SR-71 Blackbird pilot tells the story of when he did an emergency landing to a CIA compound in Thailand after a double engine flame out while on a spy mission during the Vietnam War

SR-71 Blackbird pilot tells the story of when he did an emergency landing to a CIA compound in Thailand after a double engine flame out while on a spy mission during the Vietnam War

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Dec 5 2021
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Buddy Brown, one of the first SR-71 Blackbird pilot.

Buddy Brown, one of the first SR-71 Blackbird pilots, wrote down some of his adventures during his 30 years in the US Air Force. The following is in Buddy’s own words about his first flight over Hanoi with RSO’s David Jensen.

‘The first sorties I flew Dave Jensen and myself were scheduled as a double looper over north Vietnam.

‘A double loop means you fly over north Vietnam once, descend… refuel in Thailand airspace and then make a second pass on your return to Kadena. The route was generally, depart Kadena, fly subsonic to the first refill point ARCP approximately 200 nmi south of Kadena, get a max load of fuel, cruise to a point south east of DaNang skirting unfriendly radar on the flight down, turning north flying into the Gulf of Tonkin, entering north Vietnam in the vicinity of Haiphong, crossing north Vietnam just took about 8 to 10 minutes. Deceleration into Thailand for a second air refueling climb back to altitude, climb back to altitude over north Vietnam on the western border continue west into the gulf of Tonkin and then again onto Kadena.

The story of the first SR-71 crew to deploy a Blackbird in Japan that landed at Kadena two hours before the take off from Beale beating the sun
Buddy Brown and Dave Jensen in front of an SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3 spy plane

Double engine flame out

‘Dave notified me the times when we were being looked at (Painted) by the Chinese and North Vietnam radar. And when a missile SA-2 was fired at us.

‘The sensors program via the ANS system as to pointing angles, when to turn on and off operated normally.

‘At the start of our deceleration profile into the our second air refueling the problems began. At that time My left generator went off-line and wouldn’t reset. This is a NO-GO Situation.

‘About the same time, I had a double engine flame out!

‘We were going to make an emergency landing at Takhli AB, Thailand.

‘During the glide to restart altitude, of course we lost cabin pressurization. So, our pressure suits inflate it which made the cockpit movement a little more difficult. I called the tanker that we would be bottoming out early. At about 35,000 feet I restarted both engines.

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‘The second approach to Takhli I landed. Since a portion of the airbase was also a CIA compound I taxied right into the CIA’s hanger. A recovery crew was sent down from Kadena the following day and have the SR ready for a return flight to Kadena within a couple of days. The head of the CIA compound told me as I was dressing ready to leave.

“If you don’t tell anyone you were here, I won’t either!” This is a typical spy response they did however give me great service!’

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: U.S. Air Force

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Linda Sheffield Miller

Linda Sheffield Miller

Grew up at Beale Air Force Base, California. I am a Habubrat. Graduated from North Dakota State University. Former Public School Substitute Teacher, (all subjects all grades). Member of the DAR (Daughters of the Revolutionary War). I am interested in History, especially the history of SR-71. Married, Mother of three wonderful daughters and four extremely handsome grandsons. I live near Washington, DC.
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