‘The tower controller said “Beautiful, beautiful, come back and do another one”. I said I better not, I’m gonna go to Beale,’ Maury Rosenberg, SR-71 Blackbird pilot.
The famed tape in this post (recorded at Western Museum of Flight in 2018) features SR-71 Blackbird pilot Maury Rosenberg telling that story of when he decided to request a “flyby” over the Sacramento airport on his way returning to Beale Air Force Base (AFB) – where he was going to land.
The request was eagerly approved by air tower crew, and wanted him to fly the SR-71 “down the ramp” (much closer to the tower and other buildings).
‘I think it was the 1982 or 83 Toronto airshow. I was a participant, we took an SR-71 and three crews went. One crew flew it in. One crew flew the second day airshow. And the third crew which was myself flew just a couple of flybys the third day of the airshow and then actually flew the aircraft back to Beale Air Force Base. So, when I came back into the Sacramento area and I was descending down to land at Beale, we had a lot of fuel. We had to work on the holiday and I asked the backseater You want to make an approach at Sac Metro? And he said Can we do that? And I said Why not?
‘I asked the tower Would you like a flyby down the runway or down the ramp? The guy said Down the ramp! When I said okay, I sucked the gear up, pushed the power up. We started heading towards the ramp, towards the tower. As we were approaching it, I rolled the plane up away from the tower and lit the afterburners. We went around and made a pass. The tower controller said “Beautiful, beautiful, come back and do another one”. I said I better not, I’m gonna go to Beale. So, we went back to Beale and we landed.
‘As I mentioned it was a holiday weekend and Colonel Lonnie met us when we pulled in the hangar after we landed which was the normal procedure. I thought well that’s nice that he came out. As I came down the ladder from the aircraft, he looked at me and he said Maury, do we have any regulations that say we can’t make approaches at Sacramento Airport? I said No sir.
‘I want one on my desk at seven o’clock tomorrow morning.’
I have watched Maury telling this story several times on YouTube and he says later on he would run into people who would tell him how thrilled and scared they were when they heard the roar of the SR 71 flyover the Sacramento airport!
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: Robin Harbour