Brian Shul

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Brian Shul
Brian Shul, self-portrait, SR-71 Blackbird.jpg
Brian Shul in the cockpit of the SR-71 Blackbird
Born 1948
Quantico, Virginia
Allegiance United States United States of America
Roundel of the USAF.svg United States Air Force
Years of service 1970 - 1990
Rank Major
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Other work Aerial photographer

Brian Shul (born 1948), is a Vietnam War-era attack pilot and a retired major in the United States Air Force (USAF). He flew 212 combat missions and was shot down near the end of the war. He was so badly burned that he was given next to no chance to live. Surviving, he returned to full flight status, flying the SR-71 Blackbird. Major Brian Shul completed a 20-year career in the Air Force. He has written four books on aviation and runs a photo studio in Marysville, California.[1]


Brian Shul was born in Quantico, Virginia, in 1948. He graduated from Radford High School in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1966 and from East Carolina University in 1970 with a degree in History. That same year he joined the Air Force and attended pilot training at Reese AFB in Texas.

Shul served as a Foreign Air Advisor in the Vietnam War, flying 212 close air support missions in conjunction with Air America. Near the end of all hostilities, his AT-28 aircraft was shot down near the Cambodian border. Unable to eject from the aircraft, Shul was forced to crash land into the jungle. After surviving, he suffered severe burns in the ensuing fireball. Crawling from the burning wreckage, he was finally found and rescued by an Air Force Combat Control Team.

He was evacuated to a military hospital in Okinawa where he was expected to die. Barely surviving 2 months of intensive care, in 1974 he was flown to the Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. During the following year, he underwent 15 major operations. During this time he was told by physicians that he’d never fly again and was lucky to be alive. Months of physical therapy followed, enabling Shul to eventually pass a flight physical and return to active flying duty.

Two days after being released from the hospital, Brian was back flying Air Force fighter jet aircraft. He went on to fly the A-7D, and was then selected to be a part of the first operational A-10 squadron at Myrtle Beach, SC, where he was on the first A-10 air show demonstration team. After a tour as an A-10 Instructor Pilot at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, he went on to instruct at the Air Force’s Fighter Lead-In School as the Chief of Air-to-Ground Academics. As a final assignment in his career, Shul volunteered for and was selected to fly the SR-71. This assignment required an astronaut type physical just to qualify, and Shul passed with no waivers. Shul’s comeback story from lying near dead in the jungle of Southeast Asia, to later flying the world’s fastest, highest flying jet, has been the subject of numerous magazine articles.[citation needed] Shul also made an Air Force safety video titled "Sierra Hotel" (with the title referring to the phonetic alphabet code for the military aviator slang expletive "Shit Hot") where 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.[citation needed]

After 20 years and 5000 hours in fighter jets, Shul retired from the Air Force in 1990 and went on to pursue his writing and photographic interests. In addition to running his own photo studio in northern California, he has authored seven books on flying and flight photography. His first two books (Sled Driver: Flying The World's Fastest Jet[2] and The Untouchables[3]) are about flying the SR-71 Blackbird and give the reader a first-hand account of being in the cockpit of the world’s fastest jet. Shul’s third and fourth books are about America’s air demonstration teams, the Navy Blue Angels, in Blue Angels: A Portrait of Gold,[4] and the Air Force Thunderbirds, in Summer Thunder[5] and contain aerial images which take the reader into the dynamic formations of these world famous teams. In 1997, Shul released his fifth book, Eagle Eyes : Action Photography from the Cutting Edge,[6] which is a collection of his in-flight photos. He has also released special, revised editions of both Sled Driver and The Untouchables.

Shul has spoken at numerous functions nationwide on his experiences.[7] Shul has also been honored as an Outstanding Alumnus from East Carolina University. He owns Gallery One, a photo studio in northern California, and divides his time between writing, photography, public speaking, and backpacking in the high Sierra.[8]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Shul, Brian (1994). Sled Driver: Flying The World's Fastest Jet. Lickle Pub Inc. p. 151. ISBN 0929823087. 
  3. ^ Shul, Brian (1994). The Untouchables. Mach One. p. 216. ISBN 0929823125. 
  4. ^ Shul, Brian (1994). Blue Angels: A Portrait of Gold. Mach One. p. 216. ISBN 0929823400. 
  5. ^ Shul, Brian (1994). Summer Thunder. Lickle Pub Inc. p. 160. ISBN 0929823133. 
  6. ^ Shul, Brian (1997). Eagle Eyes : Action Photography from the Cutting Edge--The Best of the Best from the First Decade of Mach 1. Mach One. p. 180. ISBN 0929823230. 
  7. ^
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