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The “LA Speed Check”: A Story from a Pilot of the Fastest Plane in the World

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 16, 2024 3:03 am

The “LA Speed Check”: A Story from a Pilot of the Fastest Plane in the World

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 16, 2024 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, here’s Major Brian Shul with his legendary story known today as the “LA Speed Check.”

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I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means.

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Chumbacasino.com. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, and we tell stories about everything here on this show. And some of our favorite stories are about the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. Throughout its nearly 24-year career, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane remained the world's fastest and highest flying operational aircraft.

From 80,000 feet, it could serve a 100,000 square miles of Earth's surface in a mere hour. SR-71 pilot Brian Schuhl recalls in his book, Flood Driver, flying the world's fastest jet. There were a lot of things we couldn't do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. Here's Major Schuhl with his legendary story known today as the L.A. Speed Check.

It's called the L.A. Speed Story. And it was just a story about one day it was really cool being an SR-71 pilot. Walter and I were doing a training mission around the United States where you just were building up hours and time. And we take off out of Beale, hit a tanker in Idaho, rip on up to Montana, zip across Denver, hang a right turn in Albuquerque, out over Los Angeles, up to Seattle, back into Sacramento, two hours, 21 minutes. And you just do that backwards and you hit a tanker.

It was just to gain crew coordination, build your hours. We're on our last training mission. We're over Tucson. I can see downtown L.A. from Tucson. We're at 89,000 feet. I can see the whole western United States bathed in a warm October fall glow. I can see the chain of Rocky Mountains from Canada to New Mexico. I could just see the most beautiful picture laid at my feet in the air as smooth as glass, not a gauge moving in the cockpit.

It was perfect. Now I'm thinking, we bad. And I feel sorry for Walter because he has to monitor five radios in the back seat, so I flipped the switch up just to listen. And L.A. Center is controlling, they control all, when you fly southwest, they're the guys controlling everybody. But we're above controlled airspace. So they have us on their scope, but they're not talking to us.

Now there's controllers all over the country, Jacksonville Center, Chicago Center, Seattle Center. It's the same guy. They all talk the same. And it's really cool the way they talk because they make you feel important as a pilot. They don't just say, yeah, okay, here's your thing.

They make you feel really cool. So sure enough, this was pre-GPS day. Some Cessna guy has to know his ground speed. L.A. Center, Cessna, November, Tango, Alpha, you got a ground speed readout for us? Now Center would like to say, who cares, get off free. But no, he'll talk to them like he's John Glenn. Cessna, November, Alpha, we show you 90 knots, nine zero knots on the ground. And they do that sing song, but that's how they talk.

And it makes you feel kind of cool. Right after that, a twin Bonanza came up to pimp the guy for speed, I guess, and L.A. Center, Twin Beach, whatever, you got a ground speed readout for us? And Center likes the cuts, Friday, why me, God, please, just get off free. But he's going to talk to them like he's Air Force One. Twin Beach, we show you 120, one, two, zero knots on the ground. And right after that, a Navy F-18 out of Lemoore popped up on frequency.

And you knew it was a Navy guy because he talked really slick on the radio. Center, Dusty, five, two, speed check. And I'm thinking, wait a minute. Dusty five, two has a ground speed indicator and that million dollar F-18 cockpit.

It's right there in the heads up display. Why is he calling Center to broadcast his speed? I get it. We had just the meanest, baddest, fastest military jet in the valley today. We're taking our little Hornet jet over Mount Whitney and ripping across Death Valley. We want everyone from Fresno to the coast to know what real speed is. And you can almost hear a little glee in the controller's voice like, we have put an end to this.

Dusty five, two, we show you 620, six, two, zero knots across the ground. And it was that across the ground, see that little knife like, I hope nobody else has the nerve to get on frequency now. And there wasn't an airliner from Seattle to San Diego that wanted to be next on freak.

It's sort of an etiquette thing amongst flyers. And a 12-year-old was reaching for the mic button. And I thought, oh no, wait, Walter's in charge of the radios. I flew single seat all those years, but I'm in the family model now and I wanted, no, it's the Navy.

They must die and they must die now. And I thought, no, but if I do, I'll upset Walter and I want us to be a good crew. And at that moment, I heard a click of the mic button in the back seat. Ladies and gentlemen, Walter and I became a crew at that moment. His best innocent voice, L.A. Center, Aspen 30, have you got a ground speed readout for us? You could almost hear a collective gasp on freak like, oh, the poor fools didn't hear the previous transmissions.

Oh, they got crushed like a grape. It's just a pilot thing. But Center had to give you that same voice. Aspen 30, we show you 1,992 knots across the ground. When I knew I was going to like Walter a lot is when he came back and said, Center, we're showing a little closer to 2,000. Ladies and gentlemen, we did not hear another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast. The king of speed lived, the Navy had been flamed and a crew had been formed.

For just a moment, it was absolutely fun being the fastest guys on the block. And you've been listening to Major Brian Schule, his story of the SR-71 Blackbird doing a little speed check to show off just a little bit. By the way, a little about Schule. He flew 212 combat missions and was shot down near the end of the Vietnam War. Unable to eject, he was forced to ride the plane into the jungle. He was rescued by army special forces and was so badly burned that he was given next to no chance to live. Brian spent a full year in the military hospital where he underwent 15 medical procedures and was told he would never fly again. Brian miraculously returned to full flight status, flying the A-7, then the A-10 and went on to be an instructor at the Air Force's Top Gun School.

By the way, these are real life people, folks, real life people. His career culminated in flying the SR-71 Blackbird. Brian was the pilot who provided President Ronald Reagan with detailed photos of the Libyan terrorist camps in 1986. Major Brian Schule's SR-71 Blackbird story, the LA speed check, here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to OurAmericanStories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.

That's OurAmericanStories.com. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means. Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-16 04:37:49 / 2024-05-16 04:42:11 / 4

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