Top secret

Although Phil wonders if the local blogosphere is fading (I’ll have more to say about that on another day), it’s still a marvelous thing. Bloggers sometimes talk past each other a little, but sometimes nonsequiturs can produce serendipitous results.

The other day, Sean Kirst posted on his blog about a hairy plane trip he recently took. He asked readers to share their own scary flight experiences. I’m kind of sheepish to admit I haven’t flown since I was a teenager. All of my long-distance travel since then has either been by car or train. I honestly don’t know if I could hack a flight these days, or put up with the stupid human tricks they make you do at the airport in this modern age. But when you’re a kid, you have no fear.

Anyhow, nothing scary at all happened on my last flight, which was in the spring of 1982 to Washington, D.C. I wouldn’t have even recalled the flight at all unless someone else had blogged about memorable plane trips… when suddenly I remembered something unusual did happen on this flight: we had a somewhat close encounter with another plane. But not just any plane… a very unusual plane, jet black and going much faster than we were. I don’t know how far off it was, but it was probably a little closer than it should have been, right at our same altitude up above the clouds. I never saw a skinny black plane like that before, so when I got back home I drew a picture of it and asked my dad (who had been in the Air Force, though not as a pilot) what it might have been. He took one look at my drawing and said, “SR-71 Blackbird.” (aka the world’s fastest spy plane, capable of crossing the Atlantic in under two hours — now decommissioned.)

Well, cool — if true. There was no way of knowing for certain (and I had trouble believing an SR-71 would be just hanging around commercial airspace) and so I promptly forgot about this for 25 years until the other day, when I recalled my last plane trip and 10 seconds of a fleeting memory. The weirdest thing about the Internet and its effect on the way we live, is that if you have time to kill (I don’t, but…) you can research almost any memory with alarming ease, and either confirm it somehow, or finally debunk a faulty impression you might have cherished for decades. Anyhow, it’s amazing what’s out there in the public domain these days — even certain details on formerly classified spy plane flights, complete with names and sortie dates and the identifying numbers of the actual planes. It’s strange, but with a little bit more research I may pin down positive confirmation not only if I saw an SR-71 on that particular date (from a very rare civilian vantage point), but possibly also which exact plane it was, what it was doing, and where it is now.

That’s just weird.