That time an SR-71 deployed Ladies Underwear (along with the drag chute) upon landing to adjust the attitude of a new Blackbird pilot

That time an SR-71 deployed Ladies Underwear (along with the drag chute) upon landing to adjust the attitude of a new Blackbird pilot

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Oct 24 2021
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One of the unwritten requirements to become an SR-71 Blackbird crew member/maintainer was to have an outrageous sense of humor.

The SR-71 Blackbird is still considered the world’s fastest aircraft, and still holds several speed and altitude records; record speed over a 15-mile course (2,193 MPH), maximum sustained height (85,069 feet), speed record from New York to London (one hour, 55 minutes), and London to Los Angeles (three hours, 47 minutes).

An SR-71 crew consists of a pilot and a reconnaissance systems officer (RSO).

One of the unwritten requirements to become an SR-71 crew member/maintainer was to have an outrageous sense of humor. This was displayed numerous times by flags, flunking inspections, silhouettes of U-2’s on your driveway etc.

Here’s another funny story by Danny C. Williams DS that appears on SR71.com website. I remember my father [Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, SR-71 RSO] telling me about this.

“Drag Chute Deployed”

‘When the SR-71 lands, the Drag Chute is deployed to slow the aircraft down to taxi speeds. Then, a pickup truck races down the runway and picks up the Drag Chute, returning it to maintenance operations for repack.

‘Once upon a time at a remote operating location a few devious Crew Chiefs of the Blackbird banded together to frag a pilot. It seems this particular pilot (name withheld) was of mind and attitude of being quite superior to all lower grade maintenance personnel and he had this particular air about him that definitely was out of step with how other pilot’s treated Crew Chiefs.

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

‘The camaraderie between pilots (Habu’s) of the SR-71 and ground maintenance personnel was always first rate. The rapport was always without question one of a friendly relationship.

‘During the preflight and preparation for this pilot’s flight the drag chute was loaded into the chute bay. A few nights earlier several Crew Chiefs had contacted the Women’s (WAF) barracks and requested some unmentionable items for a priority project concerning the Blackbird. Gleefully, the ladies knew that something was up and a quantity of items was secured for the project.

‘The Drag Chute was loaded into the SR-71 along with white pieces of clothing packed around the encased Drag Chute. Upon landing and subsequent pilot deployment of the chute (which is Orange), the chute deployed as normal and also a quantity of White Items flew all over the runway. The Transient Alert person in the chase truck inquired to the pilot of the Blackbird, if he wanted him to also pick up all the white items. His response was silence.

‘At debriefing the pilot inquired as to what the white items were deployed on the runway. “Ladies Underwear, Sir” was the response. Had it not been for some fast talking by the Maintenance Superintendent, some disciplinary action would have been taken against those involved. However, the message was clear: pilot’s attitude adjusted and the Drag Chute compartment was never again packed with anything other than the Chute.

‘First-hand knowledge of this episode is denied by the author. The picture was not from the incident.’

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.

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

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force


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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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