World's Fastest Formation

  • Aug 22, 2014 2:15pm GMT

When these images popped up on the net a couple months ago, some knew the photos were real, but many were skeptical. A note to acclaimed aviator, Skip Holm was in order to validate the images and provide a little insight as to how this formation came to be.

The following was submitted by Skip. Enjoy!

JEANNIE 69- the P-51 Unlimited Race Plane

Fastest Jet & Fastest Prop


Photo Flight – Jeannie & SR-71

After winning Reno 1981, and returning to Van Nuys, the whole Jeannie crew was fired up to keep flying the racer in an attempt to set other records as well as PR the plane. Bouncing varied ideas of how to PR the racer, we proposed concepts from Jeannie becoming a static display in the mall to giving rides in the “aft bunk”. However, we eventually approached what we today would call a “You-Tube” hair-brained plan whereby we would establish the “Jeannie Blazing Bullet Brand”; and thereby be able to market and establish Jeannie as the fastest reciprocating engine aircraft in the world.

This concocted plan was simple! Get the Lockheed SR-71 and Jeannie in formation, in the same photo, representing the fastest jet and the fastest prop in the universe.

This “The Fastest Prop and The Fastest Jet” one-liner inspiration, this scheme like challenge to even attempt this flight between diametrically different performance aircraft was typical of what we would have called a “brain-fart” idea in a fighter squadron. In a quick look at the SR-71 profile coming off Edwards AFB or Palmdale Air Force Plant 42, we knew we would have to have a full-up race engine, with available race power of 120 to 125 inches manifold pressure in order to maintain formation flight with the 450 knot departing and climbing SR-71. But “brain-farts”, being what they are, have a way of settling in, so we advanced this concept and in short order, were now committed down this road at full speed, with an associated PR move meant to catapult us into the next big show, an attempt at the low altitude speed record! But first -- how to get this SR formation flight to structurally work.

Our thought process was the KISS concept -- Keep It Simple, Stupid! Simply put -- get the Skunk Works’ bosses from Ken Weir on down to realize the possibility of Jeannie, an Air Force aircraft, becoming the fastest prop aircraft to set the low altitude speed record (and other noteworthy speed events); with the plan of Jeannie eventually ending up in the Smithsonian, taking the place of Greenamyer’s Bear Cat. A one-upmanship of the Air Force over the Navy! Logic said that Bill Park, the Skunk Works Director of Flight Ops, would definitely understand that Jeannie in a SR-71 formation photo, could become known as the fastest prop in the world, in all regimes in the prop category. So, with that insight, we set out first to convince Bill Parks, and then with him on board, on to all the Skunk Works management. The mission statement: Get the SR-71 and Jeannie on the same billboard – “The Fastest Prop and The Fastest Jet”.