The rumor is… that a test flight SR-71 Blackbird flew over Johnson’s ranch and broke several of his large windows. But he didn’t have the nerve to make a complaint…
What do Zsa Zsa Gabor, President Nixon, and Kelly Johnson all have in common?
‘Obviously the SR 71 broke the sound barrier to get up to 85,000 feet and a speed of 3.2 Mach,’ explains Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) on her Facebook Page Habubrats. ‘Often, I would look at the windows of our house at Beale [Air Force Base, AFB] and watched them shake so hard I thought they would break!
‘The SR-71 tried to stay away from major cities, but occasionally it would happen over a large city like Los Angeles.
‘Zsa Zsa Gabor called the police to complain after the London to Los Angeles speed run. Her windows were (supposedly) shattered in her Hollywood hills home. She was appeased when pilot Buck Adams and RSO Bill Machoreck went to her house and gave her personal autograph
‘President Nixon called the Air Force to complain when the sonic booms broke the windows in his home in Southern California. Even though it was himself who ordered sonic booms 15 seconds apart to be delivered by the SR-71 over the Hanoi Hilton.’
Sheffield Miller continues;
‘With aircraft, this phenomenon is caused by bow and stern waves — traveling at the speed of sound — getting forced together (or compressed) because they can’t get out of the way of the faster moving plane. In “smooth flight” the united wave — now a shock wave — starts at the nose of the aircraft and ends at the tail. As the plane passes through, the wave attains a pressure imbalance (called an “N” wave due to its shape) and that’s when the boom happens.
‘The following video features the Audio Recording of SR-71 Blackbird Sonic Booms. Listen here to hear what a double sonic boom sounds like!
‘In reality, there are two booms that happen. One when that reaches the observer and one when the pressure returns to normal.’
Sheffield Miller concludes;
‘Kelly Johnson [The head of Lockheed’s Vaunted Skunk Works, the division that developed the SR-71 Blackbird itself] had a busy life outside Lockheed. He and his wife Althea Louise Young built a house in Encino, in the San Fernando Valley, 10 miles west of Lockheed’s facilities. They kept horses, and eventually acquired a working ranch, Star Lane, in the Santa Ynez Valley, north of Santa Barbara. Johnson maintained his own farm machinery in a 4,800-square-foot shop that he had built, and whose huge size and strong construction were a source of pride for him. The rumor is… that a test flight SR-71 flew over Johnson’s ranch and broke several of his large windows. But he didn’t have the nerve to make a complaint.’
Photo credit: CIA, News release by Rogers & Cowan talent agents, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and U.S. Air Force