One of my favorite airplanes in the world, tied for second with the F-14 Tomcat (1513 is of course first in my affections), is the SR-71 Blackbird. Mach 3 with 1970s technology. Steam gauge cockpits and primitive space suits that were later used as the template for NASA’s stuff. "Though I fly through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for I am at 80,000 feet and climbing."
The thing broke world speed records on its retirement flight. The Soviets, annoyed at the Blackbirds’ intrusions, sent waves of missiles and interceptors to try and catch them. None ever succeeded. The jets would flame out. The standard procedure for dealing with an incoming missile was simply to accelerate.
The heat of air friction would have melted standard materials. They had to build the thing out of titanium – bought from Russia, no less! "industrial purposes," they said. An accident was caused during testing when an aluminum bolt melted. Legendary Lockheed man Kelly Johnson reacted: "How did a piece of aluminum get in this airplane?"
I have a very charming story about the time Dad first told me about the Blackbird, but that’s his story to tell.
I thought about the Blackbird today because there are times when the solution to life is simply to accelerate. That seems to be the theme for this year so far. It’s amazing what’s happened in the past few months. I’ve participated in the very wonderful Landmark Forum, gotten in touch with old friends, set up a checking account and credit card, started driving more, and, to my Mom’s astonishment, got in the habit of making the bed every morning!
Teaching in the Ateneo has been extremely fulfilling. Teaching drama and poetry is more fun than I ever dreamed. All of this success has helped me get comfortable with dating again after my breakup last year. We’ll see how that goes.
And of course, I’ve been flying more. A recent flight to Loakan airport in Baguio left me feeling confident that I can go it alone later this year. I got to fly my friend Helmuth’s amazing ultralight, which is very fun to fly – it has a joystick and is designed to fly at altitudes that would make 1513 nervous! You can see every individual cornstalk…
It’s that time of the year again. I’m going to be the Fiesta’s Air-Boss-in-training this time around! Dad has wanted to retire from it for some time and has looking to train a replacement. Guess who he found. :-D He claims this will be his last year as Air Boss, just as he did last year – for now, we share duties.
It’s a tremendous privilege and a brain-warping challenge. The Air Boss is a bricoleur, constantly juggling safety, schedule, crowd relations, and talking to every specialist on the field.
Come and join us! Thursday to Sunday at Clark Field, Feb 10-13. Tickets are P150 each, available through Ticketnet and at the gate. And look me and Dad up at the control booth. When we’re not busy looking up, we’ll be looking out for you!
It’s time to get accelerated!
Posted from Manila, February 8, 2010