The long awaited new book of Colonel Richard H. Graham finally is out, an expert when it comes to the Blackbird, having commanded the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squad at Beale AFB and a long time flying hours experience with the aircraft. „Flying the SR-71 – In the cockpit on a secret operational Mission“is his third book about the Blackbird. He tried a different approach to the topic in his latest work. Here he has put more stress on the history of the pilots themselves and the stories he and his fellow pilots have experienced during their time as SR-71 pilots, while flying missions all over the world in this marvelous aircraft. These stories combined with hard technical facts make up a vivid mixture of information throughout the whole book. During the more technical parts of the book Colonel Graham tells little sideline stories and anecdotes that are separated from the main text in small textboxes.

SR-71 book

In the introductory chapter the author explains how it came to the legend of „the Habu“and how he became a crucial part of the whole project. The reader will get an insight in what it meant to become a pilot in the restricted Habu program at Beale AFB. He takes his time to describe the organizational aspects behind such a classified project from the logistical point as well as the human resources that had to be trained as ground crews or technicians.

The SR-71s had only a few operational air bases in the world which they could use to start and end their secret missions. Graham explains how the logistical procedures during mission flights were executed and in some chapters of the book goes a bit deeper into several missions that were very dangerous for him.

Beside these interesting stories of secret missions the reader will be able to learn about the complete interior and technical equipment inside the cockpit of the SR-71 Blackbird. The real driving force in this book is probably to find in the middle chapters where Graham meticulously lists the check-up procedure that had to be executed before the „Habu“ could roll on the airfield and get the permission to start. The SR-71 had not one but three different instrument panels which had to be checked before every single flight.

Whilst explaining the different check-up switches he informs us either what could happen if you forgot to turn some of the switches on and some of his personal experiences with the pressure suit, a crucial part to check for every pilot before he can get airborne in a „Habu“.

One of the most interesting chapters for me was the one about rendezvous’ with refueling tankers. The last part of the book is entirely dedicated to the full check-up list with a lot of hand written notes and charts in it. An absolute must have for every Habu fan, as well as a good thing to have a reference at hand for every aviation interested reader.

In conclusion i can say i really enjoyed this book because it found the right balance of providing new technical information about the aircraft, paired with vivid narrations of real experienced secret missions by the author. All the extra and first hand info that are provided via the little extra boxes are nice as well.

Flying the SR-71 Blackbird – In the cockpit on a secret operational mission
Motorbooks International, Zenith Press, 2008
Col. Richard H. Graham, USAF (ret.)
Format: Hardbound
Pages: 304
Length: 6w x 9h
ISBN-13: 9780760332399
ISBN: 0760332398
Catalog ID: 144576

Sample was kindly provided by Zenith Press/ Motorbooks Int. Marketing Department

Kilian Weimann