SR-71 pilots explain why flying the Blackbird with just one engine in full afterburner was SR-71 aircrews’ most dangerous operation

SR-71 pilots explain why flying the Blackbird with just one engine in full afterburner was SR-71 aircrews’ most dangerous operation

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Jan 23 2022
Share this article

‘The tremendous thrust with one engine in full afterburner and the other in idle was eye-opening!’ Stormy Boudreaux, SR-71 Blackbird pilot.

Taken on Nov. 1, 1981 by US Air Force (USAF) Scene Camera Operator Ken Hackman, the interesting photos in this post feature an SR-71 Blackbird flying with just one engine in full afterburner, using just one rudder.

Why is that?

‘That is what we called a “single-engine go around,”’ says Stormy Boudreaux, SR-71 Blackbird pilot. ‘It was a practiced emergency procedure. It simulated what you had to do if you were making a single engine approach to land and for a variety of reasons something made the runway or the landing impossible so you “went around” on only one engine. The tremendous thrust with one engine in full afterburner and the other in idle was eye-opening! To counter the yaw from that engine required full rudder as well as banking the aircraft into the good engine in order to maintain your flight direction down the runway.

SR-71 pilots explain why flying the Blackbird with just one engine in full afterburner was SR-71 aircrews’ most dangerous operation

‘Most twin engine aircraft have to do something similar but it’s darn right frightening the first time you try it in the SR-71. That one engine in AB is really pushing the nose around trying to turn the jet away from that engine and the amount of bank angle when at low speed makes you glad you are strapped tightly in the seat. It’s almost a knife edge pass!’

Boudreaux is echoed by David Peters, another SR-71 pilot.

‘As Stormy said the picture[s] indicate a single engine go around. Thrust was never an issue. What became imperative was the ability to point the airplane. Under most conditions full opposite rudder and a slight bank into the operating engine was enough. By under certain conditions other factors came into play. Minimum control speed being most important.

‘We had a couple of missions out of Mildenhall that went hot to the tankers. That required a heavy takeoff using a 65,000-pound yo-yo fuel load. In the winter time with freezing temperatures in England min control speed was a huge factor. Once the burners lit if you lost an engine on takeoff once the burners were lit your only option was to eject. Why you ask.

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

‘Well the runway there is only 8,000 feet. There was so much thrust developed in the cold, heavy air climate that your speed combined with gross weight would not allow you to abort since you couldn’t stop the airplane. There was plenty of thrust available to fly on one engine but there was so much thrust you could not control it below min control speed which in those cases was generally around 260 knots. So, the only thing you could do was pull both engines to idle pop the chute and eject.

‘I always felt that was perhaps our most dangerous operation.’

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: Scene Camera Operator Ken Hackman / U.S. Air Force

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model
This model is available in multiple sizes from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Share this article

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.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this article


Share this article
Share this article

Always up to date! News and offers delivered directly to you!

Get the best aviation news, stories and features from The Aviation Geek Club in our newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.



    Share this article
    Back to top
    This website uses technical and profiling cookies. Clicking on "Accept" authorises all profiling cookies. Clicking on "Refuse" or the X will refuse all profiling cookies. By clicking on "Customise" you can select which profiling cookies to activate.
    Warning: some page functionalities could not work due to your privacy choices