The SR-71 Blackbird was designed for flight at over Mach 3 with flight crew of two in tandem cockpits, with the pilot in the forward cockpit and the reconnaissance systems officer (RSO) operating the surveillance systems and equipment from the rear cockpit, and directing navigation on the mission flight path.
As the following funny story by Danny C. Williams DS that appears on SR71.com website clearly depicts 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.
“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.
‘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.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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