Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SR-71 Simulator

What aircraft is more emblematic of the Cold War than the SR-71 Blackbird? Museum associate Tracey Austin met Colonel Richard Graham (ret. USAF) at the EAA's AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin when he was signing the three books he'd written on the SR-71 and his adventures as a pilot and commander of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.

She was surprised to learn that he lives right here in the Dallas area! Moreover, he's made a special project of working with the Frontiers of Flight museum to display the SR-71 simulator that's been placed on loan with them.

Colonel Graham offered Tracey a personal tour of the simulator and told her that she could bring a friend. One of the museum directors, Jon, wasted no time in accepting her offer to go see the simulator.

Here, Colonel Graham is showing Tracey the front cockpit of the simulator. As it sits, the simulator could possibly be made operational (all the equipment is there) but a substantial effort needs to take place to hook everything up and get it working again.


Pilots trained in the simulator for 100 hours before flying the SR-71. After that it's only 5 flights in the dual-control version of the Blackbird and you're off to operational missions.


The reel that pulls the pilot's legs back to the ejection seat just before Elvis leaves the building. That, or Col. Graham is interviewing Tracey's legs.


Colonel Graham went over all the systems with a laser pointer and was very detailed in his descriptions. It was a fantastic briefing. He logged 600+ hours in the Blackbird in the seven years he flew it.


Here Jon is seen with the navigator's trainer in the background. The navigator's cockpit is a separate cabinet. One new crew is selected per year and they get individual training before they get "married'. Once formed as a crew they always fly together (unusual)... so much so that if one gets sick the other doesn't fly.


The fabulous J58 continuously afterburning engine. The SR-71 uses ramjet magic such that 80% of the thrust produced is by the ramjet and only 20% by the engine at Mach 3+.


The Frontiers of Flight Museum is also the permanent home of the Apollo 7 capsule.


The three books that Colonel Graham has written are available on Amazon.com.


It was interesting to learn that Colonel Graham is also retired from American Airlines, where he was a pilot. Still active as a Flight Instructor, he prefers teaching  primary students... imagine learning the first basics of flying from a former SR-71 pilot!

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