Richard James Work Experience

United States Air Force

15th Avionics Maintenance Wing

Avionics/Instrument Systems Specialist


SR71 Blackbird
SR-71 "Blackbird"

I was assigned to support SR-71 Blackbirds, U2 Dragon Ladies, KC-135 Stratotankers, and T-38 Talons at Beale Air Force Base. My mission was to maintain, repair and upgrade instrumentation and flight-control systems. The SR-71 in particular was an aircraft unique in every respect which required learning and developing skills unrelated to all other aircraft. The Engineer who invented and developed the aircraft, Kelly Johnson, offered $50.00 to anyone who could name a single component on the aircraft that didn't have to be invented specifically for the SR-71. No one ever claimed the $50.00.

SR71 Blackbird
Cockpit of the SR-71

Support for this platform often required deployment to forward operating areas such as Kadena, Japan; Mildenhall, England; and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The mission required Secret security clearance for all personnel associated with maintenance and operations.

Support of the U2 Reconnaisance mission required deployment to Osan Air Base in South Korea.

Staff Sergeant
U2 "Dragon Lady"

I accepted an assignment to support T-33 Shooting Star, HH-53 Jolly Green Giant and JC-130H "Satellite Catcher" aircraft at Hickam Air Force Base Hawaii. I was chosen to participate in an "incentive flight" program by my base commander and was fortunate enough to "slip the surly bonds of Earth" in a single-engine jet fighter where I was permitted to pilot the aircraft for a portion of the sortie--a rare priviledge.During this assignment I was selected to serve in the Honor Guard that received Ronald Reagan during his trip to China.