Jump to content

Nice aviation story...


Randomguy
 Share

Recommended Posts

SR71
 
 
 
 

This may be the single greatest aviation story ever told, it’s about the iconic SR-71 Blackbird whose full operating specs are still classified to this day. The story, from the now out-of-print book Sled Driver by former SR-71 jockey Brian Shul (available used on Amazon for just $700). Here’s the ultimate aviation troll:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 4.51.23 PM

There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe. Even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet.

 

I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us, tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions, when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn’t match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 4.54.01 PM

Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.

We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot asked Center for a readout of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.”

 

Now the thing to understand about Center controllers, was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional, tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the ” Houston Center voice.” I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country’s space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the Houston controllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that, and that they basically did. And it didn’t matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios.

Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren. Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check”. Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it, ol’ Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 4.53.40 PM

And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done – in mere seconds we’ll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now. I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn.

 

Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet. Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?” There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request. “Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.”

I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.”

For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice, when L.A.came back with, “Roger that Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.”

It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.

For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites



I enjoyed the read.  

Being calm on the radio is also a trademark of veteran cops.  I remember shadowing a pursuit in my city.   I then heard "Duke 1" the helo come over the radio: 32 289, you need to disengage from the pursuit.  32 289: Ah negative.   Duke 1: 32 289, terminate the pursuit and let 32 269 (me) take lead.  32 289 ah negative.  Duke 1: 32 289, 10-45 your unit (check gauges) your vehicle is on fire.  32 289: Copy that, terminating pursuit.  32 269 (me) AHHH 32 DISPATCH UH 269 IS NOW LEAD VEHICLE IN PURSUIT HEADING WESTBOUND ON 22 FWY!!!!!  After I called it out I though oh damn that sounded freaking bad...  Doing over 100 MPH pursuing a fleeing felon code 3 and all I can think of is trying to be cool on the radio....    

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Airehead said:

There are some really important parts to this story.  The dinner conversation at Airedale Estates has convinced me that most pilots are cut from the same cloth. Mr Aire thinks flaming Navy pilots is kind of fun. 

Back when virtually all airline pilots were military trained you could always tell if your pilot was from the Air Force or the Navy.   During takeoff your Air Force trained pilot would turn onto the runway, stop, lock his brakes, do some checks and finally run up his engines, release the brakes and roll.  Your Navy trained pilot would roll off the taxiway while advancing the throttle and accelerate onto the runway and into his take off roll.

During landing your Air Force pilot would start out miles from the airport in a long straight approach, adding a bit of flap here and there while slowing for the landing.  The Navy pilot would come out of the down wind onto a very short final and while you were looking out the side of the plane at the end of the runway you would feel the flaps come in suddenly while the gear went down and in seconds the thump of wheels on the ground.

Both of them had the same result, but the Navy flyer would make it ever so much more fun.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 minutes ago, maddmaxx said:

Back when virtually all airline pilots were military trained you could always tell if your pilot was from the Air Force or the Navy.   During takeoff your Air Force trained pilot would turn onto the runway, stop, lock his brakes, do some checks and finally run up his engines, release the brakes and roll.  Your Navy trained pilot would roll off the taxiway while advancing the throttle and accelerate onto the runway and into his take off roll.

During landing your Air Force pilot would start out miles from the airport in a long straight approach, adding a bit of flap here and there while slowing for the landing.  The Navy pilot would come out of the down wind onto a very short final and while you were looking out the side of the plane at the end of the runway you would feel the flaps come in suddenly while the gear went down and in seconds the thump of wheels on the ground.

Both of them had the same result, but the Navy flyer would make it ever so much more fun.

In my experience, during landing,  the Air Force pilots used the whole length of the runway. On the other hand, the Navy pilots used the whole width to land. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

58 minutes ago, maddmaxx said:

Back when virtually all airline pilots were military trained you could always tell if your pilot was from the Air Force or the Navy.   During takeoff your Air Force trained pilot would turn onto the runway, stop, lock his brakes, do some checks and finally run up his engines, release the brakes and roll.  Your Navy trained pilot would roll off the taxiway while advancing the throttle and accelerate onto the runway and into his take off roll.

During landing your Air Force pilot would start out miles from the airport in a long straight approach, adding a bit of flap here and there while slowing for the landing.  The Navy pilot would come out of the down wind onto a very short final and while you were looking out the side of the plane at the end of the runway you would feel the flaps come in suddenly while the gear went down and in seconds the thump of wheels on the ground.

Both of them had the same result, but the Navy flyer would make it ever so much more fun.

Years ago I was walking into a terminal and a guy going the other way says "Here comes the Airforce!"  My response was "Pardon?"  Then he said "You always know Airforce by the way they walk."   I assume he meant upright.  :whistle:

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, Wilbur said:

Years ago I was walking into a terminal and a guy going the other way says "Here comes the Airforce!"  My response was "Pardon?"  Then he said "You always know Airforce by the way they walk."   I assume he meant upright.  :whistle:

I'da assumed he meant with a  red tipped white cane. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...