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This Is How You Pre-Flight the SR-71 Blackbird

Avgeekery is proud to profile ‘avgeeks’ who share their passion for aviation in unique ways.  Recently, we ran into Erik Johnson.  He is a self-professed avgeek having grown up immersed in the world of aviation with a secondary love of photography. His father was in the Air Force and a civilian pilot.  After high school, he got his first aviation related job and never looked back.  Erik says “I love being an avgeek because aviation has brought me the closest friends I have ever made in my life, and nothing is cooler than airplanes. Even when I’m not at the airport working around the planes, I am always thinking about them.”  Erik specializes in walk around videos of rare airplanes and interviewing veterans through a personal project of his called “Veteran Tales.”

If you look for a list of Air Force pilots who flew the SR-71 Blackbird, you’ll find that only 477 Air Force aircrew were lucky enough to fly the plane.  The list of pilots to fly the Blackbird includes heroes like “Kelly” Johnson and Scott Crossfield.  On that list, you’ll also see retired Colonel Rich Graham.  Rich is an amazing pilot having flown everything from the T-37 to the U-2 to the F-4 and the Blackbird.  In addition to flying, he rose to the position of Vice Wing Commander of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base in California prior to retiring in 1988.  Even after retiring, Rich then took on a full second career at American Airlines as a captain in the MD-80.  Last year, Eric had the opportunity to profile Rich and video a walk around of the aircraft.

Eric describes his experience:  “I started doing walkaround videos a few years ago.  I met Rich to capture his story. After the interview, I asked Rich if he would be willing to make the cockpit checkout video. He was more than willing to try but said he had tried it before but just couldn’t get enough of the instruments in frame to make it look good because the cockpit was so tight. I told him that I had a Gopro camera that was a wide angle and I thought it might work. So he simply hand held the GoPro and started pointing to the instruments and giving a detailed explanation of everything. I think he did a great job.”


Below you’ll also see Erik’s profile of Col. Rich Graham as part of his “Veteran Tales” series.  Grab a beer and some popcorn and enjoy learning about a career that spanned three decades while flying everything from the T-37 Tweet to the fastest plane known to ever grace this planet’s skies.


Written by Avgeekery

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