SR-71 #61-7974 in formation with T-38 #64-13721.  The T-38 has been retired and is now on display at Castle Air Museum. - USAF photo via Tony Landis

Same aircraft as above, only from the opposite side. - USAF photo via Phil Loignon

Crew Chief Don Person, shown here just after putting the finishing touches on 974's new tail art (the famous "Ichi Ban" design). - photo via Don Person

974 was one of the first 3 SR-71s deployed to Kadena AFB in 1968, and had flown the most "habu" missions (operational sorties) of those 3 at the end of their first rotation.  She was given this paint scheme to show the people back at Beale just who the #1 blackbird was ("Ichi Ban" meaning number one in the local language).  The large 1 with the habu snake wrapped around it would later be used on other airframes as well, but "Ichi Ban" was always associated with 974 only.

Don Person showing off the newest "habu" representing an operational sortie.  Crews who accumulated 5 habus were considered aces. - photo via Don Person, scanned by Denis Doner

George Bull getting his tie cut by crew chief Don Person
Pilot George Bull getting his tie cut by Bill Gornik, with 974 in the background - photo by Don Person, scanned by Dennis Doner

After a crew completed their first operational sortie, it was their crew chief's duty to cut their ties and hang them on the ceremonial staff.  Here Don Person performs the ritual on George Bull (above) and Red McNeer (below) on September 8, 1968, after bringing 974 back from their first habu mission.  John Stone has published Bill Gornick's memoir on the birth of this tradition; click here to read the full story.

Red McNeer gets his tie cut by Don Person; photos courtesy Don Person and Dennis Doner
RSO Red McNeer getting his tie cut by Bill Gornik after deplaning 974 - photo by Don Person, scanned by Dennis Doner


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