Scott R Wilson Posted August 1, 2013 Share Posted August 1, 2013 (edited) I had a most interesting conversation with Col. Rich Graham, former SR-71 pilot, 1st SRS squadron commander and 9th SRW commander while I was at the Oshkosh EAA Airventure today. Recently in an Air Force Association Magazine letters to the editor section there were a few letters including one from General Patrick Halloran about Brian Shul, basically saying he was the only SR-71 pilot removed for cause and that he should not be regarded as any kind of hero Blackbird pilot. Nothing was said about what actually happened. I asked Col Graham if he could tell me what that was all about, and he was happy to do so. It seems one evening the command post at Beale received several phone calls from people living in nearby Marysville saying a plane had crashed. There were only two jets airborne from Beale at the time, a KC-135 and an SR-71 flown by Shul. Both were contacted and reported no problems. When the SR landed, Col Graham, who was Squadron CC at the time, and another high-up from the wing were there to meet him. Shul and Walter Watson, Shul's RSO, told a believable story explaining what had happened and nothing else was said. Months later Shul was in England and one evening at the Officer's Club was bragging about lying to the command staff and getting away with it. Word got back to Beale and Col Graham had the mission tapes pulled out of storage. He said that he, the Deputy Wing Commander and Wing Commander listened to the cockpit voice recording and heard Shul and Watson in the cockpit concocting what story they were going to tell. What really happened was that Brian Shul was starting his photography business and wanted photos of an inflight SR-71 lighting off the afterburners at night. He had a friend over at his house, and Brian made several low passes over his house lighting off the burners for the friend to get the photos. The noise is what made the citizens think there was a plane crash. Col Graham said while Watson went along with the story, it was Shul who was behind it. Col. Graham and the wing deputy commander wanted Shul permanently grounded, but the Wing Commander decided to cut him a break, so while removing him from the SR-71 he allowed Shul to continue flying the T-38. Col Graham also said Shul was breaking regulations by taking a camera into the SR-71 and later T-38 cockpits, but the command staff was unaware he'd been doing that until Shul published his books after leaving the USAF, because everyone who witnessed it figured Shul had permission and so they never reported it. Shul most assuredly did not have permission! Col Graham told me that had he been aware, Shul would have been fired from the program immediately. And they were also unaware of the other things Brian Shul later wrote about, such as flying Mach 3.5 over Libya (Col Graham doubts that number but concedes it might be possible) and nearly stalling the SR-71 while flying an unauthorized fly-by at a small airport in England. Col Graham said had any of those things been brought to his attention Shul would have been immediately fired. Because of all these things Brian Shul is persona non grata to the Blackbird community. Col Graham stressed that the SR-71 was considered a national treasure and that they all knew any pilot hot-dogging in the airplane could bring major embarrassment to the program, the Air Force and the Nation. Evidently most all of the other Blackbird pilots consider Shul a pariah and want nothing to do with him as well. Scott Wilson Edited August 1, 2013 by Scott R Wilson Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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