Blackbird Drivers Strut Their Stuff



I got forwarded a little number the other day that I thought DT readers would get a kick out of. I gotta tell you, I still have a thing for the SR-71. I mean, it conjures up all kinds of images of pirated space alien technology, super secret dealings, Cold War spying and raw, unadulterated speed...Shelby Cobra-type speed.

So when I saw this excerpt from a book about SR-71 pilots, my retro hackles tingled.

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 Walters 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.

And another...

Odd are the thoughts that wander through ones 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.

Just an opportunity to get inside one of these jets in a literary way satisfies my curiosity. Any former Blackbird drivers out there that can add anything to this?

(Gouge: CM)

-- Christian

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