Book Review and Giveaway: SR-71 Flight Manual and Official Declassified POH

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(If you think this sounds like a great book (it is), scroll to the bottom and find out how you can win a new copy, shipped directly from the publisher)

Congratulations to Carl. C of Oregon, winner of this book. Stay tuned right here on Airplanista for more book reviews and giveaways!

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

All of my recent book reviews and giveaways have been of interest to most of the people who read Airplanista, those fine #avgeeks who eat, sleep and breathe aviation. But for those few in this family of aviators who cannot get enough of the "inside baseball" data of military aircraft, wow have I got a book for you.
New from Quarto Publishing Group USA is "SR-71 Flight Manual - The Official Pilot's Handbook Declassified" by retired USAF Colonel Richard H. Graham. The author is extremely qualified to write the commentary that leads this very large (over 2" thick) book, as he was a "Blackbird" crew member, instructor pilot and SR-71 Squadron Commander, amassing more than 4,600 military flight hours.
The basis of the book is the now-declassified POH for the SR-71, which comprises the vast majority of the book. It is not just text, it is the real deal, a direct facsimile of the actual POH pages.
Before the many, many pages of the POH are presented, Graham sets the stage with 63 pages of very well-written information about this very unique airplane. One section, entitled "Normal Procedures" proves flying an SR-71 was anything but normal:

"As a physical environment, space begins at about 125 miles above the earth. As a physiological environment, it begins at abut 63,000 feet, where the atmospheric pressure becomes so low that bodily fluids begin to boil at a normal body temperature of 98.6°F. Nitrogen evolves in bodily fluids and begins to bubble out. A pressure suit was therefore necessary to sustain life at the extreme altitudes, temperatures and speeds the SR-71 flew."
Graham's introduction covers normal and emergency procedures, navigation and sensor equipment, operating limitations, flight characteristics and all-weather operation of this very fast airplane. How fast was the Blackbird?

Really, really fast. Graham writes:

"The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was a long-range, Mach 3 reconnaissance aircraft developed by Lockheed's top-secret Skunk Works. One of the first aircraft designed to have a low radar signature, the SR-71 could map 100,000 square miles from an altitude of 80,000 feet. Operational from 1964 to 1998, it is still the fastest jet-powered aircraft - a Blackbird once completed a Los Angeles-to-Washington, D.C. flight in 64 minutes."

The POH part of this book is filled to overflowing with the very kind of specific data that you'd find in the POH of your Cessna 172 if it was soaked in JP-7 and ignited:

"Mach 3.2  (2455.26 MPH) is the design Mach number. Mach 3.17 is the maximum scheduled cruise speed recommended for normal operations. However, when authorized by the Commander, speeds up to Mach 3.3 (2531.99 miles per hour) may be flown if the limit CIT of 427° is not exceeded."
"The maximum altitude limit is 85,000 feet, unless higher altitude is specifically authorized. Do not exceed 80,000 feet with an inlet in manual operation. Do not exceed 75,000 feet with either fuel derichment system inoperative."

Graham graciously provided Airplanista with this first-hand account of what a typical SR-71 mission was like:

"On one of our SR-71 missions flying out of the island of Okinawa, Japan, Don Emmons (my SR-71 RSO) and I were flying up to image the Soviet Union’s nuclear submarine pens at the southern end of the Kamchatka Peninsula, outside the city of Petropavlovsk (“Petro” for short).  We refueled off the northeast coast of Japan and began our climb and acceleration. It was a perfect day with clear skies beneath and tremendous visibility. The mission was planned to image Petropavlovsk off the left side of the SR-71, then do and 90 degree turn to the right, followed immediately by a 270 degree turn to the left and image it again, off the right side on our way back to Okinawa.  This was at Mach 3.0 and around 75,000 feet.
As we approached Soviet airspace, I could see several Soviet fighters streaming from their contrails they were producing. The contrails showed them in a clockwise circular orbit.  As we approached closer, I was able to watch each of them come out of their orbit as they headed directly for us. They appeared to be in about a 10-mile trail position with each other.  Once I saw their contrails disappear I knew the fighters were now in afterburner and would soon be starting to initiate their climb in an attempt to intercept us. Knowing there were Soviet pilots out there who would try to shoot you down if they were so ordered heightened your awareness as they approached. I ask Don to look through his viewsight, which looks directly beneath the SR-71, for the three Soviet fighters.  Soon he replied back with “there goes number one…number two…and number three.” Nothing ever came of their attempt, but I’m sure they were testing their fire control system capabilities against the SR-71."
To win a free copy of this book, simply answer the question below and I will pick the winner on Friday, October 7. If you want to just go ahead and buy your copy, Amazon has the best price for this incredible book.

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