The SR-71 Blackbird pilot Brian Shul on May 20, 2023, in Reno, Nevada, unexpectedly passed away at the age of 75 due to a cardiac arrest
At the age of 75, Blackbird pilot Brian Shul unexpectedly passed away in Reno, Nevada, on May 20, 2023, following a cardiac arrest. His ground speed check story is well known. He was a brave man who, in 1973, fought his way back from a debilitating plane crash. Flying the SR-71 was his objective, and he succeeded in doing so.
More information came out on May 21, 2023, by Ronald Girouard, a well-known Blackbird collector who owns the largest collection of SR-71 patches in addition to the autographs of 133 Blackbird pilots, including Shul. Ron said, “Last night, he was the keynote speaker at the Nevada Military Support Alliance annual gala. Immediately after his keynote speech, he keeled over the emergency, life-saving CPR was performed on him by the doctors who were present the paramedics arrived minutes later they also tried to save him.
“Shul gave a great speech on the SR-71. Brian’s sister writes that she had never seen him speak so passionately about the Blackbird last night before he died.
“He died doing what he enjoyed the most, talking about the SR-71.”
Brian Shul’s tale is astounding. In 1948, Shul was born in Quantico, Virginia. He earned a history degree from East Carolina University in 1970. He enlisted in the Air Force that same year and went to Reese AFB in Texas for pilot training.
During the Vietnam War, Brian flew 212 close air support missions with Air America as a Foreign Air Advisor. In the final stages of the Vietnam War, he was shot down while conducting secret operations close to the Cambodian border. Not only did Shul survive the initial impact of his crash landing in the jungle, but he got trapped within his AT-28 aircraft’s burning cockpit. He was able to release himself just as his helmet visor started to melt and crawl out of the burning debris with severe burns. The downed pilot was taken by helicopter to a military hospital by a Special Operations Pararescue team from hostile territory, where it seemed unlikely he would survive his burns.
After a year and fifteen surgeries, Shul stunned the military community by recovering from his horrific injuries and passing all flight physical requirements to resume flying.
He applied to be an SR-71 Blackbird pilot after ten years of flying fighter jets. With steely nerves and a titanium pin in his finger, he joined the elite group of pilots qualified to pilot the renowned spy plane. Brian Shul is evidence that everything is achievable with the right attitude.
Photo by Brian Shul via Sleddriver.com and Captain Sam Brown