Many of you are aware of the amazing writings of Major Brian Shul, Sled Driver. but how many of you are aware of what he faced before being selected as one of the aeronautical untouchables?
During the Vietnam War, Brian Shul was flying close air support missions in conjunction with Air America. Near the end of the war, Shul's AT-28 aircraft received extensive damage due to enemy fire near the Cambodian border. Unable to eject from his aircraft, and unable to maintain altitude, Shul forced his crippled aircraft into the jungle, and managed to keep most of the aircraft in one piece. Unfortunately, he suffered severe burns over most of his body in the ensuing fireball. Crawling from the burning wreckage, he was finally found and rescued by an Air Force Pararescue team.
He was evacuated to a military hospital in Okinawa where he was not expected to live. Narrowly surviving 2 months in the intensive care unit, and eventually flown to the Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. During the following year, he underwent 15 major operations. Although enduring and fighting his way through each step of rehabilitation, Shul was told time and time again by physicians that there was zero chance of him ever flying again. According to his physicians, Shul was simply lucky to be alive.
Shul never allowed the words of his Flight Surgeons deter him, and with extensive and intensive months of physical therapy that followed, Shul in his un deterrable dedication, eventually passed the flight crew physical and returned to full active flying duty for the United States Air Force.
Two days after being released from the hospital, Brian was back flying an Air Force fighter jet.
As a true testament to his amazing resilience, Brian Shul in his final assignment of his career, volunteered for and was selected to fly the SR-71 Blackbird. This assignment required the most difficult, demanding, and restrictive astronaut type physical just to qualify, and Shul managed a pass with no waivers.
Brian Shul became a Sled Driver!
For us, a small note of irony, Major Shul made a USAF safety video titled "Sierra Hotel" in which he described his crash ordeal in explicit detail in order to motivate other USAF pilots to be more safety conscious and teaching them how to better survive such incidents.