WTF pictures

That is an awesome RC.

I got to see the SR71 take off and land at Kadina Air Force base back in the late '80s. It is quite awe inspiring to see it take off, get about 1500 feet up and then climb vertically disappearing into the cloudcover. A couple of F16s and a refueler always took off in support a couple minutes before the SR71.

Indeed - an amazing piece of technology.

One of my best friends was a man named Sam Smyth. Sam was born in LA in 1926 and started as a junior draughtsman at Lockheed in 1943 when he was 17 (he had bad lungs and was rejected for military service). He worked at Lockheed until about 1946 and then did an accelerated degree in Mech Eng at the Univ. of Colorado - and returned to Lockheed where he was assigned to the Skunk Works just a few years after it was established. He worked daily with Kelly Johnson, Ben Rich, Irv Culver and the other Skunk Works luminaries (he actually car-pooled with Mr. Rich after the Skunk Works moved up to Palmdale on the edge of Ewards AFB). He was one of the very first half-dozen people to use a CAD system in industry: it was developed in-house at Lockheed and was called CADAM - but was sold later to IBM and then Dassault, to become the modern-day CATIA package which has been used throughout the aerospace and automotive industries for many years.

Sam lived in the LA suburb of La Canada (just west of Pasadena where the Jet Propulsion Lab is located) and retired in about 1990 after more than 47 years at Lockheed. As one of their most experienced senior engineers, his specialty was configuration design. Basically, he took the shape of the vehicle from the aerodynamics people, the propulsion stuff from that group, weapons, etc. from the armament folks and he sorted it all out so that it fitted together and the airplane had the correct centre of gravity to fly properly without ballast.

Airplane buffs can only imagine the projects he worked on during those 47 years, but he never ever confirmed any of them to me because I am a foreigner and Sam strictly observed his obligation as a guy who had worked on NO FORN projects throughout his long career. All he would ever say if I asked him about a particular airplane was, "I am familiar with that aircraft." and then he would wink. We're talking about the P38 Lightning (pre-Skunk Works), the P80 / F94 / T33 family, the L188 Electra airliner which became the widely used P3 Orion and Aurora maritime patrol aircraft, the F104 Starfighter, the U2, SR71, F117A, and even the Sea Shadow "stealth ship" which Lockheed built for the US Navy....and other amazing aircraft and Navy projects...<I think>. He always used to say that a Navy project was just an Air Force project but that the Reynolds numbers were much lower.

After he retired, Sam traveled to Russia to see what "those other people" were up to - and he visited the Monino Aviation Museum several times and built-up an extensive collection of books about East Bloc aircraft.

Sam had seen and worked on it all.


He and I used to go to Edwards AFB Open House Day every year (he had never missed one from the late '40s until he died in 2012 at 88 years old - although the Open House didn't happen from 2009 till it was begun again in 2022). Starting when I was on a sabbatical at Loyola Marymount Univ. in LA in 1994-5 with my family, Sam and I traveled all over southern California to the San Diego Aviation Museum, the fantastic Planes of Fame museum at Chino (we always hit Flo's Airport Cafe while we were there), Flabob Field, the March Field Museum and many other places. I was deeply honoured when Sam's son (who is a great guy - but not an airplane buff) called to me that Sam had died and went on to say that his Dad wanted me to have all of his aviation books - and he had a lot of them. Airplane buffs will understand when I say that Sam left me a complete set of Putnam Aviation books.

Anyhow, at the 1999 Edwards Day on Oct. 9, 1999, we saw the beginning of the last official flight of the SR - and HOLY COW - is about all I can say. The airplane was overhead at 80,000 ft. and Mach 3 (totally invisible - even with a pretty good set of binoculars). The announcer said, "Watch overhead everyone as the pilot opens the fuel dump valve for one second, three times. You will see three white stripes up in the sky signifying Mach 3 and at the end of the last stripe, that is the airplane."

So, 100,000 people dutifully looked up, and sure enough, three stripes of fuel vapour formed in the sky - followed by the sonic "boom". Actually, it wasn't a "BOOM" so much as a very loud and sharp double "CRACK-CRACK" - like two hockey sticks being broken in quick succession (sorry, I'm Canadian).

After that, the airplane did some fly-bys and landed.

Totally mind-blowing for an airplane buff.

One of the other things Sam left me was an internal company document entitled, "Lockheed Model 10E - Maximum Range Calculation" and the author was C.L. "Kelly" Johnson himself. The document is dated June 4, 1936, and while I cannot confirm it, this may very well have been a planning document for the doomed final flight of US aviatrix, Amelia Earhart who disappeared flying over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937 while flying a.....Lockheed Model 10E.

I have attached the document as a .pdf

Interestingly, a recent sonar search of the area where Ms. Earhart was believed to have disappeared has revealed a sonar image that bears a resemblance to a small twin-engined aircraft. Here is a CBC radio story about the discovery.



  • Lockheed Model 10E_Range Calculations-1936.pdf
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I Grew up there.

I have a niece living in Augusta. She met a nice young chap from Boston when she went to school there. Don't know what he makes of Newfoundland. He met me and my brother once. Remarked we swore like sailors. Oh well... We both went out west in 92 to seek our fortune. Worked a lot of rough jobs in rough places with rough people. I guess it rubbed off.
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