Encounter with Brian Shul, Major USAF Retired
By: Bob Earl
The subject story is a recount of actual flight experiences by Brian Shul, Major USAF, retired. You can also read about Brian in the links I provided immediately below this commentary. Brian became a national hero while serving in Viet Nam. His experiences there lead him to become a Blackbird pilot. Brian's chronicles about being a Blackbird pilot make him a repository of a national treasure.
I had an encounter with Brian when I was the manager of the FAA Colorado Springs Control Tower and terminal radar facility. Some years later had a "chance meeting" with Brian at the “The Museum of Flight”, 9404 East Marginal Way South, Seattle, WA 98108-4097 in Seattle Washington. He was featured on the program in the theater at the museum and later he commanded a table where he signed books he has written about the Blackbird.
My encounter with Brian followed a precautionary landing of the Blackbird at the Colorado Springs International Airport, Colorado, an airport shared by Peterson Air Force Base. Brian's mission of the day to overfly Cuba was cut short by a mechanical problem. Brian and Walt, his back seat partner for 4 years, spent the next two nights in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Walt rode with Brian to work the cameras, radios and electronic jamming equipment.
During one evening of their down time, they socialized with a few of the air traffic controllers. For that, Brian made a special "thank you" maneuver in the Blackbird the morning of their departure. After lift off, they made a low level traffic pattern. When they reached the departure end of the runway following a low approach, they pitched the Blackbird straight up and disappeared into the blue - very exciting, very impressive and very noisy.
It was years later that I encountered Brian at the book signing table at the Museum of Flight. Not suspecting that he could possibly have been the pilot of the ill-fated Blackbird that graced the "Springs" airport, I told Brian about the Blackbird visit. He looked up at me and said, "Did you like my departure?"