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SR-71 Blackbird #17968

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posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 12:41 PM
Recently I had a rather exciting opportunity to examine closely a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird on display at the Virginia Museum of Aviation in Richmond, VA. It was exciting because I had never seen on in person. Let me tell you that reading books and watching documentaries is nothing like being within inches of such an amazing aircraft.
One of my objectives, after I was over my initial awe, was to determine if I could spot any obvious use of RAM. There were not any shocking revelations to be made, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I was fortunate in one respect because the aircraft was on outdoor display and completely unattended, thus I could perform a close, in some cases hands-on, inspection. Shhh! dont tell anyone!

Unfortunately, the reason that I was alone was that it was drizzling, eventually pouring, rain, so I didnt get all the photos I wanted.

There has been much written on the use of composites in the A-12/SR-71 I had not realized that it would be so extensive or obvious. All of the leading and exterior edges that I could see, including large triangular sections of the inner wing, were not titanium. It was difficult to capture in a photograph, but in the image I will insert below you can see the seams of the band of composite along the fuselage chines, just under the pilots canopy. This band of material seems much thicker than the surprisingly thin titanium skin. In the book SR-71: The Secret Missions Exposed the author describes it as layers of asbestos, silicone, and a Teflon-like material.

I dont know quite what to make of the grey putty that is filling the gaps in the seams and some of the heads of the fasteners. It looked like common epoxy and was sloppily applied. Maybe it was part of an attempt to make the plane more weather resistant. Some parts also looked as if they had been touched up with regular flat black exterior latex house paint. Some parts of the plane had a shinier black coating that was peeling off is spots. There was no way for me to tell is it was something from the original configuration or something that had been added since it was put on display. The reflective material on the canopy glass is aluminum foil taped to the inside.

If you are interested in Blackbirds and have the chance to see this one, I recommend it. I cannot imagine that you would ever be able to get a closer look, but I intend to see as many of the ones on display in the US as I possibly can.

EDIT: I had to remove my online slideshow, but here are the links to the photos. Sorry 'bout that. I will try to get another slideshow running.

[edit on 19-10-2004 by Spectre]

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 12:47 PM
Those are great pics!

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 01:04 PM
there is one at duxford too that you can wander around and touch which is good

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 02:03 PM
Cool Pics!

There is another Blackbird on the Intrepid Museum here in NY. On the west side of Manhattan. The Intrepid is a decomm WWII aircraft carrier and has an interesting collection of aircraft on it. Right next to it on a barge is a Concorde! It is a very strange site to see when one is driving down the West Side Highway in Manhattan.

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 02:17 PM
Greets, all.

quintar: Thanks for the thumbs up! My plans is to take many more photos (not just of Blackbirds) and get them up on the site.

EvilSpallacus: I am trying my best to figure a way to get to England and see the entire Imerial War Museum. I have some friends who have been and they just go on-and-on about it. I am very jealous because I have to make do with the website for now.
Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Facefirst: One of the most frustrating moments of my life was standing in a park in Brooklyn, just across the harbor from the Intrepid, and being just barely able to see it, with no binocular and no time to go tour the thing. I hope to go back this summer. I saw it again when The Discovery Channel show American Chopper featured a walk around spot on their "Jet Bike" episode. Looks like you can get up close to that one, too.

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 02:29 PM
Stunning photographs Spectre!!

What a fantastic, futuristic aircraft the SR71 is!! For decades old technology, this has real "macho" appeal!!

Unfortunatley, I've not seen one in the flesh (although have seen the "Battle of Britain" flight fly several times (over my house on one occasion - Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane - what a gorgeous sight (and sound) when they fly overhead!!

And, when you come to the UK, what about an "eyeball"??

Great photo's - thanx for sharing!!

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 04:53 PM

Make sure you get out to the Intrepid the next time you are in NYC. I have not been on it in years, but I have happily watched the amount of planes on deck grow.
(i am not sure how you could see it from Brooklyn though, you must be thinking of somewhere else)

I highly recommend the Imperial War Museum in the UK. It is a gold mine for people into military history. It was a little spooky looking at a German panzer that still had shell holes in it.

Also, another decomm, the USS Yorktown in Charleston, SC has alot of nice planes on and in it. I do remember it having an F-14 on deck.... and a WWII US sub as well as a small destroyer both docked next to it.

Another one I would recommend that is much more accessable in the US is the US Ordinance Museum at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The museum has several nice pieces and many "unique" items on display. V1/V2 rockets, German Railway Gun, Atomic Cannon and a whole mess of armored vehicles. Ranging from WWI to very recent.

thanks again for the pics and keep us up to date when you take some new ones.

[Edited on 15-3-2004 by Facefirst]

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 06:25 PM
There is one in the SAC museum in Nebraska mounted alongside the elevator which is totally f#$*ing rad!


posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 06:54 PM
some nice pics there. a very nice aircraft. i love those things. when i went down to seattle many years ago i went to the air and space museum there. i got to see one up close... i think it was a yf-12 actually... or maybe an a-12? i dont know. it had the black and silver on it, plus it had the pod thing (whatever it was called) mounted on the the top of it.

thanks for sharring your pics.

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 07:20 PM
You are lucky indeed. The plane you saw was the sole surviving M-21. It's a variant of the A-12 designed to launch an unmanned drone.
Seattle's Museum of Flight

You tweaked my recall when you mentioned the silver-and-black paint motif and the drone. Nice. Very nice.

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 07:27 PM
just checked out some aerial pictures of the intrepid on looks like some nice kit to have a look at on board.
cheers for the name facefirst

hopefully i will get to visit when i get round to goin to ny (hopefully this year). we dont get to see much stuff like that over here in uk

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 08:01 PM

the official site.

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 08:05 PM
thanks again.

gonna really have to try and get time off to go to usa for a few months. lots of places to go so little time

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 08:15 PM
now THAT is one sexy plane! add a base and some subwoofers and it'll be all set to go! o yea! and add some neon lights to the interior and the underside. now THAT would look dead sexy!

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 08:28 PM

Originally posted by Facefirst
(i am not sure how you could see it from Brooklyn though, you must be thinking of somewhere else)

You are, of course, correct, Facefirst. I am mis-remembering that whole NY experience somehow. Like the man said, "Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most!" Not really surprising since my whole whirlwind NY trip is a blur. I was so lost most of the time I might as well have been in the Belgian Congo!
Staten Island Ferry at sunset was nice.

That Ordinance Museum sounds great. I have to go to Philadelphia this month so will gladly make that detour!

[edit on 19-10-2004 by Spectre]

posted on Mar, 15 2004 @ 08:42 PM

The Aberdeen Proving Grounds are definitely worth the trip.

The German Railway Gun alone is worth it.

[Edited on 15-3-2004 by Facefirst]

posted on Mar, 16 2004 @ 03:12 AM
Great Pics Spetre.

It's always good to see those things up close. I did once when I was younger at an air show but it was chained off with MPs surrounding it. Nice job.

posted on Mar, 16 2004 @ 11:41 AM
Spectre to answer some of your questions.

The "putty" this material is used to seal the fuel tanks when the aircraft is on the ground. When not airborne the aircraft is "loose" and the gaps in the joints would allow the fuel to drip out of the tanks, therefore the "putty" is used to forma barrier to stop the fuel from leaking out of the aircraft.

The "ribbing" these are similar to highway expansion gaps in the concrete. Due to the high heat factor the aircraft "grows" in the air. Without the "ribbing" the aircraft would develop extreme stress cracks when it cooled down. The ribbing allows for the skin panels to expand and contract in segments therefore reducing the tension stress on the panels due to extreme heating.

The surface is indeed covered in RAM, but is an older technology incorporated into the "paint" itself. IRONBALL type coating used to reduce the microwave energy shot at it.

The "triangle" area I believe is outside of the engine pod near the outside edge of the wing. Since the internal area of the wing does not see as much heat as the leading edge and trailing edge, this internal area can be constructed of a more rigid composite then the "ribbed" exterior edges.

The "tin foil" shielding is a preventative measure to keep snoopers from looking into the cockpit. Both for reasons of installed electronic system and true performance indicators ie Mach gauges that go to Mach 5 and to block the harmful affects of UV light rays on the plastic materials inside the cockpit.

As for exact designation of that specific bird, If I recall all A and YF models were tadem configuration having a higher secondary pilot position.

A-12 were CIA models and there were I believe a total of 6

there were three YF-12's, 1 was destroyed, 1 was scrapped and 1 unaccounted for (these all had the drone mounts)- NASA Joint Tact AirForce Command

and an unknown number of SR-71(a,b) some have been canibalized for in service aircraft. - AirForce

posted on Mar, 16 2004 @ 03:35 PM
Robertfenix: the putty was sealing gaps on a number of upper surfaces as well as the seam along the leading edges of the fuselage chines. The photo I took as an example is just under the pilots canopy, well forward of the #1 fuel tank. When I looked at the infamous leaky portions of the integrated tanks the underside of the fuselage, I didnt see any of that sealant.

I could never do a better job of compiling details on this particular bird than the staff of the online museum. (they have an album of photos almost identical to the ones I took -minus me of course!- thanks to the handy posts the museum put out to steady a camera)
This site has superb listing of the Blackbirds and associated equipment on display in museums. Great site to explore -

I am definitely going to hit the Abedeen Proving Grounds museum on the 30th and may try to see the Smithsonian annex at Dulles airport. Whee hoo!

The tally of Blackbirds built stands at:

Thirteen A-12s - all single-seaters except #124 60-6027, the two-seat pilot trainer

Thirty-two SR-71's built two-seaters, pilot and RSO. Two B model pilot trainers & one C model

Three YF-12s - two-seaters, pilot and RSO/WSO, raised canopy gives it a distinctive humpback appearance

Two MD-21s - two-seaters, pilot and LCO (launch control officer) for D-21 drone

posted on Mar, 16 2004 @ 03:51 PM
Yea well the "putty" gets put into every where there is an expansion gap. But it came about first because of the fuel leak.

Thank you for posting more about the series runs of the aircraft although I would take it with a grain of sand as only the Goverment and Lockhead know for certain how many and of which configuration that rolled off the assembly line.

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