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Story of the Mach 3.18 breakup of an SR-71 Blackbird (916-starfighter.de)
49 points by marvin on Mar 10, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments

Air density at high altitude is insufficient to resist a body's tumbling motions, and centrifugal forces high enough to cause physical injury could develop quickly.

Holy crap. You can be spun to death.

Let's not even ask how this fact was established. Let's just say that, if you know a test pilot, you should probably buy them a beer.

"The next day, our flight profile was duplicated on the SR-71 flight simulator at Beale AFB, Calif. The outcome was identical. Steps were immediately taken to prevent a recurrence of our accident."

Anyone else feel that testing before actual flight makes more sense? wtf....

I thought it was pretty impressive that a flight simulator in 1966 was accurate enough to replicate a real-world engineering failure in extreme conditions. What language/systems were being used back then?

Who has time for unit testing? We'll do that after we ship.

Seriously, though, there's a lot of phase space in a typical SR-71 flight, and not a lot of time to explore it all. It's a lot easier to home in on the bug once you know it's there...

If you ask me, that was a pretty expensive bug...

It was an unhandled exception to be sure... but test pilots, like users, are always better than any test you can think of.

Indeed. What a great site also. The F104 was like the aircraft version of the Venus de Milo - you just can't stop looking at it. A great example where a solution to a need (at that time, need for a high-speed interceptor) transcended the solution itself.

That was an incredibly lucky pilot!

The really lucky part was that he got to tell this story for decades afterwards.

I figure that the only reason to be a test pilot is the pleasure of telling stories like this one.

I would have said that this is more of a case of great automated emergency systems doing their job, but considering that his ejection seat never even deployed and he still made it - that's some luck.

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