SR-71 Top Speed

SR-71 pilot recalls that time his Blackbird flew so fast that he and his RSO Landed at Beale AFB almost a Day Before They Took Off from Kadena AB

‘Try that in any aircraft other than the SR-71. Besides this is actually a true story,’ David Peters, SR-71 Blackbird pilot.

The SR-71 Blackbird was designed to fly deep into hostile territory, avoiding interception with its tremendous speed and high altitude. The crew had to wear pressure suits similar to those worn by astronauts because the SR-71 could operate safely at an altitude more than sixteen miles, or 25,908 m (85,000 ft), above the earth flying at a maximum speed of Mach 3.3.

So, it comes as no surprise if, thanks to its astonishing flight characteristics, the Blackbird has set numerous speed and altitude records throughout its career.

To give a real perspective of the incredible speed the iconic Blackbird could attain, SR-71 pilot David Peters tells the following, fabulous story.

David Peters in SR-71’s cockpit

‘I am really tired of hearing the “LA speed story” so I thought I would relay a mission that gives real perspective to the speed of the Blackbird.

‘We were TDY to Det. 1 at Kadena AB, Okinawa. One of the birds was scheduled for swap out and my back seater, Ed Bethart, and I were to fly it home. The replacement came in on Friday and we were to leave Saturday morning. So, in true Habu tradition we welcomed the incoming crew and went to happy hour Friday evening at the officers club.

David Peters and Ed Bethart

‘We got up Saturday morning and got ready to go home. Departure was scheduled for 1000. Everything went well and we departed right on time. Headed out to do a pass through the Korean DMZ then into the tankers in the Sea of Japan. Good refueling and climb out headed for the Sea of Okhotsk and the Kamchatka peninsula of Russia and from there to more tankers off of Adak in the Aleutian Islands. Another good refueling and on to Beale AFB California. We arrived with a low approach pulled up into a closed pattern and landed. Following de-suiting and debrief we deposited our classified flight documents jumped in a car and arrived at the officers club for Friday night happy hour at 1630 17 1/2 hours before we left Kadena.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

‘Try that in any aircraft other than the SR-71. Besides this is actually a true story.’

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: David Peters and U.S. Air Force

This model is available in multiple sizes from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.
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.

View Comments

  • Was this circa 1983 bringing 958 home. We were walk8ng toward the hangar to download tapes from the mission and we were staffed by you guys, I assume for the tower. Nice AB display for the troops! Worked on many types of fighters the rest of my career. Nothin as impressive as that day. Thanks

  • So fast you went back in time! Oki is 16 hours ahead of Beale, meaning it would have been 1800 Friday (Beale time) when you departed Oki at 1000 Saturday (Oki time). Godspeed!

  • "Tired of the LA Speed Story"...? Say it isn't so!
    With over 40 million views, and counting, the National Air and Space Museum has officially recognized it as the most popular aviation story ever.
    Carry on. 😁👍

  • I tried once something similar, to David's performance, but at a much slower speed (M.0.85). I recall it as "the time I celebrated twice the same birthday". 13th January, my birthday, I celebrated it with my crew in Macau. Next morning (1/14) departure at 08:00 L.T. with a B744F inbound to Anchorage, arrival at 22:00 L.T. on the 1/13!... rushing to the hotel to celebrate the "second birthday" before midnight. Cheers. 😅🥂🍾

  • I was a simulator tech in the AF '82-'86.Did maint and pre-flights on the simulator before the crews would come in for sim. training.
    I've met David Peter's, think he was a Capt. then.

  • I was a simulator tech in the AF '82-'86.Did maint and pre-flights on the simulator before the crews would come in for sim. training.
    I've met David Peter's, think he was a Capt. then.

  • LA Speed check story...make that 40million and 1 views. Of that 40mill, I'm sure I made a personal dent in views and shares!
    But seriously, who could ever get tired of it...there were fans already of the blackbird and I'm sure millions more became fans after listening to Brian's stories!!! Let's just make this clear...no bigger fan than me!!!! I dream of this aeroplane and have for decades( many years) and I've never flown a plane nor served in the military!!
    Long live this blacksled!!! Only reinstate this craft to be flown and shown to more...don't try and reinvent it ..the wheel invention is second to the sr71

  • I beleive I Have done the same thing or more distance but less the expensive suite multiple fuel sstops and although i believe i stopped 5 times with 2 of thosw fuel stops and about 600 o not even close to mach 1 speed... alobg with 300 other people on UA76 or UA96

  • I beleive I Have done the same thing or more distance but less the expensive suite multiple fuel sstops and although i believe i stopped 5 times with 2 of thosw fuel stops and about 600 o not even close to mach 1 speed… alobg with 300 other people on UA76 or UA96.. oh and w4 didnt flt west.. we flew east... left home fsm at dec 24 evening.. so in short i already had breakfast lunch dinner on dec 24 2016 and arrive SFO dec 24 2016 breakfast tkme around 6.30 am...

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