Blackbird singing

blackbird2

Meet the SR-71 Blackbird — in my humble opinion, the most spectacular and beautiful plane ever built. I just stumbled across some rare photos of her and I still have goosebumps. It seems Lockheed Martin has published a book about the plane that includes some high resolution scans of old photos.

I saw a Blackbird once, at a great distance. Knowing it would be in the area that day making a stop at Tinker AFB, I kept scanning the skies. And sure enough, I spotted it. It was pretty far away, and never came closer, but there was no mistaking that silhouette.

And I remember fondly an old ’80s TV show, “Call to Glory” starring Craig T. Nelson, which featured the Blackbird. It only lasted a season or two, so apparently not everyone was enchanted by an airplane.

Anyway, those of you interested in the SR-71 might want to check out the photos, if not the accompanying history. And for those not interested, I’ll close with a quote from Major Brian Shul, who wrote about his experiences as a Blackbird pilot:

“… in 1990, confronted with budget cutbacks, the Air Force retired the SR-71.The Blackbird had outrun nearly 4,000 missiles [flying as high as 84,000 ft.], not once taking a scratch from enemy fire.

“On her final flight, the Blackbird, destined for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, sped from Los Angeles to Washington in 64 minutes, averaging 2,145 mph and setting four speed records.”

Now that’s flying.



Categories: History, Sci/Tech

26 replies

  1. Even in retirement, still the world’s fastest non-rocket powered airplane.

  2. After reading and seeing all those pictures makes wow look rather tame, what a great airplane I’d never heard of it to my everlasting shame and thats 50 years old I’m breathless it’s blown me away,

  3. Thanks for the links & such – one of my favorite things – have you read the book by Frank Rich on the Skunk Works? Great book by the 4th person hired by Kelly Johnston

    • Did you read the post the pilot wrote (actually excerpted from his book, I think)? His descriptions of the plane and its responsiveness were … riveting … beautiful. He didn’t need to say he loved that plane. It was obvious in his descriptions.

      No, I haven’t read Rich’s book, but I’ll look for it.

      • I read all the posts and the pictures – Yes the pilot both loved and was in awe of the plane – also built in the day of sliderules

        Titanamian (sp??) Was bought from Russia by the CIA

        • Really? I’ll bet the Russians regretted making that sale. But of course they had no reason at the time to think it would be used to build planes.

          • It was CIA front companies – Russia had not a clue what was going on

            Also the idea for the 117 stealth bomber came from an obscure only published in Russian physics journal – Skunk Works people told Kelly Johnson the plane would be stealth but the bad news was it would not be stable in flight and could not be controlled in flight – Kelly told them to build the plane anyway and he and the others would figure out how to control it

            So the 117 is unstable and the electronics keep the plane from crashing by making many small flight corrections every second

  4. It just occurred to me to look for videos about the Blackbird. Here’s an entire documentary:

  5. My husband had a pilot’s license for several years when he was younger. He would love this. I like to ride in a plane driven by someone else.

    • When I was little, my big brother was an Air Force pilot (SAC B-47s). Talk about hero worship! I dreamed of being a pilot too, but in those days about all a woman could do was aspire to becoming a stewardess. I’ve always loved flying, but the TSA and the airlines have taken every bit of the fun out of it.

  6. Of the great concept planes that actually saw real service, the Blackbird is most decidedly the top dog. But for shear awesome beauty, I’ll place my bet on the North American XB-70 Valkyrie!

    • I must admit that is a gorgeous plane and one I’d not seen before. Reminded me a bit of the Concorde at first glance. The Wikipedia article was fascinating. I didn’t know about compression lift, and it’s intriguing how this plane’s wingtips could drop down to take advantage of it. The collision/crash was tragic. And all because they wanted a photo op. Seems so senseless.

  7. Got to see a Valkyrie on static display at USAF museum in Dayton….. An awesome aircraft, but glad they gave up– so hard watching the documentary footage of the crashes. Agree, it reminds us of the Concorde… one is on static display in NYC on the deck of the USS Intrepid– tour goes inside & it is tiny with really thick windows so it wouldn’t have offered much of a view (blurry due to speed or distortion?) 🙂

    • I gathered from the Blackbird’s pilot’s description that looking out the window isn’t something they have much time to do. Too many instruments to keep an eye on. But at those altitudes, imagine what they must see. Pilots of one of these planes, or maybe both, were being recognized as astronauts because of the altitudes at which they flew. At what point does a pilot become an astronaut?

      • Just surmising, but commercial controlled airspace ends at FL600; the SR and others in the outer atmosphere and beyond would be pilots within the controlled altitudes, but astronauts above? The orange flight suits do look like astronauts more than the navy suits & white shirts of the typical air carrier pilot! Also something i have noticed is how thin and relatively short those fliers had to be… The average sized person today wouldn’t fit the seats or gear!

  8. “Love your Internet. Worship it. Give thanks every day for its existence.”
    AMEN!

“I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” ~ Cornel West

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