SR-71 RSO tells the story behind this video of a Blackbird creating ’13 Fireballs’ during Air Fete Air Show 1986 at RAF Mildenhall

SR-71 RSO tells the story behind this video of a Blackbird creating ’13 Fireballs’ during Air Fete Air Show 1986 at RAF Mildenhall

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Dec 19 2021
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‘During that pass we had “13 fireballs” come out of the plane’s exhaust. It looked beautiful, and people wanted to know if it could be done again,’ SR-71 Blackbird RSO, Lt. Col. Doug Soifer.

Taken at RAF Mildenhall in 1986, the impressive video in this post features an SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3 spy plane creating 13 spectacular fireballs while performing at Air Fete Air Show.

Former Blackbird RSO, Lt. Col. Doug Soifer, tells about the accidental making of this unique SR-71 video in Richard H. Graham’s book SR-71 Revealed The Inside Story.

SR-71 print
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‘On our very first TDY to Mildenhall, Mike Smith [the pilot] and I were lucky enough to be there for Air Fete—the big annual air show at Mildenhall. We got to fly the first day and thought we did a good job.

‘During the 20 minute sortie we had a real hard kick during one pass when we went to afterburner and pulled up tight. We didn’t think much about it until we landed and were overwhelmed by people as we stepped off the jet and asked us what we did. We had no idea what they were talking about until someone brought over his camcorder and showed us the tape.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model
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‘During that pass we had “13 fireballs” come out of the plane’s exhaust. It looked beautiful, and people wanted to know if it could be done again. They used the picture of us with the flames coming out for the next year’s Air Fete poster. Mike and I became known as the “Fireball Twins.” The maintenance people figured it was the TEB [triethylborane] shooting out of its container and igniting the JP-7. With that start, we had an exciting six weeks in England.’

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: Stuart Freer


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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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