By. Lt. Col. Don Donohue

Chief Tac Ops & Tng - 475 TFW

To more appreciate the accomplishments of the YF-12 Flight Test Program, I will expand on details of various operations touched on in my BIO.

xxI was notified that when I departed the Ranch, I would be returned to ADC & go to Edwards as Maintenance Officer on the YF-12. The YF's had been OUTED by President Johnson & were already in place @ Edwards.

I flew in to meet Col Henderson & check on housing prior to our PCS. During the visit, I asked Col Henderson if he would like to fly the F-101 & he jumped @ the opportunity. To his dying day, really, he was still complaining that I did not tell him that we did not carry Ballast. He almost over rotated but that is why I was an Instructor.

My 1st day on the Flight Line I met about every Civilian that had come with the YF's, from the Ranch. My Maintenance Troops said you sure know a lot of people for just coming on Board. I convinced them that I knew everyone from ADC.

Shortly after I arrived & 2 months before the 1st SR-71 was due @ Edwards, SAC pulled all of their Maintenance Personnel, to clean their Hanger. This was critical because the Joint Test Force consisted of ADC, SAC & Systems Command Personnel. Systems Command were Spies & non-workers who Reported everything to HQ. Being @ Edwards, Systems Command had the Lead on all Test Programs.

I was left with 5 Crew Chiefs for 2 YF's. It took 5 to Launch a Flight. ADC sent in the records of their Top NCO's for us to select the most Qualified. It was good long range but the Pipeline with Clearances, etc did not help the immediate problem.

Having been in Maintenance before everyone became Specialists, I knew that all of the Specialists had cross trained into Egress , Pneudraulics & even Radar from being Crew Chiefs. I reviewed the Records of everyone on Board & informed eveyone that would be Crew Chiefs in addition to their Specialty. We did not miss a Flight.

(8) World Speed & Altitude Records on 1 May 1965

We were to use the LAC YF for the Speed & Altitude runs & (1) of our Bluesuit YF's for the Closed Course with Payload. Everything was based on beating the Russians by 2%. Speed & Altitude were restricted to 2000 MPH & Altitude to 80,000 FT.The closed Course carried 2000 Kilos in (5) compartments & I know of no Speed Restictions.

The French, who monitors & Verifies the Records, still use Visual references from the Ground. That is why we Painted White Crosses on the bottom of the Aircraft in order to visually follow the Aircraft @ 80,000+FT. In order to pick up the cross, a 5 second Dump Switch was installed. On a signal from Flight Test Ops the Pilot would activate the Dump Switch. The Fuel appeared like a Contrail @ the front of which was the white Cross.

Speed RunThe 1st Flt was @ 0530 with the LAC YF & Systems Command COLs Fox Stephens & Dan Andre as the Crew. When LAC got ready to Launch, there were 32 White Shirt Engineers @ the A/C checking their Systems. On the climb out over Las Vegas, they experienced a Fire Lite, shut the Engine down & returned to Edwards. Stephens over shot final & Kelly Johnson picked the same truck as I did to hide behind. Our Bluesuit Bird was ready to make a Closed Course run. Stephens & Andre pulled Daniels & Noel from our YF & took it for the Speed run. Systems Command COL's had to get the Glory

I told my Crew Chief, MSgt Stu Alexander that we launch with (5) personnel & no White Shirts. Kelly Johnson was next to me observing a Professional Launch. He turned to his CC & said that is how we better look on the next launch.

The Speed run was on a 15x25 Km course with (1) run East to West & the 2nd west to east. I believe there was a 300 foot restriction after the 1st run to keep from climbing & diving thru the 2nd run. We were slow on the 1st run so the crew was told to pick it up. They cut a Trail which left us over the 2000mph. The Observers from DC included a 3 Star General who had to call Pres Johnson to see if the speed was Ok or do we need to make a slower run. The speed was approved @ 2069.5 mph. By using the Closed Course YF, the Speed Record was set carrying 2000kilos in (5) compartments but not claimed.

The reason both the speed & altitude records were not set on the same flight was the altitude restriction. In order to get out to Mach, we had to exceed 80,000ft on the speed run.

Lockheed determined the Fire Lite was a faulty switch, so in the best of Flt Test corrective action, they cut the wire to the switch. They then got ready for the Altitude run.

In the meantime, our Sheetmetal Bluesuiters, repaired (19) Titanium Cracks on the turnaround.

LAC attempted the Altitude run but aborted the Takeoff due to a Brake problem.

While they were back @ the Drawing Board, we made (2) Closed Course World Record runs.

Lac was going to take another go @ the Altitude Record with a very late Takeoff.

I believe that was the 1st time, a Blackbird , had made (3) turns , @ Mach, in one day. We were turned for a 4th time in hopes LAC would not be able to make the Altitude run so we could get all of the Records with our Bluesuit YF.

Stephens & Andre did get the Altitude Record, measured by Radar @ 80,202 ft.

Weight procedures required certain type Scales & very current Certification. The Team observed the Loading & placed a Sticker on each compartment to insure the weights were not removed @ Mach 3+. After the 3rd Flt, they had their Magnifing glasses trying to determine if the seal had been removed or had burned off. They again weighed the Payload to insure it had not changed.

Lockheed presented a Plaque Saluting Bluesuit Maintenance for (7) Records to LAC's (1). It was signed by Kelly Johnson & his Staff.

Our Bluesuiters, who came to work @ 0300, did not leave @ Shift Change but stayed until all of the Records were confirmed - about 2030.

The 1st deployment of a YF was to ADC Wm Tell @ Tyndall & was a success although never approved. The deployment Plan, signed by Vern Henderson & Fox Stephens was submitted to Washington. There was no response so we deployed using ADC Airlift. After we returned, we discovered the Plan had not been approved because everyone who saw it was afraid their General had approved the Plan.

At that time , Air Refueling capability had not been released. We had a KC135 park in front of the YF, run an Engine & pump fuel thru the Boom to the YF. We did this on the Far end of the Field where the procedure could only be observed from (5) states. More details on the Deployment are in my BIO.


During our Testing @ Edwards, Russian Trawlers would sit off shore & try to pick up our Radar Frequencies. When we were going out over the Pacific Missle Range, we would call Pt Magu & request "Barcap". The Navy would put a Bird over the Trawler & put them out of Business so we could fly.

We accomplished several successful Missle Shoots without a Warhead.

- A direct hit on a QB-47 over the Gulf of Mexico.

- A direct hit on a Q-2 , 500 feet over water, from a 75.000 feet look down. The photo depicts G-20 Mission on 21 September 1966 at Holloman AFB, NM, Joe Rogers and Jim Cooney in YF-12 Article 936. The Aim 47/Gar 9 missile is visible in the photographs. Drone

- A Kill on a QB-47 , 500ft over White Sands. The Missle did not take it's Final Guidance but passed between the Nose & Wing.

The nite before the White Sand s Shoot, we were all up @ 0330 looking for a Bullet Hole in the YF. The Pfc AP guarding the Aircraft, tried to commit Suicide & missed both himself & the YF.

We participated in other programs than the YF. We flew F-104 Chase flts of SR-71s out of Palmdale. I chased Bill Weaver on his 1st Flt after his Mach 3 Ejection .

The most fun was playing Hound dog over LA. The B-52 that Edwards used for the X-15 Flts would fly over La, I would get up under the Wing & on Command, I would lite the Afterburner & blast out from under the B-52. This was the way Telemetry data was obtained in the Development of the Missle.

I was the Systems Command Base SEFE in the T-33. We flew numerous missions training Recalled Pilot for SE Asia.

Joannie & I Bowled in Lancaster & Palmdale with the LA Center Controllers based in Palmdale. I was able to get IFR clearance, discreet Frequencies, radar Vectors & Handoffs for practice Approaches @ March & Miramar followed by Vectors back to the Desert VFR. In the missile to the right is the results of a direct hit on Q-2 drone on March 18, 1965 traveling 500 feet over the water with the missile shot from the YF-12 at Mach 3+ from 75,000 feet look down. No warhead.

damaged drone

One morning I had an early morning go after a late nite bowling so I asked my fellow Bowlers To arrange a Radar Vector to Kansas City so I would not have to make turns. When I called for clearance, I was given a Vector Direct & a discreet Freq with Flight following. The value of an Anchor man.

On the day Joe Rogers was to fly the YF, Systems Command pulled the F-104 because they did not want another YF Pilot. I said that I would chase him using our ADC T-33. They were not sure but after chasing Blackbirds for (5) yrs I could provide the Safety Chase. A little Yankee ingenuity & another YF Pilot.

I am the only one that did not fly in the Blackbird that was on the Program for over (6) yrs. They only offered a Backseat which I did not consider Pilot Like.