‘He Protected Me From Certain Death That Day.’
Lt Col. Brian K. McCallum pilot and his RSO Lt. Col Robert Locke were flying at nearly 80,000 feet at three times the speed of sound in a $45 million airplane. Now imagine both engines failing at the same time and you plummeting toward the ground.
According to Kenneth Hagin Ministries website, Brian McCallum, a retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and current RHEMA Bible Training Center instructor, doesn’t have to imagine it.
He lived it.
“I had a double-engine flame-out (when both engines stop working) one time in an SR-71 Blackbird,” he said. “It just started falling. This happened to us at about 75,000 feet. You can’t get it started again until you are under 50,000 feet.”
After free-falling for 25,000 feet, Rev. McCallum tried to get the engines started several times with no success. He told his navigator, “‘If the right engine doesn’t start this time, we’re bailing out.’ We tried one more time, and that engine rumbled and started. I was so glad to hear that. No one wants to lose a $45 million airplane, which is what they cost back then. I’d say over the years I had five or six ‘close calls’ like that.”
Rev. McCallum joined the Air Force in 1951, fulfilling a desire birthed in him as a child as he watched planes fly overhead from a nearby Air Force Base. Thirteen years later, he accepted Jesus as his Savior while watching Billy Graham on television. Rev. McCallum was active during the Vietnam War and flew many missions in the SR-71, taking photographs of enemy movements. He was actually one of the first 20 Air Force people to ever pilot the plane, which flew above 80,000 feet at more than 2,200 miles per hour. He said he could fly from the Mississippi River to Northern California in 30 minutes.
“There’s not a sensation of how fast you’re going, because you’re so high when you’re going that fast,” he said. “You get a bigger sensation when you’re doing 800 or 900 miles per hour when you’re close to the ground because everything is going by so fast. Up there you don’t have anything to pass by fast. Once in a while you’d pass another SR-71 or a weather balloon. You’d go by it so fast you could barely turn your head to keep up with it.”
Flying at those speeds at that altitude, training is vital to the safety of the pilot and any crew on board. During his ‘close calls,’ Rev. McCallum was able to remain calm due to the countless hours he spent rehearsing what to do in case of an emergency.
“All of the training they gave us paid off,” he said. “Your training keeps you from getting overly engrossed in what’s wrong. All of the time we spent in training was never wasted. It prepared us for unexpected things that happened.
Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Facebook Page Habubrats for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.
Photo credit: Central Intelligence Agency and Phil Loignon
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