507 SR-71, Owning the Airspace Above 60,000 Feet

We speak with an SR-71 crew member, instructor pilot, Wing Commander, airline pilot, and author. In the news, we look at the Airbus Helicopters H160, an F-35 report from the Government Accountability Office, the grounding of the B-1B fleet, and new airports for Thailand. Also, North American fliers are happier, five must-see TV programs about airplanes, the Texas Aircraft Expo, and listener feedback.

Guest

Col. Richard H. Graham in the SR-71 cockpit.

Col. Richard H. Graham in the SR-71 cockpit.

As a 15 year veteran within the SR-71 community, Col. Richard H. Graham is uniquely qualified to tell the Blackbird story. Col. Graham entered the SR-71 strategic reconnaissance program in 1974 and after several years as a crew member, he became an instructor pilot in the SR-71. In 1978 he was selected as the Chief, Standardization/Evaluation Division. In 1980 Col. Graham became the SR-71 Squadron Commander of the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. Following four years in the Pentagon, Col. Graham was selected to be the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing Commander at Beale AFB in June 1987. He has written five books about the SR-71.

We talk about the models of the 50 Blackbirds that were built and their safety. Nineteen were lost, all but one in the first 6 years. Col. Graham tells us about the SR-71 ejection seat and the aerial refueling procedure that uses liquid nitrogen to prevent fuel tank explosions. We also compare the SR-71 with the U-2, and learn about measuring fuel drips, “unstarts,” and the pilot selection and training processes.

Col. Graham’s books are available on Amazon.com, but also on eBay where he offers autographed copies. Look for eBay seller ID SR-71 pilot 1974-1981.

Prior to entering the SR-71 program, Col Graham flew 210 combat missions in Vietnam in the F-4C/D Phantom as well as the Wild Weasel mission. He was a command pilot with more than 4,600 military flying hours. His military decorations include three Legion of Merit awards, four Distinguished Flying Cross medals, and 19 Air Medals.

After serving 25 years in the Air Force, Col. Graham flew for American Airlines for 13 years, accumulating over 8,000 flying hours. He was initially hired at American Airlines as a Flight Engineer, flying the B-727 and DC-10. After 2 years he moved to the right seat of the MD-80 and his last 3 years Rich few as a captain on the MD-80.

With over 16,000 hours total flying time, you can find Rich flying and teaching at McKinney (Texas) Airport (TKI) for the Texins Flying Club.

Aviation News

Airbus’ H160 Helicopter Helps Save Pilots from Their Own Mistakes

The Airbus Helicopters H160 medium duty helicopter is the first of the H generation. Airbus says “the entire design was based on one overriding goal: to create added value for customers in terms of performance, economic competitiveness, safety, and comfort.” The H160 features an advanced “automatic recovery mode” designed to help pilots in difficult situations.

Is the F-35 About to Be Delayed (Again)?

The annual Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the F-35 (published June 5, 2018) has identified 966 open deficiencies. About 20% of them are expected to remain open when the Pentagon is scheduled to begin full-rate production. The GAO is advising the Pentagon hold off until these are addressed.

The Air Force Has Grounded All Of Its B-1Bs Over A Fault In Their Ejection Seats

Air Force Global Strike Command has ordered its B-1 bombers to stand down after finding ‘an issue with ejection seat components’

The entire fleet of B-1B bombers is grounded as a result of an issue with the aircraft’s ejection seats. This follows from the safety investigation after an emergency landing of a B-1B at Midland International Air & Space Port in Midland, Texas on May 1, 2018.

Thailand approves new airports to serve even more travellers – while Maya Bay closes due to overtourism

Maya Bay is closed for four months as a result of over-tourism causing coral reef damage and pollution. At the same time, the approval of two new airports has been criticised by environmentalists.

Airline Story of the Week

Air Canada and WestJet see improved results in passenger-satisfaction survey

A survey of passengers shows that North Americans are happier about airline travel than they have ever been.

Interviews

Reporter-at-Large Launchpad Marzari attended the Texas Aircraft Expo and spoke with Patrick Rydzewski of CTL Aero Solutions, and 12-year old Clare Muska.

See:

Mentioned

#PaxEx Podcast 58, Unpacking sexism at AGM, guns in carryon, pot in transit with journalist Harriet Baskas.

5 Must-See Aviation Documentaries on Netflix or Amazon

Aviodrome

Credit

Outtro by Bruno Misonne from The Sound of Flaps.

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