Thursday, February 7, 2013

“Volunteering” for Blackbird Duty

I’ll never forget that day
by Russ S.

I was visiting Palmdale, driving up from Burbank. I was a young engineer working on the SR-71 that day. The crew chief (Bill Wooten, I think) asked if I wanted to jump in the pickup truck and recover the drag chute as an SR-71 came in for a landing. The plane made a couple of touch and goes, then finally dropped the chute a long way down the runway. Bill said hang on, and I was riding in the bed of the truck blasting down the runway centerline at full speed. Looking through the rear window, the 85-mph speedometer was off the scale. We got to the chute and I loaded it in the bed of the truck and jumped back in. When we got back to the hangar, I realized I was covered in jet fuel from the wet chute. Maybe that's why they let a young engineer "volunteer" for that duty.