Discover the incredible life of Brian Shul, a retired Air Force major who defied the odds after being shot down in Vietnam and later piloted the world’s fastest and highest-altitude jet. Follow his remarkable journey from survival to soaring through the skies, capturing breathtaking photos along the way.
Brian Shul, an exceptional fighter pilot, passed away at the age of 75. Surviving a difficult incident during the Vietnam War, Shul went on to achieve remarkable feats in aviation, including flying the world’s fastest spy plane. Join us as we honor his strong spirit and the lasting impact he leaves behind.
Born on February 8, 1948, in Quantico, Virginia, Brian Robert Shul developed a deep love for flying at a young age. At 9 years old, he witnessed the impressive performance of the Navy’s Blue Angels during an air show, which sparked a lifelong connection between him and the sky.
In 1970, Shul graduated from East Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in history and joined the Air Force. During the Vietnam War, he served as a foreign air adviser and conducted support missions alongside the CIA’s Air America.
Tragedy struck when Shul’s T-28 Trojan ground attack jet was hit by small-arms fire, causing it to crash-land in the Vietnamese jungle near the Cambodian border in 1974. Despite sustaining severe injuries, he underwent 15 surgeries and a long recovery, defying the odds and regaining his strength.
Shortly after being discharged from the hospital, against doctors’ predictions that he would never walk again, Shul defied expectations and returned to flying. He continued his military career and eventually piloted the SR-71, an iconic aircraft known as the Blackbird.
The SR-71 was used for important reconnaissance missions, monitoring Soviet nuclear submarines and missile sites. It held the record for being the highest-flying jet in the world, capable of reaching speeds over three times the speed of sound and soaring to 85,000 feet. It could cover 100,000 square miles of the Earth’s surface in just one hour.
In his book “Sled Driver: Flying the World’s Fastest Jet” (1991), Major Shul beautifully described the deep connection he felt with the SR-71. He saw it as a fusion of titanium, fuel, stick, and throttles – a living entity with its own unique personality.
During his four years piloting the Blackbird, Shul accumulated 2,000 hours of flight time. He documented his experiences through captivating photos, some of which he included in “Sled Driver” and other books he authored, such as “The Untouchables” (1994), “Summer Thunder” (1994), and “Blue Angels: A Portrait of Gold” (1995).
Shul’s passion extended beyond aviation, as he also excelled as a photographer specializing in aviation and nature. He even ran a photo studio in Marysville, Northern California, where he pursued his artistic endeavors.
Brian Shul’s journey serves as an inspiration to us all. Through his resilience and determination, he overcame immense challenges and accomplished extraordinary feats. He showed us the power of pursuing our dreams, even when faced with adversity.
On May 20, in Reno, Nevada, Brian Shul passed away due to cardiac arrest. His sister, Maureen Shul, remembers him as a survivor, a label he humbly embraced. Let us honor his memory and celebrate the life of a true hero who touched the skies and our hearts.