SR-71 Blackbird

The SR-71 Blackbird Crew Members Survival Kit included a very rare Aluminum Gun (the Gun was made in Aluminum to keep it Lightweight)

Although no SR-71 was ever shot down, Blackbird’s pilots and RSOs had a survival kit fitted with several non-traditional items.

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.

The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” was a long-range, Mach 3+, strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft.

The first flight of an SR-71 took place on Dec. 22, 1964, and the first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in January 1966.

The Blackbird was in a different category from anything that had come before. “Everything had to be invented. Everything,” Skunk Works legendary aircraft designer Kelly Johnson recalled in an interesting article appeared on Lockheed Martin website.

During its career, the SR-71 Blackbird gathered intelligence in some of the world’s most hostile environments. In fact, although no SR-71 was ever shot down, Blackbird’s pilots and RSOs had a survival kit fitted with several non-traditional items.

SR-71 Blackbird pilots Survival Kit

Of interest is the fact that the Blackbird’s survival kit included a very rare aluminum gun! Yes, you read it right! The gun was made in aluminum to keep it lightweight. My dad, Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield former SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO), told my husband, Rodney Miller about the gun for protection.

According to Last Stand On Zombie Island, one long-standing joke/urban legend was that the SR-71’s survival kit contained: “One low power 38 revolver; two boxes of ammunition; four days’ concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings.”

However, as former Blackbird’s pilot Richard Graham explains in his book SR-71 Revealed the Inside History, “the survival kit contained standard Air Force survival items: a one-man life raft, day/night flares, desalinization kit, emergency UHF radio with spare batteries, first aid kit, thermal blanket, fishing gear, survival manual and maps. Tethered between you and the survival kit was the inflated one-man life raft, ready for a water landing.”

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

Another item that was carried in the pressure suite (not in the survival kit that was in the ejection seat) was a sealed envelope that the SR-71 crews were supposed to give to anyone who was causing them trouble. My father Butch Sheffield gave the sealed envelope to the base commander in South Korea when they were upset about having an SR-71 land on their tiny base. We are not sure what was in that envelope or what it said but the base commander smiled and then was compatible and willing to do anything to make the crew comfortable.

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: U.S. Air Force and Linda Sheffield Miller

This model is available in multiple sizes from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.
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.

View Comments

  • Aluminum-framed Smith and Wesson revolvers are not "very rare," and are not at all rare. You can buy one in any gun store that sells Smith and Wesson revolvers. They have been made for decades and are quite ordinary. Look at the S&W online catalog and you will see quite a few models of aluminum revolvers. Even more common are aluminum-framed semi-automatic pistols - there must be hundreds of models of aluminum framed pistols made by dozens of manufacturers.

  • A correction and amplification. If the revolver was a model with an aluminum cylinder, then those are rare-ish, as Smith found that the aluminum cylinder was not up to the task. Smith stopped making aluminum cylinders and used steel (and now sometimes titanium). Aluminum cylinders couldn't stand up to much shooting, although, in a survival gun they would probably have lasted long enough to serve their purpose.

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