Evening Lectures - Ocala

Brian Shul

THE TALK: From Butterflies to Blackbirds

March 31, 2016


Brian Shul uses photos and stories as a vehicle to tell an inspired story of hope, overcoming obstacles and daring to dream. From lying near death in the jungles of Southeast Asia to flying the world’s fastest jet, Brian shares his amazing journey in an unforgettable presentation that not only reveals fascinating details of piloting the SR-71, but a meaningful message on life’s opportunities as well.


Born in Quantico, VA in 1948, Brian graduated East Carolina University in 1970 with a degree in History and Anthropology. Flying close air support missions in Viet Nam, he flew 212 missions before his aircraft was shot down. Severely burned in the crash he was given little chance of survival. He spent one year in hospitals, endured 15 reconstructive surgeries and after countless hours of physical therapy, Brian surprised his doctors and returned to flying jets. In addition, he flew the A-7D, and was in the first A-10 squadron, becoming an airshow demonstration pilot. Brian also taught at the Air Force’s TOPGUN School and culminated his Air Force career with selection to fly the world’s premier spy plane, the SR-71. This was a remarkable accomplishment considering that it required an astronaut physical to qualify for the plane that routinely flew above 95% of the earth’s atmosphere. Only 93 Air Force pilots in history ever flew the SR-71, still the fastest plane ever built. Brian flew the Blackbird for 4 years and was the pilot who provided key photos of Libyan terrorist camps to President Reagan during the Libyan Crisis in 1986 when he became the only SR-71 pilot ever to fly 3 missions in 3 consecutive days.

Brian retired from the Air Force in 1990, and pursued his writing interests. He wrote a book about flying the SR-71 and illustrated it with his own photography. It earned him the Aviation Book of the Year honors from the Smithsonian. He has written four other aviation books, for which he did all the flying, writing, and photography. He is the only man in America to have flown extensively with both the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels in the making of those books. His Sled Driver book on the SR-71 is today the single most popular book on that plane worldwide.

Brian’s remarkable comeback story has inspired audiences nationwide. He is a recipient of the National Spirit of Freedom Award, the prestigious Silver Eagle Award, and last summer was inducted into the Air Force Legends Hall of Fame. He finished his flying career with 5000 hours, having flown the T-28A/B/C, AT-28D, A-7D, A-10, F-5B, F-100, F-15, and SR-71. Brian is the owner of Gallery One in Marysville, California where his nationally acclaimed nature photography is on display.

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