SR-71/ Blackbird pilot Brian Shul writes: "I'll always
remember a certain radio exchange that occurred one day as Walt (his backseater)
and I were screaming across Southern California, 13 miles up.
We were monitoring various radio transmissions from other aircraft and the
Los Angeles Air Traffic Control Center as we entered the Los Angeles area airspace.
Though they didn't really control us, the Center did monitor our movement across their scope.
I heard a single-engine Cessna ask for a read-out of its ground speed.
"90 knots," Center replied.
Moments later, a Twin Beech requested the same.
"120 knots," Center answered.
We weren't the only ones proud of our ground speed that day; as almost
instantly an F/A-18 smugly transmitted, "Ah, Center, Dusty 52 requests ground speed readout."
There was a slight pause, then the response, "525 knots on the ground, Dusty."
Another silent pause. As I was thinking to myself how ripe a situation this was,
when I heard a familiar click of a radio transmission coming from my backseater.
It was at that precise moment I realized Walt and I had become a real crew, for
we were both thinking in unison. "Center, Aspen 20, you got a ground speed readout for us?"
There was a longer than normal pause.... "Aspen 20, I show 1,742 knots."
There were no further ground speed inquiries.
In another famous SR-71 story, Los Angeles Center reported receiving a
request for clearance to FL 60 (flight level 60,000 ft). The incredulous controller,
with some disdain in his voice, asked, "How exactly do you plan to get up to
The pilot (obviously a sled driver) responded, "Center, we were hoping to descend to it."
He was cleared immediately....