Remembering Marta Bohn-Meyer, the only woman to fly in the SR-71 Blackbird as a crewmember

Remembering Marta Bohn-Meyer, the only woman to fly in the SR-71 Blackbird as a crewmember

By Linda Sheffield Miller
Mar 6 2024
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The SR-71 Blackbird

In the 1960’s, the US Air Force (USAF) developed the SR-71 Blackbird, a plane that could travel more than 3 times as fast as the sound produced by its own engines.

SR-71 T-Shirts
CLICK HERE to see The Aviation Geek Club contributor Linda Sheffield’s T-shirt designs! Linda has a personal relationship with the SR-71 because her father Butch Sheffield flew the Blackbird from test flight in 1965 until 1973. Butch’s Granddaughter’s Lisa Burroughs and Susan Miller are graphic designers. They designed most of the merchandise that is for sale on Threadless. A percentage of the profits go to Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base. This nonprofit charity is personal to the Sheffield family because they are raising money to house SR-71, #955. This was the first Blackbird that Butch Sheffield flew on Oct. 4, 1965.

Throughout its nearly 24-year career, the SR-71 spy plane remained the world’s fastest and highest-flying operational aircraft. Flying at Mach 3+ from 80,000 feet, it could survey 100,000 square miles of Earth’s surface per hour. And in the off chance an enemy tried to shoot it down with a missile, all the Blackbird had to do was speed up and outrun it.

Marta Bohn-Meyer, the only woman who flew aboard the legendary SR-71 Blackbird as a crewmember

The photos in this post features Marta Bohn-Meyer, the only woman who flew aboard the legendary SR-71 Blackbird as a crewmember.

Born in 1957, Marta Bohn-Meyer began her work in aerospace as a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York in the late 1970s. According to Cosmosphere Blog, for three years, she participated in a cooperative research and education program the school held at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

When she finished school, she joined NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center (then Dryden) as an aeronautical research and operations engineer. She would eventually rise to the post of chief engineer after 22 years at this same location, after a series of roles with increasing responsibility, including:

Remembering Marta Bohn-Meyer, the only woman to fly in the SR-71 Blackbird as a crewmember
Beginning in her teen years, Marta Bohn-Meyer’s favorite place was in and around airplanes both at work and while off duty. She was an accomplished private pilot and flight engineer, and was the first female crew member to fly at Mach 3 in the SR-71.
  • Project manager for the F-16 XL Supersonic Laminar Flow Control
  • Deputy director of aerospace projects
  • Director of safety and mission assurance
  • Director of flight operations

Time in the SR-71B with the stick piloting the iconic HABU

In 1991, Bohn-Meyer became the first woman to crew the triple-sonic SR-71 Blackbird. She was assigned as a NASA flight engineer and had been with NASA twelve years by then. Her role was to help NASA obtain high-speed, high-altitude data to improve future aircraft design. The only other woman to have flown in the famously fast plane was Congresswoman Beverly Byron who rode as a VIP guest in 1985.

Bohn-Meyer (who was married to NASA test pilot Bob Mayer) not only flew the Blackbird as Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO) but she also had time in the SR-71B with the stick piloting the iconic HABU.

The story of Marta Bohn-Meyer, the only woman to fly in the SR-71 Blackbird as a crewmember
Marta Bohn-Meyer, Dryden’s chief engineer at the time of her recent death, celebrates her successful 1991 first flight at triple supersonic speeds in the SR-71 Blackbird. Bohn-Meyer was one of two women ever to fly in the storied aircraft and the only one to do so as a crew member; Congresswoman Beverly Byron took a guest VIP ride in 1985. 

Only woman who flew aboard the legendary SR-71 Blackbird as a crewmember passing away

Widely known as a precision aerobatic pilot, Bohn-Meyer died on Sep. 18, 2005, when the Giles G-300 she flew in an aerobatic practice routine crashed near Oklahoma City.

Retired NASA deputy administrator Fred Gregory recalls being first assigned to mentor her when she began at Langley as a student:

“She was smart, detail-oriented, opinionated and professional well beyond her age.”

Kevin Petersen, director for Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center at the time of her passing, remarked on Bohn-Meyer’s “strength and her commitment to all she pursued.”

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

“We committed lives to this person’s judgment every day; she was the last line of defense against complacency. And she never let me—or Dryden—down.”

Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Facebook Pages Habubrats and Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.

Photo credit: NASA

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

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Linda Sheffield Miller

Linda Sheffield Miller

Grew up at Beale Air Force Base, California. I am a Habubrat. Graduated from North Dakota State University. Former Public School Substitute Teacher, (all subjects all grades). Member of the DAR (Daughters of the Revolutionary War). I am interested in History, especially the history of SR-71. Married, Mother of three wonderful daughters and four extremely handsome grandsons. I live near Washington, DC.

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