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The mighty engines of the SR-71

There are few airplanes as interesting as the SR-71. For those who don’t know (hopefully not many), it’s the fastest manned air breathing aircraft. That’s a mouthful isn’t it? Basically, like everything humans do, instead of simple “fastest aircraft ever”, we had to come up with a bunch of other criteria to subclass everything.

Anyway, the power of the SR-71 comes from it’s engines. Watching the video above to learn about all the crazy engineering that went into place to get the world’s fastest plane built. The video reminds me of those cutaway books you’d read as a kid. Except now it’s animated and narrated..



The Sound of Freedom

The day after Independence day seems like the best day to recant this little tidbit of information regarding the fastest man made jet in the world.  Can you imagine, flying over heads of state at Mach 3, and then hopefully going to do some reconnaissance work in the area, just to prove the point that “America is here.”


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US Air Force

US AF Seal

Today, September 18, marks the 68th anniversary of the United States Air Force, (USAF).  I know what some of you are thinking.  Only 68 years, that’s around the end of World War II.  Well, you’re right, it’s 1947 to be exact.  During World War II, it was a part of the US Army Air Forces, before it was spun off into it’s own entity.   Over the course of it’s 68 year existence, the USAF has grown to be the largest, most powerful Air Force the world has ever seen.  Over the decades, the USAF has led the way in leaps and bounds in terms of technological achievements, flying the most advanced fighter and reconnaissance air craft the world has seen.

The Air Force isn’t limited to just air craft.  The USAF is also in control of the nations 450 ICBMs, as well as a a couple dozen satellites of military nature.  Of course, they still have over 5,000 aircraft of various different roles.  From the lowly transports and tankers, to the state of the art Fighters, and, some of the coolest planes human kind has yet to produce.



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Alternate History Thursday – Spys

SR-71 photo

In our current reality, air supremacy is the most important part of warfare.  And while the SR-71 might not play much of a role in the supremacy part of the air-force, it does play an important part in the knowledge part.


Here you can have a virtual tour inside the cockpit of that iconic plane.


And now for something, completely different:

In an alternate version of our alternate history, the SR-71 was never constructed, because it was never needed.  Air supremacy was something that was only used in the closing days of World War II.  Soon after the war ended, space became the next frontier, just like in real reality.  However, in AV-AH, space was conquered.  The Communist State of the American Continents (C-SAC) was first to launch rockets into low earth orbit, (just like in RR, those damn commies beat the democracy & freedom loving people to space).  However, their solo reign didn’t last too long.  Soon, the United Countries of Europe (UCE), manager to launch their own unmanned probes into low earth orbit.  Within years humans from both sides were circling the globe, waving at each other as they passed in private, but shooting at each other in public.

By the early 1970s semi permanent bases had been established in low earth orbit by both global forces.  No one had yet landed on The Moon, but that would soon happen.  Experts, and pundits across the globe were calling for The Moon to become the Switzerland of Space.  The one common neutral ground that didn’t belong to anyone.  The Commies wouldn’t have it, and neither would the UCE (which, unsurprisingly, Switzerland was not a member of).

UCE ships landed on The Moon first, establishing a permanent base in one of the craters.  C-SAC had a dilemma now though, land their own ships somewhere else and claim ownership of that part of The Moon, take the Swiss up on their offer of neutrality for the Heavenly body, or start a war?  Can you guess what C-SAC did?

Tune in next time to find out.


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Sled Drivers


Tomorrow, October, 22, 2014, at 12:30 PM eastern time a former pilot of the fastest jet ever made will be doing an AMA on reddit.  It will be over in /r/iama if you’re interested, and you should be.

One of the best stories about flying in an SR-71:

There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe, even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. 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. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet.

I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us and tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions and when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. 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. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. 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. He understood that and allowed me that luxury. 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 predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. 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.

We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot who asked Center for a read-out of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.” Now the thing to understand about Center controllers was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the “Houston Center voice.” I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country’s space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the Houston controllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that and that they basically did. And it didn’t matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios.

Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed in the Beech. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren.

Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check.” Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a read-out? 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. He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.” And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done in mere seconds we’ll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now. 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. I was torn.

Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet. Then, I heard it the click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?” There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if it was an everyday request.

“Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.” I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.”

For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice when L.A. came back with, “Roger that Aspen. Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.” It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on frequency were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there


This is from the book Sled Driver, which is out of print and as such, at a ridiculous price on Amazon.  SR-71

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True Speed

I take this story as true, no reason for it not to be, except for it to just be funny, which it is.

Basically its the story of increasing speed between a Cessna, a Twin Beach, an F-18, and an SR-71.  Guess who wins?  I don’t want to spoil the fun for those who don’t know the answer, so you can read it here.