‘We took off from Beale at 11:00 AM and arrived at Kadena at 9:00AM, two hours before we took off from Beale, we beat the Sun!’ Buddy Brown, SR-71 Blackbird pilot.
The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” is a long-range, advanced, strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft.
The first flight of an SR-71 took place on Dec. 22, 1964, and the first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th(later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in January 1966.
Buddy came from the U-2 program* to the SR-71 and he had many risky adventures. He was picked for this honor because he was the chief of Standardization during this time.
Buddy and Dave experienced quite a few problems with the SR-71 since the airplane was not used to the weather in the tropics. The following story is an excerpt taken from Buddy Brown memoirs.
‘The first leg of the first flight of the SR-71 across the Pacific was to Hawaii. And then on to Kadena it took five hours. When I flew the U-2 on this same flight it took five days (that included resting). Speed is good! On the third leg of the flight we encountered another small problem, my left generator went off-line and I couldn’t reset it. This was a NO-GO situation which means I should land as soon as practical… My decision was to continue on because we were only 1000 miles (less than 30minutes) from Kadena. At this time on the high frequency radio using our coded callsign I contacted mama [Kadena’s Command post] and informed them “I was lost, but was making good time” [because despite the problem, Buddy’s SR-71was flying REALLY fast].
‘We landed at Kadena with no further problems.
‘We took off from Beale at 11:00 AM and arrived at Kadena at 9:00AM, two hours before we took off from Beale, we beat the Sun!*
‘For the first few weeks we would be using the hangars next to the CIA hangars that’s where the A-12’s were. A couple of the CIA pilots briefed us on the missions they were flying, what to expect when flying some of our missions. They were very helpful. Kadena was one of the major US strongholds of the far east. Since I had flown the U-2 a few years before out of Kadena I was very familiar with the Far East.
‘Dave and I had over a week to target study the route of flight and survival techniques in case we were shot down, refueling emergency recovery HF procedures. Dave and I were planning to fly the first mission operational.
‘My back up crew was Jerry O’Malley and Ed Payne, they were briefed on the mission also.
‘The following day March 21, 1968 the routine was normal during our taxi out at the end of the runway for the engine run up and trim [but] the ANS system froze on us. This of course was a NO-GO situation which caused us to abort the mission.
‘Our backup crew, O’Malley and Payne, flew the first operational Sortie in aircraft # 976.’**
*Former SR-71 pilot David Peters recalls: “It always fascinated me to see the Sun in the periscope go down and disappear in the East as we outran it. And then to catch up to it and see it come up in the West.”
**Noteworthy Buddy Brown could have been shot down over Cuba since he was major Rudolph Anderson’s backup. If there would’ve been a technical problem with Anderson’s U-2, it would’ve been Brown that was killed over Cuba. And because of a technical difficulty, it was not Buddy who became first to fly an operational mission in the SR-71.
Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Twitter Page Habubrats SR-71 and Facebook Page Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force