Friday, May 12, 2006

I Want an SR-71 Blackbird When I Become A Billionaire

Today I had the pleasure of participating in a retreat for my higher-ups at the Hill Field Air Museum. While everybody else were scratching their asses and talking, I slipped into the Museum Director's office. Scott, the director, was in there sitting, staring out the window. I explained that I was part of this group--actually one of the ones who was getting it set up for the bosses--and he noticed that I was really not that involved in what was going on, so we talked a bit. He told me to stick around after and he would do something special for me. My first gay experience--right.

What he did do was take me and one of my work buddies on a special tour of the air museum. He got into great detail on the engines, which I liked. I wanted the V-12 centrifugally supercharged Allison Engine for Clyde--my truck. I think that 1450 horsepower is something everyone needs, at least once in their lifetime. But, I'll hold out for a Merlin.

Next cool attraction: an ICBM. Scott said that the Airforce has 2/3rds of the Nuclear Triad: nuke subs, nuke bombers, and just plain nukes--Inter Continental Ballistic missile. He says that there are only 500 ICBM's left that are operational. First lie of the day from Scott.

Now this is where the tour got scary: Scott orders me to roll play with him. He sets up a mock interview for a person who is seeking to become one of the trigger men for an ICBM. Amongst things like whether the candidate sits or stands in the interview, he tells me that he will give me a gun. He then tells my friend to stand about ten feet away from me. He says, "This is your partner. This is the furthest you will ever be away from him in your compartment. You can't leave your compartment while on duty, ever. If your friend starts to act funny, take your gun and shoot him dead immediately (okay, I wouldn't last ten seconds in this job). No questions or hesitation. Now, your friend has also been given a gun. He will shoot you dead as well, if you act funny." This is the good part, "If, by some chance, you two become buddies and decide to start a nuclear war, you take your keys and both turn them simultaneously. Now, what do you think will happen?"

My answer: "Um, the missile will launch?"

Scott: "You're dead wrong...DEAD!"

Me: "What happened?"

Scott: "The security personnel, upstairs from you, just filled your cabin with poisonous gas. You die a quick death, my friend."

Me: "Gosh!"

It turns out that there are two sets of these pairs that turn keys. And there's a sequence involved; then, another group confirms the launch. The most that a conspiring crew could launch would be about two missiles, and they would be shot down immediately. The pairs are regularly rotated and no one gets too familiar with their partner. Included in this small room is a bunk bed, and a toilet with a draw curtain right next to it. They have co-ed pairs as well, so ladies, I wouldn't eat any bean burritos.

The next, and biggest attraction indoors, was the SR-71A, Blackbird. Earlier in the day I ate lunch right under the wing of this aircraft (lasanga) and in front of me was the Pratt and Whitney J-58 turbojet/ramjet engine, which was taken out for display. I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be so kewl if I could sit up in the cockpit? Heh-heh, I said cock and pit." Little did I know that my dream would come true.

Scott brought my friend and me up to the SR-71A (the "A" stands for the double-cockpit/seat trainer model), and proceeded to tell us about it. I asked him if it was kosher to get in the cockpit, jokingly. Scott looked around and said, "Well, no one's around. Jump up on the generator and onto the wing and climb in." So I did.

Holy shit! I felt like a powerful man in that thing. Had my hand on the stick and was pushing every damn button in
there. I even made some "Peeoww, P-Peeeeoooooow...Woooooooshhhhhh!" noises up there. I was in heaven. I could see myself in an orange "Diaper Suit" taking a shit in my pants at Mach 3 over the Pacific Ocean. Incredible, baby!

Here are some things my new best buddy Scott told me about this plane:

--The SR-71 can out-fly its own titanium skin, so they can't really go as fast as the engines are capable of going. And the turbo-jet becomes a ram-jet at it's highest speeds. A ram jet only has maybe one moving part and is super efficient, if you provide the right altitude and speeds first.
--The fuel is dumped right into the wings and there is no sealed fuel cell in them. They have sections of corrugated skin. They don't fill up all the way at take off. The fuel leaks out of the wings until they get up to altitude, where they get all fueled up in the sky. When they reach a certain altitude, the wings grow--corrugated skin--and the wings seal up the fuel, which now doesn't leak. The reason they don't have fuel cells in the wings is to make them ultra thin. Thin wings=Effin' fast.
--The tires are made of aluminum impregnated rubber--I forgot why--strength? The tires are also filled with pure nitrogen. This is so that atmospheric pressure changes are predictable. Your typical compressed air is so inconsistent in its content that it is too unpredictable, and you risk blowing out the tires.
--If one of the engines fails, it is catastrophic. The plane will bias toward the dead motor and will exceed its structural integrity. You will be torn to bits.
--No SR-71's were flown over Russia and China. He said this like 50 times so I know that he lied and this is just classified info. What did fly over Russia and China, officially, was the drone plane that the SR-71 spat out its ass. This drone had problems, however. So they didn't use it much.
--The SR-71 was retired in 1990, right before the Gulf War. Scott said this is why the Iraqis got the jump on us.
--One time, at band, an air show (West coast somewhere), a pilot was flying an SR-71 for the crowd. He would fly past and do a fuel dump, then hit the burners and lite the sky on fire. Well, this time the pilot had to pull up to avoid hitting a tanker. The forces on the plane exceeded its structural integrity (Scott's words) and it was too damaged to land at full fuel load. So, the pilot had to hit supersonic speed and land the plane in England, when he had burned enough fuel to lighten the plane sufficiently for landing. The plane was damaged beyond repair, because of the location (couldn't get it to the right base to fix it and keep the internals from being spied), so they chopped it up and buried the parts in secret spots.
--Every time an SR-71 flies at it's proper speed and altitude, it tempers the Titanium structure and skin. This is ironic, because a retired plane is stronger then, than when it was brand new.
--The SR-71 is not a stealth aircraft. It relies on a high ceiling and super high speeds to do it's job as a spy/recon plane. By the time they spot you, it's too late to do anything about it.
--They actually made a few prototype fighter/interceptor versions of this plane. They were meant to take down Soviet nuke bombers over Russian soil. You only got one chance to hit the target, because at the speeds and time that it took to turn around in the plane, you would be over the Atlantic Ocean by then--too late, mate.
--This particular SR-71A craft that I sat in bares the name "Bastard". I knew there was a reason I really liked that plane. The story behind this name was that they wanted the rear from a fighter interceptor grafted onto a trainer front end. Why? I don't remember. Scott said that they were only able to fly Bastard for 500 hours, because it never flew right.
--The coast to coast record for the SR-71, and all aircraft, is 68 minutes.
--Did I mention that the SR-71 never flew over Russia or China?
--I think that Scott likes me.


Queue_t said...

we went on a scout field trip to buckly air force museum and saw really cool planes- no sr-71 there but we do have a b-1 bomber. talk about big!

did you take any photos? sounds like you had a great time there.

goldennib said...

This sounds so cool.

Outdoorsy Girl said...

Wow! I feel so educated. Very interesting stuff. My dad was in the Air Force LONG ago and later joined the Army then the Reserves. Anyway, Because of my dad, I have always found aircraft really cool. He always took me to airshows and the cool family day events for the National Guard so I got to play on some cool planes and helicopters.

Haven't been to Hill AFB yet. I might visit this summer. My best friend lives in Roy. Kewl, huh?

The Grunt said...

QT~I didn't have my camera, unfortunately. I can always go back and take photos, but I can't go back and capture the moment. Darn!

Goldennib~It was. I was hoping that Scott had enough pull to get me up in an F-16 fighter for reals, but he's only the museum director and couldn't swing something that big for me.

O-Girl~It's a good little field trip and it's right there in Roy. You'll meet a lot of volunteers who flew nuke bombers, WWII Vets, etc.

Vera said...

Wow. I didn't understand ANY of that. But very cool.
I am going to be flying on an Air Canada Air Bus or something on Wednesday. How cozy. :\

Güggs said...

You lost me somewhere between V12 and engine...

But it looks like you got yourself a new best friend forever.

Chief Scientist said...

It's true, people always confuse the SR-71 with the U2 that Gary Powers got shot down in while spying on Russia.

And if you want to see what an actual jet engine looks like when mounted in a Volkswagen Beetle, go here.

It cost the guy $250K to do it but that bitch is high speed, low drag.

The Grunt said...

Guggs and Vera~ There's no reason to know what I'm talking about so long as you just enjoy yourself.

Cash~ Thanks for the link. I really enjoyed learning about Ron's Beetle. I think that it's amazing that he shoe-horned that sucker in there, and kept the Beetle's original engine operational.

BTW, Scott did talk about Gary Powers and how that U2's are still a huge prize for our enemies. They came out in the mid-fifties folks and they are still flying recon missions. That's a true testament to the greatness of our nation. If a U2 flies 12 knots minus or plus its designed speed approaching or at its ceiling, it will destroy itself. So, would you want to be a U2 pilot?

Another fact about Gary Powers being shot down that most people do not know: The Soviets managed to shoot down one of their own fighters (MIG) right before they got the U2. They just got real lucky--they were just shooting up the sky and hoping for jackpot.

Vera said...

i think im changing my name to Guggsandvera...