Friday, April 9, 2010

Aspen 20, I show you at 1,982 knots on the ground.

OK, you win the who's the coolest kid around contest:
One day, high above Arizona , we were monitoring the radio traffic of all the mortal airplanes below us. First, a Cessna pilot asked the air traffic controllers to check his ground speed. 'Ninety knots,' ATC replied. A twin Bonanza soon made the same request. 'One-twenty on the ground,' was the reply. To our surprise, a navy F-18 came over the radio with a ground speed check. I knew exactly what he was doing. Of course, he had a ground speed indicator in his cockpit, but he wanted to let all the bug-smashers in the valley know what real speed was 'Dusty 52, we show you at 620 on the ground,' ATC responded. The situation was too ripe. I heard the click of Walter's mike button in the rear seat. In his most innocent voice, Walter startled the controller by asking for a ground speed check from 81,000 feet, clearly above controlled airspace. In a cool, professional voice, the controller replied, ' Aspen 20, I show you at 1,982 knots on the ground.' We did not hear another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.
The SR-71 Blackbird, designed by the same Kelly Johnson who designed the P-38 and U-2, was shot at 4000 times. It outran the missile each time. When the final aircraft was decommissioned by the Air Force, and was given to the Smithsonian Institution, they flew it from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. In an hour.

Man, that's one cool bird.

Hat tip: TJIC.

12 comments:

bluesun said...

I am taking an advanced fluids class right now that is about supersonic flow, and my teacher is an Aeronautical Engineer who comes in from his real job to teach this class. He has a ton of stories to tell, and according to him, even with modern composites and technology, the SR-71 could not be designed any better from a materials standpoint then when it was first flown in the 60's.

Skunk Works rocks!

Jay G said...

The SR-71 is my all-time favorite, bar none.

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane...

wolfwalker said...

There's an SR-71 at the Air Force Museum in Dayton. Beautiful bird. By rights it should be a spaceship. It and the XB-70 (of which there's also one at the AF Museum) are the only two aircraft I've ever seen that I'd say that about. They belong in vacuum, not atmosphere.

Rob K said...

Reading that always makes me wonder, if they could do that with a plane made in the 60s, what can they do now?

Brad_in_MA said...

BP,
I read an account of an SR-71 crew flying over the Balkans being shot at by a ground-based missile battery. The RIO detected the launch and had the pilot "pour on the coal" as it were. Somewhere over Sicily the pilot pulled back on the throttle to decelerate for a mid-air refueling over Gibraltar . . . The pilot overshot the fuel hookup by more than 100 MILES because in his bid to out-run the SAM, he accelerated past mach 3.7. Damned fine plane -- designed by nerdy geeky dudes in white shirts with pocket-protectors and slide-rules.

Anonymous said...

I'd be sad if it ever comes to pass that I'm tired of that story.

All designed in the 60s, with slide rules etc., and built from titanium purchased from the Soviets. Hell of a thing.

Jim

Anonymous said...

Oh, hey, speaking of which:

SR-71 pilot: We'd like FL600.
Control: Sir, if you can get up to 600, you can have it.
Pilot: Negative, we'd like to descend to it.

(Same source?)

Jim

Rob K said...

Here's a more complete retelling of that:

http://www.fromtheinside.us/thinking/Groundspeed_Check.htm

Odd thing about this page, in firefox the text is not visible, but in IE it's OK. If viewing in firefox, hit Ctrl+A to select all the text and it will become visible.

WoFat said...

Zoom.

inbredredneck said...

Finished my tour overseas late'68-early '69 assigned to a Hawk missile unit (funny place for an 11Bravo, huh) on Okinawa and spent a little time near Kadena AFB. Habus had bragging rights when it came to fast, high and untouchable. More than once I stood outside the fence and watched them go what seemed like zero-to-vertical-and-out-of-sight-in-10-seconds.
The Hawk crewman used to say that even if they knew when the Blackbirds where gonna take off and tried tracking them, there was no way we could bring them down.
Spent most of the last 30 years in the vicinity of Beale AFB, and got to see a few SR71 flights round here. Nothin' more impressive, sittin' on the ground or takin' flight, than a Blackbird.

Rob J

Brigid said...

I was coming in to land near Sacramento years ago. The forest service had a bunch of Cessna 337 "sky masters" which were spotting planes. Three were coming in to land all at the same time and the controller at Exec was trying to keep them straight. there was a landing light on the 45 to the downwind, not talking yet, and the contoller said "aircraft on the 45 are you a Skymaster" and this little shaky voice comes back. "No sir. . I'm just a student pilot".

Anonymous said...

I'm not too sure what would have happened had I been in Brigid's shoes to hear that conversation. I'd like to think I could store that moment until I had it in the chocks and then react, but I guess I'd need to be there.

Jim