Impressive photo shows disassembled M-21 Blackbird being transported to the Museum of Flight in Seattle

Impressive photo shows disassembled M-21 Blackbird being transported to the Museum of Flight in Seattle

By Dario Leone
Jun 27 2021
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The Museum’s M-21 Blackbird first flew in 1964 and is the sole surviving example of its type.

Taken in 1991, the impressive picture in this post features disassembled M-21 Blackbird being transported to the Museum of Flight in Seattle. The aircraft was put together under a tent in the gravel parking lot that is now the Museum’s Wings Café.

The M-21 is the first of the rare two-seat variants of the early A-12. Built for a CIA program code-named “Tagboard,” the M-21 carried an unpiloted D-21 drone for intelligence gathering. These drones were intended for launch from the M-21 “mothership” for flights over hostile territories. The Lockheed M-21 Blackbird mothership was designated M/D-21s when the D-21 “daughter” drone was mounted on top. Design features of the M-21 include the second seat for the Launch Control Officer and the launch pylon on which the drone is mounted. Two M-21 airframes were manufactured; the second was lost in a D-21 launch accident in 1966 during the fourth flight test.

Actually, the D-21 experienced an “asymmetric unstart” as it passed through the bow wake of the M-21 causing the mothership to pitch up and collide with the D-21 at Mach 3.25. Crewmembers Bill Park and Ray Torick ejected from the M-21, but Torick’s flight suit became ripped and filled with water when he plunged into the ocean where he drowned.

After the accident, the M-21 launch program was cancelled but testers still believed the D-21 would make a valuable reconnaissance vehicle and decided to launch the drone from B-52Hs under a top-secret test program named Tagboard. The new code name for the D-21 project became Senior Bowl.

The Museum’s M-21 first flew in 1964 and is the sole surviving example of its type. According to the Museum of Flight website, the Blackbird was acquired in 1991 and, with its mounted D-21 drone, is the centerpiece aircraft of the Great Gallery.

This aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

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This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

Photo credit: unknown


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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