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SR-71, The Blackbird

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SR-71, The Blackbird

Old 18th Dec 2007, 23:35
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Bar talk I fear dagenham. From the flight manual.

The cockpit is normally pressurised to either 10,000 or 26,000 feet with air bled from the engines ninth stage compressor. 26,000 is preferred as it allows greater airflow through the cockpit and enhances cooling. Cockpit temperature can be controlled by rheostat between 40 and 100F. A duct high temperature limit sensor operates with AUTO TEMP selected to limit cockpit air to a maximum of 126F. A high limit switch is also provided which limits cockpit air to 155F in auto or manual control.

The aircraft has 600 cc (enough for 16 injections) of Triethylborane (TEB) carried in a tank on each engine. TEB will burn spontaneously with exposure to air above 5C and is injected into the combustion chamber to light the JP-7 fuel on engine start and also whenever afterburner is selected. Catalytic igniters attached to the afterburner flame holders tend to maintain afterburner operation after initial ignition.

At sea level static conditions, military thrust is approximately 70% of maximum thrust. At high altitude military thrust is approximately 28% of the maximum thrust available.

Minimum afterburner thrust is approximately 85% of maximum afterburner thrust at sea level and approximately 55% at high altitude.

Aircraft carries 262 liters of liquid nitrogen for fuel tank pressurisation and inerting (to prevent autogenous ignition). Each hydraulic reservoir (4 off) is pressurised by separate gaseous nitrogen bottles.
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Old 19th Dec 2007, 02:48
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Great videos here, I particularly enjoyed number 2 - Take off, touch & go, landing.
Love the 'Black is Black' music - very apt! And what about the acceleration of the SR compared to the camera ship on the go around! Truly one of the greatest aircraft ever designed!

I can relate a story second hand from a colleague who was a former SR pilot...

He was flying missions over a foreign land after an 'event' in the 1980s. On one such mission after departing the target area and heading back out towards a refuel, he became partially hypoxic and consequently started his decel late, leaving him in danger of overshooting the tanker.

On a tanker join up, as with most 'tanker tracks', the KC-135Qs would fly a racetrack pattern with an extended final base leg to the intended tanker track before turning onto the final heading ahead of the SR which would catch up and plug in.

In this case, the RSO radioed ahead to the tankers to ask them to make their turn off base early and extend as much as they could, otherwise the SR was going to fly right by them. By this time, the pilot was back 'with us' and began a series of long S-turns to try to bleed off speed and altitude.

Unfortunately the early turn put the tankers on a direct course for a storm. When the aircraft plugged in and the tanker boomer was able to talk to the SR crew, he had a squeaky voice. It turns out the tanker had blown a windscreen in the storm and the whole crew was on oxygen, but they'd stayed and tanked the SR as requested.

Apparently that tanker crew couldn't buy a drink back at the Det for a week!


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Old 19th Dec 2007, 05:05
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The tankers were KC135Q models - dedicated to the SR71 because they had to have separate tanks for the JP7 which the 135 couldn't burn. The RVs with the tanker were usually radio silent, but the two aircraft could communicate via the intercom in the boom system once the SR71 was plugged in.

On the trip I took this photo, the 'in contact' chat was a discussion as to whether chicken pox was a sexually transmitted disease, as one complete KC135Q crew on TDY to Mildenhall had all come down with it. It transpired they had all been seeing the same girl in Cambridge!
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Old 20th Dec 2007, 09:10
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Great photo, that aeroplane has to be a nomination for the best looking aircraft of all time award!

Chicken pox? I guess under some circumstances it could be a STD!
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Old 20th Dec 2007, 16:57
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I found a book on special in the local bookshop about SR-71s...I forget the title but it was a great read.

I remember one story about a recon sortie to/near Murmansk...various Russian aircraft launched to intercept the Blackbird, with the usual result...however having made the turn back to the UK, the SR-71 flew passed a missile trail...

...The crew promptly shit themselves, until they realised they'd just crossed their inbound track and that it was a contrail they'd left behind...which puzzled them as they didn't believe contrails were possible at that altitude (FL800+).

Slightly off-tack...are there any SR-71s on display at any of the London Museums?

Last edited by Launchpad McQuack; 20th Dec 2007 at 16:57. Reason: typos
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Old 20th Dec 2007, 22:41
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Originally Posted by Launchpad McQuack View Post
Slightly off-tack...are there any SR-71s on display at any of the London Museums?
Yep, 962 is at the American Air Museum, Duxford. Some shots of her shortly after delivery.

Another good book on SR-71 development and testing
here. If you email Donn Byrnes (co-author), I'm sure he'd be more than happy to sign your copy.
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Old 21st Dec 2007, 11:10
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on the subject of tanker crews going above and beyond,....

During Desert Smort, I was plugged in to a Victor Tanker on several occasions and the fact that we crossed the FLOT whilst doing so was of no apparent interest to the Tanker crew. Much needed gas taken whilst sausage-side, and they were there when we RTBd, southbound, an hour later.
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Old 29th Dec 2007, 06:15
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For the uninitiated (me) could someone define FLOT please?
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Old 29th Dec 2007, 07:22
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Forward Line of Own Troops
or Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre....

I suspect the former, in this particular case.
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Old 29th Dec 2007, 09:42
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BEagle, thank you sir, I suspect that you are right. The former sounds a little more like a military term.
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Old 29th Dec 2007, 22:33
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BEagle, thank you sir, I suspect that you are right. The former sounds a little more like a military term.
Mmm . . . you obviously don't know of the combat capabilities of the Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre.

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Old 5th Feb 2008, 06:08
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Thumbs up Another SR 71 Blackbird story.

> *The Incredible SR-71 - a Pilot Remembers
> *
> Here is a very interesting account of remembrances of a former pilot about
> the SR-71 and it's capabilities. The pilot's name, the author of this
> account, is unknown.
> 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.
> Scores of significant aircraft have been produced in the 100 years of
> flight, following the achievements of the Wright brothers, which we
> celebrate in December. Aircraft such as the Boeing 707, the F-86 Sabre
> Jet, and the P-51 Mustang are among the important machines that have flown
> our skies. But the SR-71, also known as the Blackbird, stands alone as a
> significant contributor to Cold War victory and as the fastest plane
> ever-and only 93 Air Force pilots ever steered the "sled," as we called
> our aircraft.
> As inconceivable as it may sound, I once discarded the plane. Literally.
> My first encounter with the SR-71 came when I was 10 years old in the form
> of molded black plastic in a Revell kit. Cementing together the long
> fuselage parts proved tricky, and my finished product looked less than
> menacing. Glue,oozing from the seams, discolored the black plastic. It
> seemed ungainly alongside the fighter planes in my collection, and I threw
> it away.
> Twenty-nine years later, I stood awe-struck in a Beale Air Force Base
> hangar, staring at the very real SR-71 before me. I had applied to fly the
> world's fastest jet and was receiving my first walk-around of our nation's
> most prestigious aircraft. In my previous 13 years as an Air Force fighter
> pilot, I had never seen an aircraft with such presence. At 107 feet long,
> it appeared big, but far from ungainly.
> Ironically, the plane was dripping, much like the misshapen model I had
> assembled in my youth. Fuel was seeping through the joints, raining down
> on the hangar floor. At Mach 3, the plane would expand several inches
> because of the severe temperature, which could heat the leading edge of
> the wing to 1,100 degrees. To prevent cracking, expansion joints had been
> built into the plane. Sealant resembling rubber glue covered the seams,
> but when the plane was subsonic, fuel would leak through the joints.
> The SR-71 was the brainchild of Kelly Johnson, the famed Lockheed designer
> who created the P-38, the F-104 Starfighter, and the U-2. After the
> Soviets shot down Gary Powers' U-2 in 1960, Johnson began to develop an
> aircraft that would fly three miles higher and five times faster than the
> spy plane-and still be capable of photographing your license plate.
> However, flying at 2,000 mph would create intense heat on the aircraft's
> skin. Lockheed engineers used a titanium alloy to construct more than 90
> percent of the SR-71, creating special tools and manufacturing procedures
> to hand-build each of the 40 planes. Special heat-resistant fuel, oil, and
> hydraulic fluids that would function at 85,000 feet and higher also had to
> be developed.
> In 1962, the first Blackbird successfully flew, and in 1966, the same year
> I graduated from high school, the Air Force began flying operational SR-71
> missions. I came to the program in 1983 with a sterling record and a
> recommendation from my commander, completing the week long interview and
> meeting Walter, my partner for the next four years. He would ride four
> feet behind me, working all the cameras, radios, and electronic jamming
> equipment. I joked that if we were ever captured, he was the spy and I was
> just the driver. He told me to keep the pointy end forward.
> We trained for a year, flying out of Beale AFB in California, Kadena
> Airbase in Okinawa, and RAF Mildenhall in England. On a typical training
> mission, we would take off near Sacramento, refuel over Nevada, accelerate
> into Montana, obtain high Mach over Colorado, turn right over New Mexico,
> speed across the Los Angeles Basin, run up the West Coast, turn right at
> Seattle, then return to Beale. Total flight time: two hours and 40
> minutes.
> One day, high above Arizona, we were monitoring the radio traffic of all
> the mortal airplanes below us. First, a Cessna pilot asked the air traffic
> controllers to check his ground speed. "Ninety knots," ATC replied. A twin
> Bonanza soon made the same request. "One-twenty on the ground," was the
> reply. To our surprise, a navy F-18 came over the radio with a ground
> speed check. I knew exactly what he was doing. Of course, he had a ground
> speed indicator in his cockpit, but he wanted to let all the bug-smashers
> in the valley know what real speed was. "Dusty 52, we show you at 620 on
> the ground," ATC responded.
> The situation was too ripe. I heard the click of Walter's mike button in
> the rear seat. In his most innocent voice, Walter startled the controller
> by asking for a ground speed check from 81,000 feet, clearly above
> controlled airspace. In a cool, professional voice, the controller
> replied, "Aspen 20, I show you at 1,982 knots on the ground." We did not
> hear another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.
> The Blackbird always showed us something new, each aircraft possessing its
> own unique personality. In time, we realized we were flying a national
> treasure. When we taxied out of our revetments for takeoff, people took
> notice. Traffic congregated near the airfield fences, because everyone
> wanted to see and hear the mighty SR-71. You could not be a part of this
> program and not come to love the airplane. Slowly, she revealed her
> secrets to us as we earned her trust.
> One moonless night, while flying a routine training mission over the
> Pacific, I wondered what the sky would look like from 84,000 feet if the
> cockpit lighting were dark. While heading home on a straight course, I
> slowly turned down all of the lighting, reducing the glare and revealing
> the night sky. Within seconds, I turned the lights back up, fearful that
> the jet would know and somehow punish me. But my desire to see the sky
> overruled my caution, I dimmed the lighting again.
> To my amazement, I saw a bright light outside my window. As my eyes
> adjusted to the view, I realized that the brilliance was the broad expanse
> of the Milky Way, now a gleaming stripe across the sky.Where dark spaces
> in the sky had usually existed, there were now dense clusters of sparkling
> stars. Shooting stars flashed across the canvas every few seconds. It was
> like a fireworks display with no sound.
> I knew I had to get my eyes back on the instruments, and reluctantly I
> brought my attention back inside. To my surprise, with the cockpit
> lighting still off, I could see every gauge, lit by starlight. In the
> plane's mirrors, I could see the eerie shine of my gold spacesuit
> incandescently illuminated in a celestial glow. I stole one last glance
> out the window. Despite our speed, we seemed still before the heavens,
> humbled in the radiance of a much greater power. For those few moments, I
> felt a part of something far more significant than anything we were doing
> in the plane. The sharp sound of Walt's voice on the radio brought me back
> to the tasks at hand as I prepared for our descent.
> The SR-71 was an expensive aircraft to operate. The most significant cost
> was tanker support, and in 1990, confronted with budget cutbacks, the Air
> Force retired the SR-71. The Blackbird had outrun nearly 4,000 missiles,
> not once taking a scratch from enemy fire. On her final flight, the
> Blackbird, destined for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum,
> sped from Los Angeles to Washington in 64 minutes, averaging 2,145 mph and
> setting four speed records.
> The SR-71 served six presidents, protecting America for a quarter of a
> century. Unbeknown to most of the country, the plane flew over North
> Vietnam, Red China, North Korea, the Middle East, South Africa, Cuba,
> Nicaragua, Iran, Libya, and the Falkland Islands. On a weekly basis, the
> SR-71 kept watch over every Soviet nuclear submarine and mobile missile
> site, and all of their troop movements. It was a key factor in winning the
> Cold War.
> I am proud to say I flew about 500 hours in this aircraft. I knew her
> well. She gave way to no plane, proudly dragging her sonic boom through
> enemy backyards with great impunity. She defeated every missile, outran
> every MiG, and always brought us home. In the first 100 years of manned
> flight, no aircraft was more remarkable.
> With the Libyan coast fast approaching now, Walt asks me for the third
> time, if I think the jet will get to the speed and altitude we want in
> time. I tell him yes. I know he is concerned. He is dealing with the data;
> that's what engineers do, and I am glad he is. But I have my hands on the
> stick and throttles and can feel the heart of a thoroughbred, running now
> with the power and perfection she was designed to possess. I also talk to
> her. Like the combat veteran she is, the jet senses the target area and
> seems to prepare herself.
> For the first time in two days, the inlet door closes flush and all
> vibration is gone. We've become so used to the constant buzzing that the
> jet sounds quiet now in comparison. The Mach correspondingly increases
> slightly and the jet is flying in that confidently smooth and steady style
> we have so often seen at these speeds. We reach our target altitude and
> speed, with five miles to spare. Entering the target area, in response to
> the jet's new-found vitality, Walt says, "That's amazing" and with my left
> hand pushing two throttles farther forward, I think to myself that there
> is much they don't teach in engineering school.
> Out my left window, Libya looks like one huge sandbox. A featureless brown
> terrain stretches all the way to the horizon. There is no sign of any
> activity. Then Walt tells me that he is getting lots of electronic
> signals, and they are not the friendly kind. The jet is performing
> perfectly now, flying better than she has in weeks. She seems to know
> where she is. She likes the high Mach, as we penetrate deeper into Libyan
> airspace. Leaving the footprint of our sonic boom across Benghazi, I sit
> motionless, with stilled hands on throttles and the pitch control, my eyes
> glued to the gauges.
> Only the Mach indicator is moving, steadily increasing in hundredths, in a
> rhythmic consistency similar to the long distance runner who has caught
> his second wind and picked up the pace. The jet was made for this kind of
> performance and she wasn't about to let an errant inlet door make her miss
> the show. With the power of forty locomotives, we puncture the quiet
> African sky and continue farther south across a bleak landscape.
> Walt continues to update me with numerous reactions he sees on the DEF
> panel. He is receiving missile tracking signals. With each mile we
> traverse, every two seconds, I become more uncomfortable driving deeper
> into this barren and hostile land. I am glad the DEF panel is not in the
> front seat. It would be a big distraction now, seeing the lights flashing.
> In contrast, my cockpit is "quiet" as the jet purrs and relishes her
> new-found strength, continuing to slowly accelerate.
> The spikes are full aft now, tucked twenty-six inches deep into the
> nacelles. With all inlet doors tightly shut, at 3.24 Mach, the J-58s are
> more like ramjets now, gulping 100,000 cubic feet of air per second. We
> are a roaring express now, and as we roll through the enemy's backyard, I
> hope our speed continues to defeat the missile radars below. We are
> approaching a turn, and this is good. It will only make it more difficult
> for any launched missile to solve the solution for hitting our aircraft.
> I push the speed up at Walt's request. The jet does not skip a beat,
> nothing fluctuates, and the cameras have a rock steady platform. Walt
> received missile launch signals. Before he can say anything else, my left
> hand instinctively moves the throttles yet farther forward. My eyes are
> glued to temperature gauges now, as I know the jet will willingly go to
> speeds that can harm her. The temps are relatively cool and from all the
> warm temps we've encountered thus far, this surprises me but then, it
> really doesn't surprise me. Mach 3.31 and Walt is quiet for the moment.
> I move my gloved finder across the small silver wheel on the autopilot
> panel which controls the aircraft's pitch. With the deft feel known to
> Swiss watchmakers, surgeons, and "dinosaurs" (old-time pilots who not only
> fly an airplane but "feel it"), I rotate the pitch wheel somewhere between
> one-sixteenth and one-eighth inch location, a position which yields the
> 500-foot-per-minute climb I desire. The jet raises her nose one-sixth of a
> degree and knows, I'll push her higher as she goes faster. The Mach
> continues to rise, but during this segment of our route, I am in no mood
> to pull throttles back.
> Walt's voice pierces the quiet of my cockpit with the news of more missile
> launch signals. The gravity of Walter's voice tells me that he believes
> the signals to be a more valid threat than the others. Within seconds he
> tells me to "push it up" and I firmly press both throttles against their
> stops. For the next few seconds, I will let the jet go as fast as she
> wants. A final turn is coming up and we both know that if we can hit that
> turn at this speed, we most likely will defeat any missiles. We are not
> there yet, though, and I'm wondering if Walt will call for a defensive
> turn off our course.
> With no words spoken, I sense Walter is thinking in concert with me about
> maintaining our programmed course. To keep from worrying, I glance
> outside, wondering if I'll be able to visually pick up a missile aimed at
> us. Odd are the thoughts that wander through one's mind in times like
> these. I found myself recalling the words of former SR-71 pilots who were
> fired upon while flying missions over North Vietnam. They said the few
> errant missile detonations they were able to observe from the cockpit
> looked like implosions rather than explosions. This was due to the great
> speed at which the jet was hurling away from the exploding missile.
> I see nothing outside except the endless expanse of a steel blue sky and
> the broad patch of tan earth far below. I have only had my eyes out of the
> cockpit for seconds, but it seems like many minutes since I have last
> checked the gauges inside. Returning my attention inward, I glance first
> at the miles counter telling me how many more to go, until we can start
> our turn. Then I note the Mach, and passing beyond 3.45, I realize that
> Walter and I have attained new personal records. The Mach continues to
> increase. The ride is incredibly smooth.
> There seems to be a confirmed trust now, between me and the jet; she will
> not hesitate to deliver whatever speed we need, and I can count on no
> problems with the inlets. Walt and I are ultimately depending on the jet
> now - more so than normal - and she seems to know it. The cooler outside
> temperatures have awakened the spirit born into her years ago, when men
> dedicated to excellence took the time and care to build her well. With
> spikes and doors as tight as they can get, we are racing against the time
> it could take a missile to reach our altitude.
> It is a race this jet will not let us lose. The Mach eases to 3.5 as we
> crest 80,000 feet. We are a bullet now - except faster. We hit the turn,
> and I feel some relief as our nose swings away from a country we have seen
> quite enough of. Screaming past Tripoli, our phenomenal speed continues to
> rise, and the screaming Sled pummels the enemy one more time, laying down
> a parting sonic boom. In seconds, we can see nothing but the expansive
> blue of the Mediterranean. I realize that I still have my left hand
> full-forward and we're continuing to rocket along in maximum afterburner.
> The TDI now shows us Mach numbers, not only new to our experience but flat
> out scary. Walt says the DEF panel is now quiet, and I know it is time to
> reduce our incredible speed. I pull the throttles to the min 'burner range
> and the jet still doesn't want to slow down. Normally the Mach would be
> affected immediately, when making such a large throttle movement. But for
> just a few moments old 960 just sat out there at the high Mach, she seemed
> to love and like the proud Sled she was, only began to slow when we were
> well out of danger. I loved that jet.
> Submitted by Col PSC
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 08:52
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That account is from Brian Shul who wrote "Sled Driver".


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Old 5th Feb 2008, 10:52
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Okay, so he built his Revell kit when he was 10. 29 years later (age 39? Perhaps consistent with his 13 years in the Air Force at that stage) he joins the SR71 programme, apparently in 1983. So that means he built his Revell kit in 1954. A tad unlikely? The whole narrative has a wet-dreamish air about it.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 16:08
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I am inclined to believe that the article is an amalgamation of lots of SR71 anecdotes put together as one man's tale. I have heard variants of sections of the text attributed to very different (and credible) people.

Take the Interweb with a pinch of salt.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 16:37
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For what it's worth, there is a book called the Skunk Works by Ben Rich.

He became the Head of Special projects for the FBI and one of the designers of the sled amongst other things. A cracking read and contains quite a few pilot anecdotes.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 23:10
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Whilst Brian Shul may have taken a tad of literary licence, it may be to attempt company with such a machine. The photographs are also his, and I believe the stories are all, very, true.

He was unfortunate enough to be shot down over Vietnam, suffering considerably to survive. His A7 might not have treated him as fairly as the Sled would years later, but perhaps such things are necessary in order to give us mortals a glance at a time and place we might all wish were ours.

I was fortunate to meet the man at Reno some years back. I treasure my copy of Sled Driver. I lament that such machines, men, and stories are few, and our 21st century promises little in the way of such story telling.
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Old 5th Feb 2008, 23:38
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With regards to my earlier post which mentioned a book I bought a few years back and thoroughly enjoyed...I now know it was one of Paul Crickmore's.

As a point of interest, if anybody is after his latest book 'Lockheed Blackbird - Beyond The Secret Missions' (pub 2004, 400 pages HDCV) then have a hunt on eBay or PM me and I'll give you the direct link...

...It's worth reasonable coin these days but I found a couple of new cheap copies (15 pounds, bought one myself) being sold by a UK eBay seller. It's regarded as one of the ultimate SR-71 publications, check Amazon to get an idea of what it's worth second-hand

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Old 6th Feb 2008, 09:13
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'Lockheed Blackbird - Beyond The Secret Missions'
I happen to be reading it at the moment. To be more accurate, it's been next to my bed for several weeks, and I dip in to read a few pages when I have time.... Didn't know it was appreciating though....

I was particularly interested in the early chapters about the A12, as this version is largely forgotten these days. I hadn't realised they'd built quite so many, or that they did quite so much work.
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Old 6th Feb 2008, 09:19
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Mmm . . . you obviously don't know of the combat capabilities of the Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre.
Is that the dancing troupe?

I'll get me coat
anotherthing is offline  

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