Skip to content

SR-71 Flight Manual: the Official Pilot’s Handbook Declassified and Expanded with Commentary

3 October 2016

SR-71 Flight Manual: the Official Pilot’s Handbook Declassified and Expanded with Commentary, new commentary by Col. Richard H. Graham USAF (ret), 2016, ISBN 9780760351741, 1040 pp.


SR-71 Flight Manual by

SR-71 Flight Manual:the Official Pilot’s Handbook Declassified and Expanded with Commentary [new commentary by Col. Richard H. Graham, USAF (ret)]

Over a decade after retirement the SR-71 Blackbird inspires like no other aircraft. SR-71 authority Col. Richard Graham (who flew and instructed Blackbirds for 15 years as well as commanded the SR-71 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron) is uniquely qualified to write about this more than remarkable aircraft.

Graham’s writing is as gifted as his depth of knowledge as he can so easily explain the complicated physics, procedures and nuances of the aircraft optimized to fly Mach 3+ over hostile territories on recce missions to gather information to prevent or more successfully prosecute war.

The flight manual itself can be downloaded elsewhere (100Mb+ file size) on the internet but this is the book to get and only for the price of taking a spouse to dinner. SR-71 Flight Manual has two things an internet download cannot give: a flight manual printed on good stock and double sided (as opposed to 2000 pages out of a desktop printer, likely injuring it); and Col. Graham’s insightful 30 pages of commentary. The freedom to leaf through the book is immeasurably better and more efficient than paging through a PDF.

The commentary segues back and forth with the flight manual as Graham references specific pages at the appropriate moments. The illustrations are full-sized, unlike the postage stamp sized versions commonly found in other books and the internet. The book describes the duties of the pilot and how to fly the SR-71 but also, uncommonly, describes the duties of the RSO and how the navigation as well as sensor systems are worked.

Tidbits are also scattered throughout the commentary, like good use of spices, such as:

  • The time and place when a SAM-2 flashed by an SR-71 in flight nearly causing a precedent setting shoot down
  • What is was like to refuel an SR-71 in flight
  • The visceral experience of an upstart (when an engine ceased functioning as a ramjet)
  • How flying at a specified Mach differs from flying at a specific altitude as most aircraft are navigated
  • Why the SR-71 crew were never lulled into sleepiness though missions could last half a day
  • Which of the nearly three dozen emergency procedures had to be memorized
  • Why it was important to know which engine was out should a flame out occur
  • How to successfully eject for each scenario—important since ejection through canopy would be lethal as well as the high altitude procedures
  • Why at least four ground crew were required per canopy to get the crew out if they were incapacitated on the ground

The commentary and manual also make use of many graphs in the flight manual to illustrate performance envelopes and more. This is an extraordinary resource to utilize for the teaching of physics as well as math since it is real world excitement to the eager mind.

SR-71 Flight Manual absolutely belongs in aviation libraries for its presentation, wealth of information, insight and historical presence


Per the publishing custom, Quarto Publishing Group USA provided a copy of SR-71 Flight Manual: the Official Pilot’s Handbook Declassified and Expanded with Commentary for an objective review.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 3 October 2016 01:33

    I did not see it, but my older son was in medical school in Kansas City when the last cross country flight was made on 6 March 1990 in an effort to break the speed record. It flew over KC, far too high for him to see it, and too high to leave much of a visible contrail. He did hear the rather impressive sonic boom as it passed over.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: