If anyone want to be a barman here, just give me a call. I am sure we can find a bar for you.
Taking of fast though, one customer came by to tell of his experience of fast. He is one of just a few short of a hundred who have had the privilege and the task.
He flew in the SR-71. A steed of speed.
So far it is the fastest plane in regular use in its time. And unique. Even the Russians didn't get to copy it.
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 photographs recording the damage our F-111's 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.I was piloting the SR-71 spy plane, the world's fastest jet, accompanied by a Marine Major
the aircraft's reconnaissance systems officer (RSO).We had crossed into Libya , and were approaching
our final turn over the bleak desert landscape, whenWalt informed me, that he was receiving missilelaunch 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, bettingour lives on the plane's performance.
On the morning of April 15, I rocketed past the line at 2,125 mph.
After several agonizingly long seconds, we madethe turn and blasted toward the Mediterranean ..'You might want to pull it back,' Walt 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 achievementsof the Wright brothers, which we celebrate inDecember.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.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 wouldfly three miles higher, and five times faster, thanthe spy plane, and still be capable of photographingyour 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 weeklong interview, and meetingWalt, 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 , Karenna Airbase in Okinawa , and RAFMildenhall in England .On a typical training mission, we would take off near Sacramento, refuel over Nevada, accelerate into Montana, obtain a high Mach speed 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 Forty 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 controllersto check his ground speed. 'Ninety knots,' ATC replied. A Bonanza soon made the same request. 'One-twenty on the ground,' was the reply.
|The Front Office|
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 Walt's mike button in the rear seat. In his most innocent voice, Walt 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 take-off, 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 day North Korea fired a Missile at an SR-71
Other planes have been built to try to fly faster. Experimental ones, but did not go into production.
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 SR-71 served six presidents, protecting America
for a quarter of a century.Un-be-known 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.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 XB-70 for instance, another fantastic design, although that may well have been leaked to or copied by the Russians.
Ahh, the need for speed.
It makes even a frantic week in the Tavern seem prosaic.
Drink to the crews.