Aviation History

SR-71 pilot Brian Shul, famous for his ground speed check story, passed away while giving a speech about the Blackbird

SR-71 Blackbird pilot Brian Shul suddenly died in the night of May 20, 2023 in Reno, Nevada, at age 75, of a cardiac arrest.

SR-71 Blackbird pilot Brian Shul suddenly died in the night of May 20, 2023 in Reno, Nevada, at age 75, of a cardiac arrest. He is well known for his ground speed check story. He was a courageous man who fought his way back from a debilitating plane crash in 1973. His goal was to fly the SR-71, and he achieved his goal.

On May 21 Ronald Girouard (Ron is a well-known collector of the Blackbird: he has the largest collection of SR-71 patches and he also has the autographs of 133 people that have flown in a Blackbird, including Shul) provided more details “Last night he was the keynote speaker at the Nevada military support alliance annual gala. Immediately after his keynote speech, he keeled over emergency, life-saving CPR was performed on him by the doctors who were present the paramedics arrived minutes later they also tried to save him.

“Shul gave a great speech on the SR-71. Brian sister writes that she had never seen him speak so passionately about the Blackbird last night before he died.

“He died doing what he enjoyed the most, talking about the SR-71.”

The story of Brian Shul is awe-inspiring.

Shul was born in Quantico, Virginia, in 1948. He graduated from East Carolina University in 1970 with a degree in History. That same year he joined the Air Force and attended pilot training at Reese AFB in Texas.

Brian Shul

Brian served as a Foreign Air Advisor in the Vietnam conflict, flying 212 close air support missions in conjunction with Air America. While flying secret ops toward the end of the Vietnam War, he was shot down near the Cambodian border. Surviving the initial impact of crash landing in the jungle, Shul was trapped inside the fiery cockpit of his AT-28 aircraft. Just as his helmet visor began to melt, he managed to free himself and crawl, severely burned, from the flaming wreckage. A Special Operations Pararescue team extracted the downed pilot by helicopter from hostile territory, and evacuated him to a military hospital where he was not expected to survive his burns.

One year and 15 surgeries later, Shul astonished the military world by overcoming his traumatic injuries and passing every flight physical demanded of him in order to fly again.

After flying fighter jets for 10 years, he applied to pilot the SR-71 Blackbird. With a titanium pin in his finger and nerves of steel, he became part of an elite group of pilots skilled enough to fly the famed spy plane.

Brian Shul is proof that with the right attitude, all things are possible.

Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Facebook Pages Habubrats SR-71 and Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.

Photo credit: Brian Shul via Sleddriver.com and Captain Sam Brown

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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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