XH558 - was Re: using new technology etc

jwsmobile jws at jwsss.com
Thu Jan 1 12:02:16 CST 1970

On 6/19/2015 4:24 AM, Christian Gauger-Cosgrove wrote:
> I don't think any of the SR-71s do flying demos, do they?

NASA attempted to keep one airframe (don't recall which one) flying for 
research.  The effort didn't last long, however.

I got involved in an interesting way.  A friend who sold tape drive 
parts for Kennedy and for CDC as well as SCSI drives of various types 
had a company called Fintec in Laguna Hills, Ca.  Right off the approach 
to El Toro which was still flying, FWIW. Visits were always great when 
the Marines were flying.

Anyway, he specialized later to try to keep a business going as the 
drive business wound down selling various adapters.  One he had come 
across was a device made in Great Britain which would present a 
formatted Pertec tape interface to a host and allow one to run a SCSI 
drive on the other side.

He had gotten a call for an application which puzzled him, as he didn't 
know a lot beyond the basics, so I got invited to a meeting with his 
potential client.  Turned out that a fellow in a white shirt and tie, 
missing only the pocket protector showed up and was from a firm in Burbank.

the SR71 turns out didn't have a lot of gear on board to tell directly 
where it had been other than basic instruments, and what it did was 
record a lot of data in some onboard electronics.  Once it landed from 
one of its original missions you had a pile of exposed film on board, 
and the information of where you'd been at mach 3 in the computer.

One of the many support systems you had to have to make an SR71 happy 
was a couple of 10' or so containers.  One had the gear to plug into the 
airframe and transcribe the information to a tape (luckily it was a 
Pertec formatted drive, or at least his customers was).  Once the 
information played out of the airframe and was on the tape, the tape was 
taken to a Vac 7xx of some sort in the other container which was up and 
running by then, and a big pile of ADA and Fortran made a table that 
made all the exposed film useful.

The proposal was to take one of my friends boards, and toss the two 
containers and replace it with a Sparcbook (or whatever on that scale 
Sun proposed).  The entire pile of software was guaranteed by another 
bidder to do the job of telling where the plane had been w/o the 
original stuff, and run completely on the Sparc system.  It was to be a 
laptop according to the guy we talked to.  The information would be 
available on the flight line, rather than some time later, making it 
perfect for such as NASA.

My understanding was that the format was classified, so we had also to 
guarantee it would work w/o ever seeing any data.

I told my buddy @ Fintec and the gentleman from Burbank, that I'd be 
glad to deliver all the boards he needed for a check ride :-)

Anyway they never ordered any product, and not that long after the 
absolute last hope of them ever flying was canceled.

Also, I was told that the orders had been made to gather all the 
containers of equipment I mentioned above somewhere at Edwards and 
destroy it.  The SR71 program was not canceled, it was destroyed with 
prejudice.  I think it had risen from the ashes so many times, and was 
such a suck on the budgets of the involved agencies, that they wanted to 
kill it with a stake thru its heart this time.  Very sad.

I've probably told this in the distant past, but it is something I'd 
have at least liked to turn into a visit to see one of the things while 
it was operational.  I also never saw one flying.

The closest I came to an aircraft in this class was an almost on a 
Concorde Ticket in the late 70's when an upgrade to first class could 
get you near to the Concorde fare, and then on a visit in the 90's I got 
to see one take off like a rocket @ Heathrow.

Would be curious if the ones here who do tape remember doing business 
with Fintec, or any of the guys who used to trade drives and repair 
services.  I knew a lot of them and supplied parts and help to them thru 
the 70's and 80's.


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