LA Speed Check

LA Speed Check

QUICK POST THE OTHER ONE

As a former SR-71 pilot, and a professional keynote speaker, the question I’m most often asked is ‘How fast would that SR-71 fly?’ I can be assured of hearing that question several times at any event I attend. It’s an interesting question, given the aircraft’s proclivity for speed, but there really isn’t one number to give, as the jet would always give you a little more speed if you wanted it to. It was common to see 35 miles a minute.

Because we flew a programmed Mach number on most missions, and never wanted to harm the plane in any way, we never let it run out to any limits of temperature or speed.. Thus, each SR-71 pilot had his own individual ‘high’ speed that he saw at some point on some mission. I saw mine over Libya when Khadafy fired two missiles my way, and max power was in order. Let’s just say that the plane truly loved speed and effortlessly took us to Mach numbers we hadn’t previously seen.

So it was with great surprise, when at the end of one of my presentations, someone asked, ‘What was the slowest you ever flew the Blackbird?’ This was a first. After giving it some thought, I was reminded of a story that I had never shared before, and I relayed the following.

I was flying the SR-71 out of RAF Mildenhall, England, with my back-seater, Walt Watson; we were returning from a mission over Europe and the Iron Curtain when we received a radio transmission from home base. As we scooted across Denmark in three minutes, we learned that a small RAF base in the English countryside had requested an SR-71 fly-past. The air cadet commander there was a former Blackbird pilot, and thought it would be a motivating moment for the young lads to see the mighty SR-71 perform a low approach. No problem, we were happy to do it. After a quick aerial refuelling over the North Sea, we proceeded to find the small airfield.

Walter had a myriad of sophisticated navigation equipment in the back seat, and began to vector me toward the field. Descending to subsonic speeds, we found ourselves over a densely wooded area in a slight haze. Like most former WWII British airfields, the one we were looking for had a small tower and little surrounding infrastructure. Walter told me we were close and that I should be able to see the field, but I saw nothing. Nothing but trees as far as I could see in the haze. We got a little lower, and I pulled the throttles back from 325 knots we were at. With the gear up, anything under 275 was just uncomfortable. Walt said we were practically over the field-yet; there was nothing in my windscreen. I banked the jet and started a gentle circling maneuver in hopes of picking up anything that looked like a field. Meanwhile, below, the cadet commander had taken the cadets up on the catwalk of the tower in order to get a prime view of the fly-past. It was a quiet, still day with no wind and partial gray overcast. Walter continued to give me indications that the field should be below us but in the overcast and haze, I couldn’t see it. The longer we continued to peer out the window and circle, the slower we got. With our power back, the awaiting cadets heard nothing. I must have had good instructors in my flying career, as something told me I better cross-check the gauges. As I noticed the airspeed indicator slide below 160 knots, my heart stopped and my adrenalin-filled left hand pushed two throttles full forward. At this point we weren’t really flying, but were falling in a slight bank. Just at the moment that both afterburners lit with a thunderous roar of flame (and what a joyous feeling that was) the aircraft fell into full view of the shocked observers on the tower. Shattering the still quiet of that morning, they now had 107 feet of fire-breathing titanium in their face as the plane levelled and accelerated, in full burner, on the tower side of the infield, closer than expected, maintaining what could only be described as some sort of ultimate knife-edge pass.

Quickly reaching the field boundary, we proceeded back to Mildenhall without incident. We didn’t say a word for those next 14 minutes. After landing, our commander greeted us, and we were both certain he was reaching for our wings. Instead, he heartily shook our hands and said the commander had told him it was the greatest SR-71 fly-past he had ever seen, especially how we had surprised them with such a precise maneuver that could only be described as breathtaking. He said that some of the cadet’s hats were blown off and the sight of the plan form of the plane in full afterburner dropping right in front of them was unbelievable. Walt and I both understood the concept of ‘breathtaking’ very well that morning and sheepishly replied that they were just excited to see our low approach.

As we retired to the equipment room to change from space suits to flight suits, we just sat there-we hadn’t spoken a word since ‘the pass.’ Finally, Walter looked at me and said, ‘One hundred fifty-six knots. What did you see?’ Trying to find my voice, I stammered, ‘One hundred fifty-two.’ We sat in silence for a moment. Then Walt said, ‘Don’t ever do that to me again!’ And I never did.

A year later, Walter and I were having lunch in the Mildenhall Officer’s club, and overheard an officer talking to some cadets about an SR-71 fly-past that he had seen one day. Of course, by now the story included kids falling off the tower and screaming as the heat of the jet singed their eyebrows. Noticing our HABU patches, as we stood there with lunch trays in our hands, he asked us to verify to the cadets that such a thing had occurred. Walt just shook his head and said, ‘It was probably just a routine low approach; they’re pretty impressive in that plane.’

Impressive indeed

My favorite Blackbird story:

The "Blackbird" routinely flew up to 80,000 feet (officially). In the U.S., the airspace normally used by commercial airliners is between 18,000 and 60,000 feet; all flights between those altitudes must have a clearance from air traffic control. Flights above 60,000 feet are in uncontrolled airspace, and therefore do not need a clearance, but you gotta go thru controlled airspace to get there. The story goes that a newbie air traffic controller got a request for clearance one day from an aircraft using call sign "Aspen," which is what all Blackbirds flying out of Beale AFB used on training missions. The request was for "clearance to 60,000 feet." The new controller, unaware he was speaking to a Blackbird pilot, assumed someone was trying to prank him. After all, the only commercial airliner capable of climbing to 60,000 feet was the Concorde, which did not operate routinely in California.

The young controller's response to what he thought was a gag radio request? With a clearly derisive note in his voice he said, "Roger Aspen; if you can get to 60,000 feet you're cleared."

To which the Aspen pilot replied with the bland, almost bored tone of all professional pilots, "Roger Center, descending to 60,000."

Heard this story a dozen times and I would hear it a dozen more.

http://reddit.com

I remember this one out of the book "Skunk Works" by Ben Rich. Definitely one of my favorite aviation books of all time.

Best read in a long while. Thanks!

I'm a simple man, I see a SR-71 speed check post, I upvote.

It's tradition:

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.

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."

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.

Hearing it is way better than reading it.

Give this man some gold.

I genuinely thought this was finally going to answer how those "speed enforced by aircraft" signs actually work. Was disappointed

"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.

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.”

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."

We take off out of Beale, hit a tanker in Idaho, rip on up to Montana, zip across Denver, hang(?) a right turn Albuquerque, out over Los Angeles, up to Seattle, back into Sacramento. 2 hours, 21 minutes.

I decided to plot that on Google Maps ... Jesus Christ.

I got a speeding ticket after an airplane clocked my speed once. I was just driving down a flat and straight stretch of highway between 80 and 90mph (limit was 70). I slowed down a bit when I saw a state trooper car on the entrance ramp way ahead of me, probably about a half mile or more. They already had 2 cars pulled over. I didn't pull over at first when I saw the patrol car hit the lights because I thought he was after someone else since there was no way his car radar got me from that far away. Once I pulled over he broke the news to me that the airplane got me. I didn't even know they did that until then.

I have driven cross the US west to east and east to west a number of times and north to south many as well.

Thinking back on the grind, the seemingly endless hours of open road (as much as I love it), the snow storms and haboobs, thunderous rain, animals, traffic and crazy people. The danger. The exhausted nights in hotels after driving 16 hours straight where I just cant keep my eyes open another instant and still have 20 hours to go. Arriving with a sore back, hips, neck, brain. Taking days to recover from the journey before I am 100% again.

Then hearing that in an SR-71 I could go from Dulles to LAX in less time than it takes to watch a 90 minute movie.

Or from MIA to PQI in less time than an episode of Game of Thrones.

From the bottom of my heart sir, I loathe you.

My favorite SR-71 quote:

"we did Nebraska in 7 1/2 minutes today. I think that's the best way to do Nebraska." -Sled Pilot

P.80 Sled Driver

My favorite SR-71 quote:

P.80 Sled Driver

Fun Fact: The SR-71 is so fast it simply accelerates to evade enemy missiles

I read it every time. I will watch every video on the SR and MD every time. I spent a whole day at the Seattle air museum just hanging around their MD. Talked to guys who work there for hours. Didn't learn too much more, but tried to glean every bit off them I could.

Is there like a repository of all the copy pasta stories that get repeated on reddit?

The latter

The video OP linked is good, but I still prefer the written version. It has some details that aren't in the video. Thanks for pasting.

plane flying

Aerial VASCAR. Two large white lines painted across the highway, they just time how long it takes for you to cross the two points.

I feel like I've just stumbled across a group of people who are very passionate about aviation and have all these cool stories to tell and while it makes perfect sense that people like you exist I'm still just really happy to see it right now

Only one I've read, only I will hah

Or it could be someone's real life

And to compensate for the extreme pressure and temperatures the blackbird would experience, It leaked gas at ground level because it had gaps built into it intentionally.

I was never a Military jet guy but things kids love universally is big machines you control, airplanes, and dinosaurs and I loved that plane.

That could be in a Tom cruise movie

I don't know. Did you read the top comment?

Very much so. The SR-71 doesn't have much wing to it, it relies on speed to compensate for a lack of wing surface area to provide the lift needed to stay in the air. When you combine that with a banking turn to try and find the field, you end up with very little wing available to provide lift. The plane was basically just falling out of the sky at that point, it just happened to be moving forwards at 160 knots while doing so.

Believe it or not, there used to be some places in the US that enforced speed limits because it was in the interest of public safety, not because it was profitable...

I bet the pilot was trying not to crack himself up!

Jokes on you, I read it too.

sorry, I'm confused: the Blackbird was already above 60k, in uncontrolled airspace, and was asking for clearance to stay there? or was asking clearance to descend back to controlled airspace?

https://www.reddit.com/gold

http://imgur.com/a/nsVtY

Wait, what?!? Airplanes can do that? What state were you in?

Oh man, I hadn't heard this one before and I kinda love it.

Thanks, pal.

https://youtu.be/wigZsFypdyI

full presentation:

it's literally almost a transcript of the link. The guy is a former SR-71 pilot and wrote a book about it; This is an excerpt.

I've heard versions of this story over the years. Good to hear it from the source. I'm sure he told it more than once, but it's worth telling more than once.

In case you're curious, one knot is roughly 1.15 mph. So, 160 knots is 184 mph. Or, as an SR-71 might call it, "Stationary, with a margin of error."

If smart phones were around back then, that video would have more views than Gangnam Style.

I've read it many times, and I'm sure it would be better hearing the audio of the pilot telling the story.

I got to hear Brian speak at a small conference a while back. Before he spoke, the conference was pretty boring and I was getting ready to sneak out. Some of the people I was with were nodding toward the door like they were planning to ditch too. Just then Brian took the podium and started telling his Blackbird stories. The mood in the room lifted right away. Everyone was transfixed and laughing. I happily stayed for the whole thing and got to talk with him afterward. He's a great storyteller and has lived quite an amazing life.

Go to /sub/aviation! There's dozens of us

Why are my nipples hard?

... This is the precise story in the actual video though....

This is copypasta, though.

Ironically, the only SR-71 I've ever seen in person was in Nebraska. It's mounted in the lobby of the Strategic Air Command Museum.

Ironically, the only SR-71 I've ever seen in person was in Nebraska.

So between those lines you could do 200 mph, then go back down to something silly like 20 and the read out would be exactly the speed limit if you time it right.

Give this man a baloney sandwich.

I think you misunderstood. The ATC responded as if someone was trying to prank him, so he (basically) said, snarkily, "Yeah, sure, go for it buddy, if you think you can." And then the pilot (pretty much) replied, "Oh, I've been beyond there, little buddy, I'm just letting you know I'm coming down to your level now."

Both the excerpt in the link, and the excerpt in the top comment, are posted on this website so often it has become copypasta. That's why the top comment started with "quick, post the other one"

I mean, this one appears alongside the story in the video every time the SR71 is mentioned on reddit and then some.

But it's also probably the only copypasta the majority likes seeing over and over, because it's awesome.

That is a cool fuckin' story.

This really helps me understand. I didn't even think about how banking would shrink an already small wingspan. I just kept thinking of how I heard that commercial jets can glide with no power and applied that same logic to the story.

it just happened to be moving forwards at 160 knots while doing so.

This was a hilarious and poignant way to wrap that explanation up.

Because the earth is a sphere

I like how you just casually dropped that in there. Nice try, but you're not fooling me today!

I've had 7 beers and know almost nothing about flying.. but this video of one-upsmanship gave me a hearty giggle. That's lower than a chortle, but higher than a giggle.

Theoretically yes, but the people observing you can most probably tell between the 80mph speed limit and more than twice that at 200 only to decrease to 20 at the end.

Yep. It had to be refueled once it got in the air.

Skunk works is also the name of the Lockheed Martin's advanced development group...aka their cracked mad science division.

As you may guessed, the SR71 was developed there. As was F-22 and the current F-35.

That puts it into perspective.

Id also accept tom hanks

Okay so I'm gonna have to dig and find it but I've read the text of this somewhere else on reddit and some guy replied with the most hilarious parody of it. If some beats me too it, cool, because I just want to read that shit again.

EDIT: Found it!

First time I stopped to read a wall of text entire way through on reddit.

Everyone loves the SR-71, every little thing about it was cool, right down to the way you had to start the engines on the ground - 2x 401ci buick V8s making around 400hp each, per engine.

These were later upgraded to 454 big blocks making around 465hp.

its copy pasta man; this and the "What did you say to me.... Navy Seal copy pasta"

it seems like there's no way you could ever write enough tickets to make that financially worthwhile.

I've read that story so many times; that's the first time I've heard the speaker actually giving the speech. He is a great speaker and made it even better.

Ooh! Thank you, that makes sense.

Because the earth is a sphere and aircraft use longitude and latitude to navigate. 1 Nautical mile is one minute of arc.

A bridge

Awesome can you help me move?

There is an easier way - http://mapfrappe.com/?show=48463

(http://mapfrappe.com lets you compare distances on two side-by-side google maps)

Hmmm I didn't know this was the story that was always reposted when an SR-71 story is posted. I never read the copy pasta bc I thought it was too long but man was I doing myself a disservice this sorry is great

Look up to the skies and see A FUCKING SR-71 DROPPING OUT OF IT!

Always.

Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat.

I would read the whole story just to read this. It's worth it.

Tried to plot that on europe instead to get perspective, came 100 miles short, but holy moly, it's still insane. here

It's tradition:

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.

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."

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 arm or 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.

Could it be fantasy?

But they wouldn't be able to get an exact measurement, so the ticket would likely get thrown out in court.

You shut your whore mouth

Whats it about?

Dont say Aviation

I read it, smile, and upvote every freaking time.

I've read this a couple times and, while I think I have a vague understanding of the answer, I still need to ask.

What's the significance of the 160? Would this be pretty close to a low altitude stall?

Edit: thanks for the great answers everyone!

It's a copypasta/meme. These stories pop up in literally every post about aircraft speed or the blackbird in general.

But remember that only you can prevent forest fires.

Only. You.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AyHH9G9et0

Abridged presentation:

It's well below the stall speed of the SR71. Thing is made to go fast. Less a plane, more a turbojet powered knife. Even refueling from the jet tankers is hairy due to speed, with the tanker flying as fast as possible and the Blackbird flying near stall speed.

Read it, heard it, watched it. Will never get sick of it.

I've read this so many times I knew exactly what he was going to say.

I've shared the story with every guy I know who'd appreciate it. Never thought I'd hear the guy. Awesome.

Former controller and private pilot. It's the latter.

Above 60k, it's basically uncontrolled airspace. SR requested permission to enter the controlled airspace and the controller thought it was a mistake.

I live in CA where a lot of these aircraft train in the high dessert. A lot of the old timer controllers would always tell us crazy stories.

It's a common reaction to this story.

Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality

But that F18 was probably listening to only UHF, unless things were different back during the SR71 days. Does anyone have any ideas? F18s don't generally monitor VHF; were they just bored and wanted to hear what the dinks we're saying?

The F/A-18 has two 'conventional' radios, both of which can be tuned to VHF/UHF frequencies (as well as other frequency bands)

I'll switch UHF or VHF as necessary/convenient/situational-awareness-enhancing as I want to. For instance, in transit between areas/on cross country flights, I'll usually be on UHF with Center so I'm not listening to civilian traffic calls and not stepping on their calls either.

In the terminal area with approach in areas with lots of civilian traffic though, I prefer VHF, so I know where Farmer Joe or Dentist Bob is when ATC is talking to them and so I have a better picture of how busy the airspace is

So it's certainly possible, even if unlikely (unless the Hornet driver intentionally switched from the UHF frequency to the corresponding VHF frequency once he heard ATC talking to the bug smashers)

if you're serious and live in Tx, I'm off tues-thurs.

Dozens!

seriously? This is like one of the top 5 most frequent reddit copypastas. It's Gorilla Warfare, LA Speed Check, lol so random, SR-71 Flyby, and Chicken Tendies

https://youtu.be/_UljWGLo3nU?t=52s

I don't know what you do for work but I sure can't drop $400 on a book.

It's tradition to post the story in every thread about eh SR-71.

For some reason I was actually expecting you to finish your comment by referencing The Undertaker tossing Mankind onto the announcer's table from a height of 15 feet during their Hell in a Cell match in 1998.

Somehow I read this comment before I opened the comments, imagine that.

You can read the book "Sled Driver" too.

(unless the Hornet driver intentionally switched from the UHF frequency to the corresponding VHF frequency once he heard ATC talking to the bug smashers)

Surely a Naval Aviator would never display such arrogance.

If you want to know, the roads near those signs have markings on them. A spotter aircraft has someone in it that times how long vehicles take to go between those markings. They can use that to get your average speed. If you are going above the speed limit, they can relay that info to a cop car some distance ahead of those markings.

I read it twice

I wish I could tell a story half as entertaining as this guy.

He sounds like a genuinely nice guy. Which makes it even better that he was flying the fastest plane ever built by our military, and drives home the difference between him and the cocky "navy guy."

Ridge

Same story...read it several times, it never gets old. This is the first time I've heard the pilot telling the story though. He's added a few embellishments not in the text version.

Great story! I am one reddit degree away from an SR-71 pilot!

http://www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/I-dont-believe-you.gif
Colorado State Patrol monitors traffic violations from the sky

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VIDEO COMMENT +35 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UljWGLo3nU&t=52s Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.) SR-71 Blackbird 'Speed Check' +30 - Abridged presentation: Captain Phillips Ending - You're Safe Now +10 - Captain Phillips, please come in. Family Guy - Ostrich Laugh +4 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X_Ot0k4XJc IMDABES +1 - STANDIN ON A CAR, FINGA IN DA AIR The Six Million Dollar Man Intro +1 - Just ask Steve Austin F-18 touch and go +1 - Yeah, you missed the key point. It is a flyby, thus why he mentions the landing gear is up. With the gear up, anything under 275 was just uncomfortable. They didn't do anything to land. They went to full throttle, relying on the power of the en... LA Speed Check +1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg73GKm7GgI Author Brian Shul on piloting the SR-71 +1 - It's from this video. I found the whole thing quite awesome. I didn't realize the OP was a clip from the actual pilot giving a speech. Alice's Restaurant - Original 1967 Recording +1 - This guy has the cadence of Arlo Guthrie I love a folksy talented story teller. Air Traffic Controller tries to LEAVE the TOWER! Flight Sim X (Multiplayer) +1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1YcR9t9yUM

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Housing low-level offenders for years in prison doesn't make financial (or any kind of) sense, why should wasting aviation fuel and valuable man hours for a $200 speeding ticket make sense?

Police departments love playing with their toys in the name of keeping us safe, why else would they need traffic planes, grenade launchers, and armored personnel carriers?

Not a college student, eh?

It's a really good story and I really want it to be true, but I just can't shake this feeling wondering what all 4 of those aircraft were doing in the same freq. The Cessna and Twin Beech I get, and he said the back seat was monitoring 5 radios, ok. But that F18 was probably listening to only UHF, unless things were different back during the SR71 days. Does anyone have any ideas? F18s don't generally monitor VHF; were they just bored and wanted to hear what the dinks we're saying?

Yep! Pretty much how they clocked for what became at the time and I think still stands the record speeding ticket for a motorcycle. Some 204MPH on Honda on hwy 61 in Minnesota. Clocked him from a helicopter using the lines on the road, and radioed ahead to waiting state troopers.

Guy who received the ticket (and arrest I assume) now emcees the event he was riding in, called Flood Run.

California has them all over the place, usually on more remote stretches of highway where patrolling by car would be too much work. The plane essentially records your speed, identifies your car, then a officer further down the highway will wait till you pass and pull you over. Easiest ticket to get since you have no idea you're even being watched. The only hope you have is that you exit the freeway before you catch up to where the cop is stationed and then no one stumbles over you for a while.

For a while I was so happy that California doesn't have speed cameras since it meant you just had to keep an eye open for a cop car rather than a much smaller camera device by the side of the road. Then when I learnt about aircraft enforced speed limits I started to shit myself again. As soon as I see one of those "Speed enforced by Aircraft" signs, I instantly slow down to the flow of the traffic and make sure someone is always going slightly faster than I am at a minimum.

Any stories about evading a missile with speed out there?

Damn, a funnyjunk link in the year of our lord 2017. Nostalgia.

No I mainly read comments on Reddit and hardly ever click on the posts. I just like the social aspect of the platform.

Captain Phillips, please come in.

Thank you for sharing this. Far too rarely do aircrew stories like this get passed around anymore.