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Checking out in the A-12

By. B/Gen Lon Walters

The trainer didn't come along until after Bill Skliar and I had checked out. Either Lou Schalk or Bill Park walked us through the checkout. He stood on the ladder as we started the engines and patted us on the back to let us know we were on our own. The trainer came along shortly thereafter.

Skliar was the first non-Lockheed pilot to fly the Blackbird with the J-75 engines, and later, I was the first non-Lockheed pilot to fly the bird with the J-58 engines. I believe also that I was the first pilot (of any kind) to refuel the Blackbird from a tanker (a lot easier than the F-101). Some of the books and web sites credit Jim Eastman with being the first to refuel, but he wasn't even around at that point - but he may have been the first to do the YF-12 or SR-71.

As to check-outs, I think Bill and I checked out all of the other guys after the trainer came along, but I don't remember which of us did which ones. It's possible that Ray Haupt checked out some of the later arrivals. I'm pretty sure I also checked out Col. Holbury, "Fox" Stephens, and Jim Irwin (a Moon astronaut). I gave those three troops a ride in the trainer, but I'm not sure whether they were checkouts or orientation rides. I do remember that Holbury and I got a thrill when we lost the utility hydraulic system and made an uneventful emergency landing on the lakebed. Either Bill Skliar or I checked out Ray Haupt.

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