Author of SR-71's most stolen picture explains how he got the shot of the ultimate Blackbird super-low knife edge pass

Author of SR-71’s most stolen picture explains how he got the shot of the ultimate Blackbird super-low knife edge pass

By Robin Harbour
May 23 2019
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“The photo in this post came about because my young nephew at the time, was madly interested in aeroplanes, particularly Blackbird,” Robin Harbour.

Although I’ve never made any money from my photographs, I have always been aware of copyright issues and feel that every photograph should carry the photographers name with it as proof of “ownership”.  Sadly the internet is a place where some people think they can come along and freely “steal” both your images and words.

Until a couple of years ago, I had never really worried about anyone “stealing” my photographs from Facebook.  I first became aware that someone had “stolen” the photograph in this post in 2016, after I had posted it on one of the Facebook aircraft groups, when someone alerted me to it having been re-posted on a “fast jet” site without any mention of myself as its photographer.  I contacted the “thief” and also the half-dozen or so administrators of the site, only two of the admin team bothered to answer and apologise and said that they would have words, but I never heard back from said “thief”.

Then, earlier this year I came across my photo with a link to an article published on The Aviation Geek Club, it was being used in a totally unconnected article about a low-flying Blackbird. After Dario Leone, the founder of The Aviation Geek Club’s, told me it is quite popular, I was stunned.

Author of SR-71's most stolen picture explains how he got the shot of the ultimate Blackbird super-low knife edge pass
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

I discovered that my photo has been re-posted many times over (all without my name attached to it, and in one case someone else claiming copyright) on Pinterest, Reddit, a fighter jet site, Imgur, Folio olio and Tumblr – and those are just the ones that Google has found, some of the posts have many more people saying that they are going to re-post it too, sadly only The Aviation Geek Club has since acknowledged my copyright of this photograph and added my name as copyright owner.

The actual photograph came about because my young nephew at the time, was madly interested in aeroplanes, particularly Blackbird.  In late 1989 I discovered that the penultimate Blackbird that was to leave the UK on its return to the US was to be on Jan. 9, 1990.  I fancied the idea of going along to photograph it, as I would obviously never see it at an air show again.  I then asked my sister if my then 10 year old nephew would like to go too.  Yes came the answer, that was it, we were going.

We set off early on the 9th and as we were travelling along the Northampton ring road I spotted a school bus, “are you supposed to be in school?” I asked.  “Yes” came the reply, “but mom’s phoning in to say I’m off sick”.  It hadn’t even crossed my mind.  Once at Mildenhall we set ourselves up along one of the fences and waited.  The plane took off and did two or three low passes before heading for home, my much re-posted photograph is of his last pass.  Just to make his day, I then took my nephew to IWM Duxford, where another of his favourites resided, Concorde.  I’m not sure how he kept his mouth shut about his “sickie”, but we both had an enjoyable day out and the time off never did him any harm, as he now has an MA in English Literature, and is the Senior Editor of an international publishing house and editor of numerous science-based journals.

Author of SR-71's most stolen picture explains how he got the shot of the ultimate Blackbird super-low knife edge pass
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: Robin Harbour

Artwork courtesy of

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  1. MotorCitySarge says:

    I admin one of the largest SR-71 Blackbird groups on Facebook.
    This photographer needs to get over himself. He has no clue as to how many of us have had our photographs of the Blackbirds that were snatched and used on the internet and media print before his picture and Facebook!!
    I’ve seen my photographs of the Blackbirds from the late ’70s still floating around many more times than his one print. It never bothered me, just made me proud.

  2. Robin Harbour Author says:

    Whilst I am proud that people think my picture is worthy of re-posting, what annoys me is when it is re-posted without my name attached, that is theft of intellectual property, which I believe is a crime, and the one person that attached another name as copyright holder, more so.

    Do I take it “MotorCitySarge” that your pictures have your name included, if not, no-one else knows the pictures you take. I wonder if anyone has posted my picture on your site, don’t you ever wonder where they come from, or are you satisfied with “from Google”. Would you like to be paid for your picture if someone else makes money off it by including it (without your name) in a book?

    The reason the above article is here, is because after hearing the story, Dario asked me to put it into print, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bothered, unless of course I found a copy in a book.

  3. bcthomas says:

    OK, may I post this picture on someone’s website? Do I just have to say that Robin Harbour was the photographer?

    • Dario Leone says:

      Sir, are you B.C. Thomas former SR-71 pilot? If so I am hored you are reading our stories! Anyway I do believe that you can use the photo by giving Robin Harbour proper credit and including a link to this article so that people know the story behind his unique photo.

    • Robin Harbour Author says:

      Mr Thomas,

      You have my permission to re-post my photograph on another site, as you mention, all I ask is that you include my name as the photographer. I would also be grateful for a link to this new posting.

      If you are the BC Thomas that Dario asks about, I am very honoured that you are interested in my photograph.

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