Forty years after setting a record that won’t soon be broken, the flight crew of an iconic old war-bird made the trip to a Museum in south Georgia to reunite with their plane. What once was a classified spy-place is now on display, and the details of their harrowing missions are making a new generation of pilots very jealous.
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Retired U.S. Air Force pilot Maj. Gen. Eldon “Al” Joersz and Lt. Col. George “GT” Morgan recently met at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Georgia to commemorate the 40th anniversary of a flight for the record books.
“It wasn’t supposed to be that big of a deal,” Joersz told CNN. “We knew we were going to be setting some records, but we didn’t look at it as something that would endure this long.”
The record breaking flight wasn’t for a typical mission. In 1976, the two Airmen had been selected to fly for the World Air Sports Federation, the group that keeps track of records.
“We didn’t go as fast as we could,” Morgan said. “We just went as fast as we needed to go to set the record.”
“We climbed directly to our target altitude right from brake release,” Joersz remembered. Soon the balckbird was soaring at 80,600 feet above the California desert.
At more than 15 miles above the predetermined course, the plane made two passes at 2,193 MPH. That’s 3,216 feet per second. The new record, which didn’t expose the true capabilities of the aircraft, easily beat the previous record by an Air Force YF-12A, a plane that barely broke the 2,000 mph mark in the 1960s.
“I felt very, very fortunate to be a guy that was flying this wonderful airplane,” Joersz said.
“That’s my baby,” Morgan said. “She did her job and she came through.”