SR 71 model

Probably Fr. Hesburgh’s favorite story, which former President Jimmy Carter told at the recent memorial tribute. Carter recalled how he made the mistake in 1979 of asking Fr. Hesburgh if there was anything he could do for him. Fr. Hesburgh told Carter he wanted a ride on a SR-71 supersonic reconnaissance jet, known as the Blackbird. "I said, `Father Hesburgh, it's not customary for civilians to ride on top-secret aircraft,'" Carter said. "He said, `That's all right. I thought you were commander in chief.'" Hesburgh had said he passed the astronaut fitness test to take the flight, which set a new speed record of Mach 3.5, and flew from Sacramento to Denver and Seattle and back in about 45 minutes. Very few people on earth have traveled faster, and it was one of the thrills of his life.