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The SR-71 Blackbird
The SR-71, the most advanced member of the Blackbird family that included the A-12 and YF-12, was designed by a team of Lockheed personnel led by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, then vice president of Lockheed’s Advanced Development Company Projects, commonly known as the “Skunk Works” and now a part of Lockheed Martin.
The Blackbird design originated in secrecy during the late 1950s with the A-12 reconnaissance aircraft that first flew in April 1962 and remained classified until 1976. President Lyndon Johnson publicly announced the existence of the YF-12A interceptor variant on Feb. 29, 1964, more than half a year after its maiden flight. The SR-71 completed its first flight on Dec. 22, 1964.
The Blackbird was designed to cruise at “Mach 3+,” just over three times the speed of sound or more than 2,200 miles per hour and at altitudes up to 85,000 feet.
The incredible speed of the SR-71 Blackbird
So, it comes as no surprise if, thanks to its astonishing flight characteristics, the aircraft has set numerous speed and altitude records throughout its career.
To give a real perspective of the incredible speed the iconic Blackbird could attain, SR-71 pilot David Peters tells the following, fabulous story.
‘We were TDY to Det. 1 at Kadena AB, Okinawa. One of the birds was scheduled for swap out and my back seater, Ed Bethart, and I were to fly it home. The replacement came in on Friday and we were to leave Saturday morning. So, in true Habu tradition we welcomed the incoming crew and went to happy hour Friday evening at the officers’ club.
A true story
‘We got up Saturday morning and got ready to go home. Departure was scheduled for 1000. Everything went well and we departed right on time. Headed out to do a pass through the Korean DMZ then into the tankers in the Sea of Japan. Good refueling and climb out headed for the Sea of Okhotsk and the Kamchatka peninsula of Russia and from there to more tankers off of Adak in the Aleutian Islands. Another good refueling and on to Beale AFB California.
‘We arrived with a low approach pulled up into a closed pattern and landed. Following de-suiting and debrief we deposited our classified flight documents jumped in a car and arrived at the officers club for Friday night happy hour at 1630 17 1/2 hours before we left Kadena.
‘Try that in any aircraft other than the SR-71. Besides this is actually a true story.’
Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Twitter Page Habubrats SR-71 and Facebook Page Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.
Photo credit: David Peters and U.S. Air Force