“Working almost daily on the SR-71 was quite the inspiration, and in 1986, I decided to finally draw a poster of this amazing aircraft,” Master Sgt. Russ Maheras, US Air Force (Retired)
I started drawing comics in the late 1960s, and made my first professional sale in 1974. Originally, I planned on making comics a career, and throughout most of the 1970s I had a variety of blue collar “day jobs” while I learned my craft and honed my drawing skills.
However, as 1978 came to a close, and I learned how difficult life was for the typical freelance artist, it became clear to me that I needed to find a different career path to support myself and grow as a person. So in 1978, I joined the U.S. Air Force to learn electronics and become an aircraft electronic warfare systems (EWS) technician.
After my initial training was completed, I was assigned to RAF Bentwaters in England to work on the then brand-new A-10 Warthog. From there I was reassigned to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., where I worked on EWS equipment for both the U-2 Dragon Lady and the SR-71 Blackbird.
In 1985, I was reassigned to Detachment 1, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, the highly decorated SR-71 unit strategically located at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. My artistic skills were regularly utilized at every assigned unit, and Det. 1 was no exception.
During my tour there, I drew a variety of official and unofficial Blackbird-related illustrations for leadership, peers, and myself. Working almost daily on the SR-71 was quite the inspiration, and in 1986, I decided to finally draw a poster of this amazing aircraft, which Okinawans had long ago nicknamed “Habu” because its color and distinctive chines reminded them of a poisonous cobra on the island of the same name.
I hope you enjoy the image as much as my peers did back in 1986, when the mighty Mach 3+ Blackbird still ruled the Pacific skies. As for drawing, I’ve never stopped, and I still regularly create new material to this very day.
Photo credit: Master Sgt. Russ Maheras, US Air Force (Retired) and Tech. Sgt. Michael Haggerty / U. S. Air Force