A while back I finished an absolutely amazing book about Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. It’s by Ben Rich and it’s called “Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed“. I’ll write more about that book later.
Here’s an amusing little anecdote from Lt. Colonel William Burk Jr., an SR-71 Blackbird pilot.
“In the fall of ’82, I flew from Mildenhall on a mission o Lebanon in response to the Marine barrack bombing. President Reagan ordered photo coverage of ill the terrorist bases in the region. The French refused to allow us to overfly, so our mission was to refuel off the south coast of England.”
“We completed our pass over Beirut and turned toward Malta, when I got a warning low-oil-pressure light on my right engine. Even though the engine was running fine I slowed down and lowered our altitude and made a direct line for England. We decided to cross France without clearance instead of going the roundabout way. We made it almost across, when I looked out the left window and saw a French Mirage III sitting ten feet off my left wing. He came up on our frequency and asked us for our Diplomatic Clearance Number. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I told him to stand by. I asked my backseater, who said, “Don’t worry about it. I just gave it to him.” What he had given him was “the bird’ with his middle finger. I lit the afterbumers and left that Mirage standing still. Two minutes later, we were crossing the Channel. “