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Same pilot, different anecdote, "how slow can it go?"


The Blackbird is full of amazing stories. Skunkworks - Ben Rich's memoirs [1] is full of ridiculous stories, both of making the SR-71 as well as stories from pilots (as well as a lot of other projects).

Not every thing in there can be taken at face value (his rant against the paint locker on the Sea Shadow for example... it's really the 'toxic solvents and chemicals locker'), but still full of gold.

For example, they had into all sorts of problems wielding titanium for the first time. Chlorine would wreck all sorts of havoc on the plates they used, which they discovered when someone drew on a plate with a ball-point pen. And then they completely ripped their hair out when the municipality increased the chlorination in the water they were using to clean the plates.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Skunk-Works-Personal-Memoir-Lockheed/d...

I second the recommendation for Ben Rich's book. It's a great history lesson and explanations behind the thinking of some of the greatest aerospace hackers & out-of-box thinkers.

I thought the passage about "600 mph birds" was particularly humorous because that was the first thing my young hacker mind thought of during a training section on the radar cross-section of the aircraft I was working on. It went something like this:

Instructor: "So the radar cross section is reduced considerably to approximately the size of a small bird"

Me: "So why don't they just look for a small bird going 600 mph?"

Instructor: "..."

Some years after, an F-117 was shot down during the Kosovo War, reportedly using this method (I had nothing to do with it :). I think this was probably a big learning lesson in regard to stealth technology.

And no disrespect to my instructor, he was a professional and a god of his domain.

>Some years after, an F-117 was shot down during the Kosovo War, reportedly using this method (I had nothing to do with it :). I think this was probably a big learning lesson in regard to stealth technology.

It was a bit more complicated than that ;-)

The full account how they managed to shot down a "stealth" F-117A with some modifications to cold war era Russian missiles, microwave ovens as radar decoys and in-promptu installed landlines can be read here: http://xmb.stuffucanuse.com/xmb/viewthread.php?tid=6376

Of course it was a bit more complicated than that, that's why I recommend the book :)

I can believe the rabbit story in that link. ECM radiation is nasty.

From that article:

>The spies and observers enabled Zoltan to keep his radars on for a minimal amount of time.

Reminds me of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

my favorite sr71 anecdote is how it leaks fuel when on the runway because all the joints were all designed to fit loosely until it reached pressure at altitude.

ah the skunkworks

The funny thing is, interesting as some of their projects may be, these days they still have the same mundane shit to complain about as everyone else (IT changed the security policy on my desktop so now I can't run MATLAB, etc).

I do get the impression Skunkworks is not what it once was.

And another (includes OPs story):


His book Sled Driver is selling for ~$2500 USD on amazon, and The Untouchables (which I haven't heard about) is here:


Woah. $2500 is a lot of money. Is it out of print?

Looks like it's available for ~$200 as well. That's still pretty pricey, but I bet the $2,500 is due to some weird pricing arbitrage or something, you see that with used books fairly regularly on Amazon.

The $2500 one is, if I'm not mistaken, a limited signed special edition (they only printed a couple of hundred copies). The $200 one is the regular edition.

(Disclaimer: I own one of the regular ones, and didn't pay $200 for it. But it's a large form factor hardback printed on high quality glossy paper -- full of breathtaking colour images -- so even if they reprint it, don't expect to see copies on sale for less than $50.)

That sounds a little more reasonable. Hopefully they do a reprint, I am a big fan of those large format coffee table style book, presuming it's about something interesting.

It looks like there is a reprint?


Which takes you here where you can purchase a limited edition for ~$400 USD


Awesome, good find. I'm too Amazon centric and missed it.

Different pilot, but an impressive story as well:


The story he touches on at the top about the libyan missiles is excellent as well, sadly I can't find a link.

Pretty much anything Shul writes is excellent and readable.

The Libya story is here: http://blogs.jobdig.com/wwds/2007/11/19/sr-71-now-that-was-s...

I love that he accidentally overshoots the refueling in Gibraltar -- and ends up next to Sicily.

The more detailed Libya stuff is at the end, though he summarizes it in the beginning.

One of my favorite quotes:

"On a typical training mission, we would take off near Sacramento, refuel over Nevada, accelerate into Montana, obtain high Mach 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 40 minutes."

Puts the speed in such great perspective.

I can see why it's a more often requested story; I found that one far funnier than the parent article.

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