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SR-71, The Blackbird

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SR-71, The Blackbird

Old 2nd Mar 2010, 20:39
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I remember that Libya raid...

I remember it very well, was on nights at Buchan.

Around 6 to 6.30 in the morning, just before we were about to go off shift, we saw a whole load of traffic being picked up by Portreath coming in over Lands End, which was normally filtered out of the air picture and we did wonder what the hell it was all about, as we watched them change from Pending to Allied to Interceptor...

One of the more exciteable junior SAC's on watch then came hoofing into the ops room exclaiming:

"Ronnie Reagan's just bombed the s**t out of Libya!!"

having seen breakfast tv announcing the raid having been carried out (which had obviously followed on from the broadcast that the OP refers to)... I still remember the look on his face to this day.

There was some Pave Tack camera footage that was added to the news broadcasts not long afterwards, from what I recall, over an airfield (I seem to remember seeing the footage of a parked AN-12 taking a 2000 pound direct hit). I also remember getting hold of one of the Lakenheath Is Bombing Your Ass stickers as well - I think I might still have it on a cassette case somewhere in the garage!

This is the first time I've read anything about the raid in any kind of detail.

80 feet at 600 knots in pitch dark in an F111, in combat conditions?

Bloody hell. I bet that was one hell of a rush....

Thats what they join up to do though I guess..... amazing work!
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Old 2nd Mar 2010, 21:22
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Originally Posted by Jabba_TG12
I also remember getting hold of one of the Lakenheath Is Bombing Your Ass stickers as well
The most politically incorrect zap I recall from the time was "I'd fly 3,000 miles to smoke a Camel" - with appropriate artwork.

Shocking. Truly shocking.
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Old 3rd Mar 2010, 06:46
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Definately not PC.

Bloody funny though!
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Old 3rd Mar 2010, 14:55
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In response to the SR-71 tales, I read a conversation that went something like this. Not sure if it is true though.

SR71 to ATC "Good Morning, callsign is requesting FL600"

ATC - "callsign, if you can get high enough, you are cleared to FL600"

SR71 - "Thank you, callsign descending to FL600"

Also, a great rumour doing the rounds was that the USAF put a concrete bomb through the front door of the French Embassy inTripoli, for making them go the long way round!!
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Old 3rd Mar 2010, 15:08
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they wouldn't do that would they---?
would they?
nyuk nyuk nyuk
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Old 3rd Mar 2010, 15:37
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... and think this was years before the 'cheese eating surrender monkeys' tag was coined!

Father was based at Brize when this happened, and as a fair few USAF personnel from U Heyford lived in the Family Qtrs nearby.
I vividly remember the change in attitude as this went down. They were immensely proud of pulling it off despite the constraints imposed by their European mainland allies, the feeling of loss was also very real.

Great people.

And think they use U Heyford to park cars now !
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Old 13th Aug 2010, 15:08
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Another cracking yarn

Taken from Brian Abraham's post #251 in the Air Diplay C*ck Ups thread http://www.pprune.org/military-aircr...ml#post5451360

Question asked of SR-71 pilot Brian Suhl, USAF retired, "What was the slowest you ever flew the Blackbird?"

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 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 fly-past. 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 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 fly-past. 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 fly-past 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 plate form 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 fly-past 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.

Wonder what Cirrus on another thread would make of this elementary "mistake".
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Old 13th Aug 2010, 17:52
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Bill Weaver

I worked with Bill a few months ago. He is still flying as a FAA DER Test Pilot.
He might not be as sprightly as he probably once was (I had to slow down a bit walking across the apron with him) but his mind is still very sharp.
A genuinely nice and unassuming bloke........plus exceptionally lucky to survice his incident.
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Old 14th Aug 2010, 19:54
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Bill Weaver

I too worked with Bill and agree hard to find a nicer person.

I remember him telling me the ride in the Bell 47 helicopter of the rancher that picked him up after the break up really scared him. He said he didn't know alot about helicopters but he did know what red lines on instruments mean.
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Old 14th Aug 2010, 20:13
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Well, right after falling out of an SR71 seeing a redline - a max redline of 90mph must be a bit of a culture shock.

Cut the guy a little slack!
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Old 12th Mar 2014, 19:24
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An interview with Rick McCrary, who flew the Sled in the 1980s (and is now Boeing's Director of Business Development for the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G). As always where the SR-71 is concerned, a great read.

Flying the world's fastest plane: Behind the stick of the SR-71

And remember: "There's a lot of stuff in the job that isn't in the shiny brochure."

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Old 16th Mar 2014, 23:21
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Ahh, the 'Dark Lord' himself!

Have worked with Rick on a number of projects over the years - great guy and very happy to understate his achievements!
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Old 17th Mar 2014, 02:06
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List of S-71 Losses

SR-71 Online - Blackbird Losses
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Old 17th Mar 2014, 12:34
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I am probably stating the obvious but it was / is a technological tour de force. The engineering challenges that were over come were immense.

Some years back scientific american did a great article on some aspects on the SR71, one of the challenges the design team faced was that of find a hydraulic fluid that could stand the immense temperatures and still remain a liquid ( not boiling off) and functional.

After trawling many supplies they at last found one who catalogue said they had such a product that could remain a fluid at very high temperatures. The Lockheed team ordered it and when the packaging was removed they had a block of solid powdery material, nobody said it had to be fluid at room temperatures.
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Old 17th Mar 2014, 13:04
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The Sound of Freedom!

The descriptions of missions flown by the SR are interesting!

Sending an SR to arrive overhead when Foreign Leaders were meeting.....and to "Boom" them....interesting concept.

SR-71 Blackbird, Pilot Stories - Yahoo Search Results
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Old 17th Mar 2014, 13:07
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The other one i found interesting was the Israeli Egypt war where Brian was sent to over fly the positions so the US could work on a peace agreement.
He also had to over fly Israel but the US had not told them so he was also targeted by the Israeli SAM Radars (not sure if any missiles were fired).
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Old 17th Mar 2014, 13:10
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Another good article with links to other Stories.....

SR-71 Blackbird Stories
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Old 17th Mar 2014, 13:43
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The hydraulic fluid used in the 71 (MIL-H-27601B) was based on a highly refined, deep dewaxed paraffinic mineral oil. Temperature range was -40°C to 288°C, and at the high upper temperature, no elastomeric seals were used in the aircraft, so none of the usual rubber swell ester was needed, not that it could be used at the upper temperature in any event. Tracing leaks was a problem because hydraulic, engine oil and fuel were all the same clear colour.
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Old 12th Sep 2014, 17:47
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Rich Graham at Duxford

I understand Rich will be at Duxford all weekend showing folks around his airplane.
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Old 30th Dec 2018, 02:56
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SR-71, The Blackbird

My older son give me a copy of "SR-71, The Complete Illustrated History of the Blackbird, the World's Highest, Fastest Plane" as a Christmas present. Once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. A fantastic collection of facts and figures, such as a pilot surviving after his aircraft disintegrated in a banked turn at Mach 3.2, tyre pressures were 400psi, hydraulic system pressure was 6,000psi, the radar system weighed slightly over 1,200 pounds (545kg) and one aircraft flew, intentionally, with a P&W JT57 engine on one side and a P&W JT58 on the other, I also learned about "sheep dipping" etc, etc.
Management of the engine intake spike was critical and had to be done manually - and frequently. Here was an exceptional aircraft but the USAF's Strategic Air Command, who operated the aircraft, had other priorities and were quick to get rid of it as it didn't fit into their "mission".
If the CIA had taken over management of the aircraft I'm sure it would be still flying today, with fully digitized systems.
The book is written by Col. Richard H. Graham, USAF (Ret) and is published by Zenith Press, ISBN: 978-0-7603-5448-3.
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