Ray Scalise (FCO)
photo courtesy of Ray Scalise
Ray Scalise worked for Hughes Aircraft as an engineer on their radar systems. He recalls some "interesting" test missions:
"We did flight tests on these systems. In the back seat there were
blackout curtains so I could see the radar scope better. Under these
conditions my only frame of reference was the radar scope. One of the
quirks the pilot had was to try and use ground reference points as well
as electronic ones to let the ground tracking people we were over our IP
to start a run.
"I was concentrating on the scope when the pilot did a half roll to the
right te see the ground. My inner ear sensed this move and I became
disoriented. I quickly ripped open the right curtain to see the ground.
But by this time the pilot rolled to the left and all I saw was SKY. Now
I was really screwed up. I quickly ripped open the left curtain but by
now the pilot had leveled off AND ALL I SAW WAS SKY! I really became
sick from the disorientation.
"If I barfed in my helemet face mask I would drown in the barf. If I
opend my face mask I would not have any air to breathe. I reached over
and opened the valve for the suit air conditioner to full, hoping this
would help. During these events we are in the run and the pilot kept on
asking me over the intercom if I had locked onto the target yet. All I
could do was give him a double click on the mike button. The cold air
helped but the run was blown.
"Also, by this time the ground people gotten into the act and wanted to
know what was happening because they were not receivng any
instrumentation signals. All I could do was concentrate on not barfing
and click the mike button. Needless to say, when I could talk I told the
pilot and the ground crew what had happened.
"When we landed I had a frost burn on my side from the cold air coming
into the suit. On future flights the pilot either told me when he was
going to do that manuever or he eliminated it all together. AFTER ALL,
how good was his reference from 80,000 feet!"
"This next incident happened very early on in the flight test program
while we were still at "the Ranch." The pilot [name withheld by request] and I
were on a mission quite a distance from the Ranch when he started to get a fluctuation in one of
the four hydraulic systems. He decided to abort the mission and head
back to the airport. On the way back this hydraulic system failed. The
aircraft was designed such that the other three systems took over the
work of the failed system. Then another system started to fluctuate and
failed. This put a heavy burden on the other two.
"Murphys Law was hard at work because we started to get fluctuations in one
of the remaing two systems. We were close enough to the base so were not
sweating too much....that is until this system failed. We were on final
when the last system started to fluctuate. JUST as he flaired out for
landing the last system failed. THE AIRPLANE WAS ON ITS OWN!!! My pilot had
no control over the airplane, brakes or anything. The bird touched down
on its own and as the speed bled off the nose whell came in contact with
the runway. the airplane went its own merry way, veered off the runway
and headed out across the dry lake.
"The temperature was over a 100 degrees and it took the ground crews some
time to get to us. In the meantime we just sat in the airplane in our
pressure suits which now were PERSONAL SAUNAS. When we got back to the
hangars and out of our suits the techs turned them upside down and poured
water out of them. We both lost quite a few pounds."
"I am sure you're familiar with the term "wind shear..."
"Returning from a flight on a HOT day we were on final approach off the
end of the runway...
"AND encountered a wind shear! So at 500 yds short of the runway we
suddenly found ourselves on the ground. THAT WAS BAD It just so
happened that runway lights were located 500 yds off the runway. We
plowed through the lights and just as quick were airborne again. THAT
"However, what we didn't know was that ALL tires on the main gear were
blown and shrapnel from the lights had punctured the main fuel tank.
THAT WAS BAD
"Needless to say, it made for a very interesting landing and roll down
the runway ( if you could call it a roll ). Actually , it was more like
a man with splints on both legs trying to run a sprint. Why we didn't
cartwheel we will never know--again, thanks to the low volitility of the
fuel there was no fire. THAT WAS GOOD"
"One of the problems experienced with the "birds" was in absolute control of
the engine intake 'spikes.' There was both computer and manual control. If
a spike was not positioned just right it could cause the engine to have a
compressor stall [or "unstart"].
"On one flight over the northern Sierra mountain range in California we
experienced this problem. First one engine would stall which would cause
the airplane to yaw violently in one direction. This then would cause the
other engine to stall and the first stalled engine to unstall causing the
airplane to yaw in the opposite direction.
"This happened so rapidly that the round radar scope looked eliptical and my
helmet beat a machinegun-like staccato on the sides of the cockpit...
"NATURALLY, the airplane was also falling out of the sky because it had no
forward thrust. Actually, we were dropping like a rock! The altimiter was
unreadable. If the pilot did not get control of the spikes it was 'GOODBYE
"The pilot had turned on the BAIL OUT LIGHT and I was tightly clutching the
bail out handle because the pilot had instricted me that when he verbally
gave the "BAIL OUT" signal I had better be gone on "BAIL" because he was
leaving on "OUT."
"Fortunately, the pilot regained control and we didn't have to leave the
plane. I was real glad of that because all I could see out of the window
was snow capped rugged mountains. The pilot told me he was within seconds
of giving the 'get out' signal.
"We were lucky because on one of the early test flights of the SR-71, the
stalls happened in a turn and the airplane just disintegrated around the
- all stories courtesy of Ray Scalise
click here for these and other stories from Ray's web site at yf12a.tripod.com
Back to the main page
Copyright © 1998-2000 Habu.Org