As the SR-71 slowly taxied into the hangar and approached the parking spot, the crew chief signaled BC to stop. BC applied brakes as usual, but the SR-71 began to slide forward in slow motion on the JP-7 fuel residue…
The following story appears in John Altson book The Black Line.
The Kadena Hangar Slide
The Thomas-Reid crew experienced numerous airborne emergency situations such as the well-documented SR-71 abort into Bodo, Norway. However, BC and Jay also experienced some scary situations on the ground. They completed one operational mission and were taxiing up to the Kadena hangar that is open on both ends. The SR-71 taxied into the hangar where the crew chief routinely waits at the other end of the hangar. As BC taxied the SR-71 into the hangar, the floor was covered with JP-7 fuel from flight prep and prestart for this mission. There is no fuel bladder in the SR-71; the skin of the aircraft is the skin of the fuel tank. JP-7 leaks out of aircraft throughout ground operations and until the aircraft is airborne, where it heats up and the elastic polymers expand and seal off the leaking JP-7. An SR-71 can leak as much as 1000 pounds of fuel between preflight and takeoff.
As the SR-71 slowly taxied into the hangar and approached the parking spot, the crew chief signaled BC to stop. BC applied brakes as usual, but the SR-71 began to slide forward in slow motion on the JP-7 fuel residue. The Physiological Support Van, which transports the crew back to the facility where they get out of their pressure suits, is normally parked in front of the aircraft at this point (between the nose of the aircraft and the blast fence just outside the hangar). Fortunately, it was not parked in its usual position or it would have been hit as the aircraft continued to slide on through the hangar.
The SR-71 buddy crew (Rich Graham and Don Emmons) and other ground personnel immediately placed chalks in front of the wheels and everyone on the ground grabbed some part of the aircraft, attempting to help stop it.
As Jay stated, “The problem of not hitting stationary objects while sliding through the hangar was complicated by having to make about a 30-degree right turn to avoid the blast fence before the tires were on firm, dry ground and we could stop. A turn too early and the right wing would contact the hangar wall; too late and the steering might not work, causing us to crash into the blast fence (it’s for things like this that we were paid the extra bucks). After several moments of stark terror, the aircraft finally stopped sliding as the handing gear reached dry concrete. As they say, it’s not over until it’s over — in this case the flight was not over until the aircraft had completely stopped halfway outside the hangar. After this incident, the hangar floor was thoroughly mopped up prior to parking to prevent any future incidents.”
The Black Line is available to order here.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com