Thursday, May 25, 2023

Rest in Peace, Sled Driver

Major Brian Shul, combat pilot and SR-71 driver dead at 75.  As always, Dwight is your go-to guy for obits.  Rest in peace, Major.

We've seen him here before - actually 13 years back.  Reposting for his sendoff.

(Originally posted 9 April 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.


Aesop said...

Everyone who thinks we retired the SR-71 capability in the 1990s, unassailable since it first flew in the mid-1960s, with technology from the late 1950s, solely in favor of satellite recon, rather than something even more secret, flying even better, faster, higher, and being all-around more badass than anything you could imagine, signify it by standing on your head and clapping your hands.

LindaG said...

My husband was an aircraft radio technician for the SR-71 during our early Air Force careers.

I am sure he is having some great conversations with Major Shul.

You all be safe and God bless.

Unknown said...

I feel like my obit for Major Shul was kind of crummy, to be honest. My excuse is that it was really hard to find anything that I felt comfortable linking until Rich sent me the obit from *Flying*. Pretty much everything else I found was unverified forum postings and archived Facebook pages.

And there was some stuff that I felt was inappropriate personal attacks. I do generally try to avoid speaking ill of the dead, unless they were complete scum.


libertyman said...

Brian Shul's life story is an inspiration to all.

He probably most closely lived the story of "High Flight" by John Magee.

Old NFO said...

May he rest in peace.

juvat said...

Brian Shul was in my Squadron at Holloman AFB. I flew with him and against him many times. An Excellent Pilot, Good Man and a Friend.
Rest in Peace, Brian.

Unknown said...

As a kid, we used to watch the Habu both at Kadena AFB and at Sukiran Elementary in the mid to late 60's, where it would sometimes fly over us. I've been enthralled by that bird ever since.