Cold War Era

The story of the SR-71 Blackbird that slid on JP7 fuel residue while taxing into Kadena Hangar

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.

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

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

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Recent Posts

The story of the Royal Air Force CF-105 Arrow All-Weather Fighters that Never Were

It was on the basis of the Arrow’s future potential, more than CF-105 then-current design,… Read More

13 hours ago

The Argentine Air Force may buy surplus CH-46 Sea Knight medium-lift helicopter stored at 309 AMARG

The Argentine Air Force may give new life to the Boeing CH-46 medium-lift helicopter, retired… Read More

13 hours ago

Vietnam could buy the F-16 Block 70/72, the newest and most advanced Viper production configuration

The Biden administration is in talks with Vietnam over an agreement for the largest arms… Read More

2 days ago

The SR-71 Blackbird Astro-Nav System (aka R2-D2) worked by tracking the stars and was so powerful that it could see the stars even in daylight

Mounted behind the SR-71 Blackbird RSO’s cockpit, this unit, (that was affectionately dubbed “R2-D2” after… Read More

3 days ago