exemplary. Several of the Pilots I knew rose to become General Officers. Reading Major Shul's story takes me back 45years.
preacher1 1
When you lived and breathed SAC, in the old days, you were professional and liked your job or you wound up with an AFSC change and went to sweeping floors
Jeff Perkins 1
I bet you're a really riot at parties.
Robert West 1
Jeff I DON"T GO TO PARTIEs..... There is a lot of phoniness at these things.One upmanship, guys trying to put the make on the wife or girlfriend. The inevitable end is a bunch of slobbering drunks.
Robert West 0
Addendum to Jeff Another reason I don't go to pasrties is because I am a Christian, Don't drink, don't smoke, don't tell dirty jokes nor run with those that do.(which I think would include you )
joel wiley -1
With apologies, what came to mind reading this
fred nolan -1
I see no Blackbirds only a gizmodo site ????
preacher1 1
Fred: the original post was about 3 weeks ago. I guess they changed the site. Looks like something to do with the Hurricane.


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