A Q&A With Lieutenant Colonel BC Thomas

30/11/2020

Hello all, recently I had the amazing opportunity to talk to ex SR-71 pilot Lt Col BC Thomas. Hope you enjoy reading!

1) What made you want to join the Air Force?

Answer: I joined the Air Force because I wanted to be a military test pilot and fly as many different airplanes as possible. I also wanted to fly the most exotic airplanes, the newer, leading edge aircraft. I also wanted to make a difference, a positive contribution to the military and to the country.

2) What is your favourite moment/experience you've had flying?

Answer: My favourite experience was flying reconnaissance missions against valuable national targets, getting the information and following the flight plan flawlessly.

3) What is your favourite plane and why? 

Answer:  My favourite airplane is the SR-71, because the mission was deemed extremely important, the information we gathered was valuable, and the plane is still the fastest, highest-flying in the world, which is remarkable because we flew in the most adverse flying environment of any aircraft (high altitude, low ambient pressure of 0.25 psi, extreme heat whose average skin temperature is 610 degrees Fahrenheit. My second-favourite airplane is the F-104. It is a powerful single-engine fighter aircraft which was the first operational aircraft to exceed Mach 2. I flew the F-104 when I attended the USAF Test Pilot School.

4) What plane would you like to fly if you never flew the SR-71?

Answer: The airplane that I most regret not flying is the F-106. It holds the world's speed record for a single-engine aircraft. 

5) What would be your advice to anyone who may want to be an Air Force pilot in the future?

Ollie,

Our first correspondence was November 5, 2019 when you asked me to sign an SR-71 picture that you had. That quickly resulted in your asking me what qualifications I felt were important to become a pilot in the RAF.

I answered:

"Have you thought about what you want to do, seriously? Being a successful pilot (or anything else in general) usually requires a lot of thought and planning. You have to lead your life so to maximize your chances at fulfilling your dreams and ambitions. Age 14 is not too young to get serious about following a plan. I'm just asking if you are serious and if you have thought about what you want to do in life. You seem to be very interested in aviation, but that does not translate into a plan if you have none, or if you haven't thought about one. What are you studying in school, what interests are you finding outside of school?

You mentioned that you wanted to correspond with an SR-71 pilot-well, you are now, but I want to know more about you before committing myself to spend a lot of time doing it. If you just want a picture for your collection, sure, I can do that, but I sensed that you may be different from that. Maybe. 

If that is what you want to do, then do what is necessary to do it. Sounds simple, but it does require thinking, dedication, and personal discipline. And for you to have choices, it requires work. However, "work" is not drudgery if you love what you are doing--that may not be obvious to you now, but true nevertheless. If you want to hear some of my advice, I will share some with you, but you must be receptive and willing to learn, because I know what I'm talking about, and I don't want to waste time. Write back and I will see it later today."

Our early messages, properly rephrased, would be my answer to someone who said to me that they wanted to join the Air Force. I  told you that for the best possible results, you should see how much work is needed to be in the Military and in the Air Force in particular. You should know what is required, what is expected, the academic qualifications for the job, and the nature of the job. All of this sort of information is available on the internet. One of the best sources of information about what it's like to be in the Air Force is personal contact with someone who is doing (or has done) the job you would eventually like to do. Do not be intimidated or shy to call or visit persons in the military for advice; most are eager to share their thoughts and experiences with ambitious young people who want to emulate them. 

BC

I'd like to personally thank Lt Col BC Thomas for answering these questions, and in such great detail. For anyone reading this who would like to join the Air Force, go for it, and remember that advice!

Hope you all enjoyed reading!

Cheers!