Site Overlay

Lou Schalk

The Blackbird’s First Flight

The FIRST man to fly the Lockheed A-12 Blackbird. Lou Schalk, former chief test pilot for Lockheed Advanced Development Corporation (now Lockheed Martin Skunk Works), worked in secrecy on the development and test flying of the Blackbird airplane. The project was a top-secret CIA reconnaissance program and until recently much about this plane and its development was classified. Naturally some is still hidden in secrecy. Lou Schalk was one of the very few who worked with C. L. “Kelly” Johnson and the Lockheed Skunk Works team, in the middle of the Cold War, developing the Blackbird, STILL flying more than 35 years later!!

Lou Schalk graduated from West Point in 1948 and was commissioned in the Air Force. After completing flying school at Nellis AFB in September 1949, he was assigned to the 86th Fighter Bomber Wing in Germany. His duties brought him back to the United States for studies at the Pilot Instructor School at Craig AFB and nine months of instructing at Laredo AFB before enrolling at the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB. Graduating FIRST in his class at Test Pilot School, Lou was assigned to fighter operations at Edwards, where his instructors were Pete Everest and Chuck Yeager. Initially he completed the Instructor’s Gunnery Course at Nellis and was assigned to various test programs. In June 1957, after completing the Phase II tests on the Lockheed F-10 Starfighter, Lou joined Lockheed and became an engineering test pilot for Lockheed Aircraft. In 1959, he joined Kelly Johnson’s “Skunk Works” and became Chief Test Pilot for Lockheed’s Advanced Development Programs. Lou Schalk designed the cockpit and interfaced with the systems engineers on the A-12, YF-12 and SR-71 Blackbird prior to making the first thirteen flights on the A-12, which commenced on April 26, 1962. Continuing in the Blackbird program, he made the first four flights exceeding Mach 3.0 with a top speed of Mach 3.287 (2,287 mph) and subsequent flights above Mach 3.0 as the inlet, engine, and afterburner were fine-tuned for maximum efficiency. This testing was done at altitudes sometimes exceeding 90,000 feet. Lou left Lockheed’s flight test program and test flying in June 1964 to accept a position with the National Aeronautic Association in the Washington office, where he remained for ten years before resigning to devote full time to the field of real estate. In his career, he has flown 70 different aircraft, compiling 5,000 hours in ten years of engineering flight test. On rare occasions you might find a personal appearance of Lou talking before an audience and showing some rarely seen video of his and the A-12’s maiden flight, April 26, 1962. You can own a rare piece of history by purchasing this full color 20 x 16 poster print for a small price of $10 each (plus shipping and handling).