Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: March 26, 2009

Robert Gilliland USAF

Speaker Photo

Meet Bob Gilliland, the first test pilot for the SR-71 “Blackbird” Come meet and listen to Bob Gilliland, the first test pilot for the SR-71 “Blackbird” Aircraft Series. He has logged more experimental supersonic flight test time above Mach 2 and Mach 3 than any other pilot. Bob Gilliland was only 17 years old when he joined the U.S. Navy during WWII and he served on various warships. After the war, he joined the U.S. Air Force where he soloed in the T-6 and continued to fly the F-8O Shooting Star, the P-47 Thunderbolt and the F-84 Thunderjet. In 1952 he went on a combat tour in Korea flying the F-84. When he came back he had the opportunity to fly most of the aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory as a test pilot at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. After he retired from active service, he joined the Tennessee Air National Guard where he flew the P-51, B-26, RF-80, RF-84 and the F-104A. In 1960 he joined Lockheed as a civilian test pilot flying all models of the F- 104 Starfighter. He worked closely with the Air Forces of many different countries and he made the first flight of the Fiat-Aeritalia F-104S produced in Italy under license from Lockheed. Bob went on to test the fastest and highest flying airplanes ever built, including the A-12, YF-12A, and the SR-71. He was the first and principal test pilot for the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. He made the first flight of the SR-71 right before Christmas 1964, when he flew it for one hour and over 1,000 mph, taking the aircraft to mach 1.5 and 50,000 feet altitude. As the SR-71 program continued to grow, Gilliland continued to be the first pilot to fly each Blackbird as it became operational, logging more experimental supersonic flight test-time above Mach 2 and Mach 3 than any other pilot. Bob is now retired after he logged over 6,500 hours in many different aircraft, including the F-104, F-84, F-86, T-6, P-47, FY-12A, and SR-71. You will have the opportunity to meet Bob in person at the Golden Gate Wing’s dinner meeting in March as he speaks about his experiences. Thursday March 26, at 6.30 PM Naval Air Station (NAS) Alameda, CA Building 77 at Alameda Point.