Ask a lineup of diverse pilots to identify the most magnificent military jet ever made and you would receive a spectrum of replies.
Not to discredit some of the famous jets produced by America – the F-86 Sabre, F/A-22 Raptor, F-4 Phantom, the F/A-18 Hornet, and the F-15C Eagle – but how about a flying machine with a skin of titanium that can travel a mile in 1.6 seconds? Or make an Oxnard, Calif. to Washington D.C. flight in 64 minutes?
Only 86 U.S. Air Force pilots flew the world’s fastest jet, the Lockheed SR-71 spy plane known as the “Blackbird.” One of the leading experts on the Blackbird – Col. (Ret.) Richard H. Graham – will deliver the 2012 George W. Jalonick III and Dorothy Cockrell Jalonick Distinguished Memorial Lecture July 14 at 4 p.m. in the Eugene McDermott Library Auditorium (MC 2.410).
The annual Jalonick Lecture is organized by the library’s Special Collections and is free to the public. The series enlightens the public about the history of flight by bringing aviation notables to the Dallas community.
Graham began his flying career as a teenager, soloing at 17. He entered the U.S. Air Force in 1964 and flew 210 combat missions in Vietnam flying the F-4 Phantom. He logged more than 4,600 military flying hours.
Graham entered the SR-71 strategic reconnaissance program in 1974 and served as a crew member and instructor pilot. In 1980 he was named SR-71 Squadron Commander of the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron that included the U-2 and T-38 aircraft. Six years later he became Vice Wing Commander, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing in California where he was able to fly all of the wing’s aircraft – the U-2, T-38, KC-135Q, and SR-71. Later as wing commander, he was responsible for 10,000 personnel and their dependents at Beale Air Force Base. He retired from the military on Sept. 30, 1989 and spent the next 13 years as a pilot for American Airlines in North Texas.
He is now an author, speaker, aviation consultant, flight instructor and Civil Air Patrol pilot. Col. Graham has written three books about the famous airplane – SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales and Legends (2002); SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story (1996); and Flying the SR-71 Blackbird: In the Cockpit on a Secret Operational Mission (2008). The books describe how Air Force pilots and navigators had to adapt to become Blackbird crews. His latest SR-71 book is technical and includes a considerable amount about the physics of flight, engine parameters and navigation challenges. The UT Dallas Bookstore will have copies of the books available for the purchase and signing at the lecture.
Graham received the University of Nebraska’s William F. Shea Award for his distinguished contribution to aviation. In 2005 he received the Kelly Johnson Award for his lifetime achievement in the Blackbird program. Graham graduated from the University of Akron in Ohio in 1962, received a master’s degree in sociology in 1977 and in public administration in 1979 from Pepperdine University.
Col. (Ret.) Richard H. Graham
Lockheed SR-71 spy plane known as the “Blackbird.”
The Jalonick series was established in McDermott Library's History of Aviation Collection to inform and enlighten the public about the history of flight by bringing aviation notables to the Dallas community. The series was endowed by George Jalonick IV and friends of the Jalonick family.