posted on Aug, 25 2010 @ 11:54 AM
The B-2 model is not a test article. It is a decorative model that was probably donated by Northrop Grumman. There are a number of them around the
Antelope Valley in front of schools and the A.V. College.
The Blackbird Airpark is home to a unique collection of aircraft, all products of the famed Skunk Works.
There is a U-2D (Article 388 or USAF serial no. 56-6721) that was constructed as a U-2A at Lockheed’s factory in Oildale, California. In October
1957, it was delivered to the CIA’s Detachment G at Edwards Air Force Base and then transferred to the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at
Laughlin Air Force Base, Del Rio, Texas. During a training flight by a Taiwanese pilot on 5 August 1959, the airplane was damaged in a belly landing
at Cortez, Colorado. While undergoing repairs, it was modified to accommodate a second crewman as well as a suite of equipment to measure infrared
emissions from aircraft and missiles. Re-designated U-2D in 1959, the airplane was assigned to the Special Projects Branch of the 6512th Test Group.
During the 1970s, the U-2D was used for thunderstorm research, camera evaluations for NASA’s Tiros and Nimbus weather satellites, and served as a
chase plane for COMPASS COPE unmanned aerial vehicles. Students from the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards occasionally had opportunities to fly
the airplane as part of their studies. The U-2D was retired in 1980 and put on display at the March Field Museum in Riverside, California, until 1996.
It was then returned to Lockheed Martin’s facility at Air Force Plant 42 for restoration, and was eventually placed on display at the Blackbird
Airpark in November 2001.
The Blackbird Airpark's A-12 is the first one built, Article 121 or USAF serial 60-6924. It was trucked to the Area 51 test site in February 1962 and
made its first flight in April 1962. Article 121 was designated the primary testbed for airworthiness and handling qualities, envelope expansion,
airframe/powerplant integration, subsystems, and propulsion. Throughout its service life, Article 121 served as resident test article, bailed to
contractor. In January 1964, Lockheed test pilot James Eastham took Article 121 to a maximum Mach number of 3.3 with 15 minutes cruise time above Mach
3.2. Following the successful completion of 322 flights (418.2 hrs.), Article 121 was stored at Lockheed’s facility at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale,
California, on 6 June 1968. It was placed on permanent display at Blackbird Airpark in September 1991.
The D-21B drone is Article 525, the 25th TAGBOARD airframe built. It still exists because it never flew a mission. Following termination of the
program, it was stored at Norton Air Force Base, California, and eventually transferred to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in 1976. Article 525
was delivered to NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, on 1 June 1994 and loaned to Blackbird Airpark in October 1994.
The SR-71A (Article 2024, USAF serial 61-7973) was built in 1966. Lockheed test pilots Bill Weaver and Darryl Greenamyer took it up on its maiden
flight on 8 February 1967. The airplane was assigned to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California. While much of its
operational history is shrouded in secrecy, it is known that Article 2024 was ferried to the 9th SRW’s operating location (OL-8) at Kadena Air Base,
Okinawa, Japan, on 27 September 1969. Over the course of the next 20 months, it was flown on 62 training missions and 45 operational sorties over
Southeast Asia, returning to Beale on 8 June 1971.
After the airframe was overstressed during an air show demonstration in England in May 1987, the airplane was retired, making its last flight on 21
July 1987 with a total of 1,729.9 flight hours. It was placed on display at Blackbird Airpark in September 1991.
The most recent addition to the Airpark is the YF-117A (Article 783, USAF serial 79-10783), the fourth Full Scale Development airframe. It was
delivered to the Area 51 test site on 5 December 1981. Lockheed pilot Tom Morganfeld flew it for the first time on 7 July 1982. Two functional check
flights by Air Force pilots were followed by several weeks of infrared signature measurements. This was followed by integration of avionics for
Infrared Acquisition and Designation System trials. From 24 April to 23 July 1984, Article 783 was flown against F-14, F-15, F-16, and EF-111A
aircraft to collect air-to-air threat analysis data. Afterward, the airplane was used alternatively between low-observables tests and integration of
improvements to navigation and weapon delivery systems. In October 1984, two Navy pilots used Article 783 to conduct a performance review to evaluate
the F-117A for carrier suitability. In March 1989, Article 783 was officially accepted by the Air Force. In 1998, Article 783 became the first F-117A
modified in the Single Configuration Fleet program, a four-month test series to evaluate an optimized radar-absorbent coating to improve
maintainability. In April 2004, the airplane was used to evaluate a two-tone grey camouflage paint scheme. Article 783 was retired in March 2007 with
2,464.6 flight hours and placed on display at Blackbird Airpark on 3 March 2008.
The Blackbird Airpark is the only place to see all of these black (in every sense of the word) aircraft al in one place.