So it was with great surprise, when, at the end of one of my presentations, someone asked: What was the slowest you ever flew the Blackbird? It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. He understood that and allowed me that luxury. Because it flew so fast and experienced extreme friction heat, the fuel cells would expand during flight and seal the leaking fuel cells. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.
I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The click of the mic button from the back seat. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. Another hour that went by too quickly. While they had us on their scope albeit briefly , we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.
Was kind enough to stick around and chat for another hour or so. I attended a lecture from Brian Shul this Summer. That Hornet must die, and die now. I was at Reno this year, and a buddy who now flies A380's for Ethihad purchased Sled Driver and had Brian Shul sign it for him. Better to die than sound bad on the radios. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn't match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however.
You boys have a good one. We got a little lower, and I pulled the throttles back from the 325 knots we were at. To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. Once the craft got up to altitude it would rendezvous with a refueling aircraft to complete its mission. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. You boys have a good one.
It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. Let's just say that the plane truly loved speed, and effortlessly took us to Mach numbers we hadn't previously seen. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. That Hornet must die, and die now. Really cool to meet one of my heroes of aviation. Quickly reaching the field boundary, we proceeded back to Mildenhall without incident.
The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. It was a quiet, still day, with no wind and partial gray overcast. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast. It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie.
Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Then I got it, ol' Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. Just at the moment, both afterburners lit with a thunderous roar of flame and what a joyous feeling that was , and the aircraft fell into full view of the shocked observers on the tower. As I noticed the airspeed indicator slide below 160 knots, my heart stopped, and my adrenalin-filled left hand pushed two throttles full forward.
The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. The hour or so was certainly not enough, he could have entertained us for hours. Still, I thought, it must be donein mere seconds we'll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Some of the stuff he spoke about was incredible. Shortly thereafter, a Navy F-18 pilot dials in to put them in their place, asking the controller to broadcast his speed over the air, a cool 620 knots across the ground. Really cool to meet one of my heroes of aviation.
Meanwhile, below, the cadet commander had taken the cadets up on the catwalk of the tower, in order to get a prime view of the fly-past. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there. Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. Quickly reaching the field boundary, we proceeded back to Mildenhall without incident.