Colonel Thomas S. Pugh was selected for the SR-71 program and was transferred to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing in 1969. While assigned as an SR-71 pilot in both the 99th and the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadrons, he performed worldwide reconnaissance missions from overseas locations. He was selected for duty in the SR-71 Test Force at AFP-42, Palmdale, Ca. He served as Chief of the Flight Test Engineering Branch and Chief of the Flight Test Division.
With over 900 SR-71 flying Colonel Thomas S. Pugh was one of the high time SR-71 drivers.
On Oct. 15, 1973, while a member of Detachment 51 Flight Test at Palmdale, he earned a “Well Done” award for saving an SR-71 from certain destruction.
The text of the “Well Done” is reported by Lou Drendel in his book SR-71 Blackbird In Action and says:
“On takeoff, shortly after rotation and beyond the take-off abort point, the left engine surged, followed by progressive failure of the second stage turbine wheel.
Aircraft single-engine control at this point was marginal but the take-off was continued. After the aircraft was airborne and during gear retraction, a fire warning light illuminated and was followed by the total failure of the left-hand engine turbine section.
After safe single-engine speed was attained, the Commander completed engine shutdown. An intense fire in the left nacelle resulting from shrapnel damage to hydraulic, fuel and oil lines was extinguished during the shutdown procedure.
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Extensive damage occurred to the entire nacelle, fuselage and right rudder. Tower personnel confirmed that the fire was out. An elongated visual traffic pattern was flown in order to configure the aircraft for a single-engine landing.
Landing weight was reduced and alternate systems were activated to properly configure the aircraft. A smooth landing was accomplished without further damage to the aircraft.”
Colonel Thomas S. Pugh Biography
Pugh was born on Sep. 30, 1935, and after having flown the B-47 and the B-52, was selected for the SR-71 program and was transferred to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (SRW) in 1969.
Colonel Thomas Pugh is a command pilot with 6,000 flying hours which includes 735 hours in the SR-71. He has flown 121 combat missions and logged 907 combat hours in the B-52 and SR-71.
His military decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with nine Oak Leaf clusters, Air force Commendation medal with three Oak Leaf clusters. He is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the Order of Daedalions, and the Air Force Association, and the 15th Air Force Heritage Association.