I really like this story, from an SR-71 Blackbird pilot:
A Cessna pilot asked Los Angeles Center for a read-out of his ground speed. Center replied: ''November Charlie 175, I'm showing you at ninety knots on the ground.'' Now the thing to understand about Center controllers, was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional tone that made one feel important.
Just moments after the Cessna's inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed in Beech. ''I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.'' Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren.
Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. ''Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check.'' ''Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.'' And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be doneâin mere seconds we'll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now.
Then, I heard itâthe click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: ''Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?'' There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request.
''Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.'' I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: ''Ah, Center, much thanks, we're showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.''
We finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Center voice, when L.A. came back with, ''Roger that Aspen. Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.'' A fine day's work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.