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Legends of the Air .. Part 1 The SR-71 Blackbird

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posted on Mar, 4 2007 @ 07:56 AM
I have decided to start a tribute to aircraft that have opened the world’s eyes to aviation. Aircraft that have opened new and exciting levels of flight. To stretch the limits of the human body to go where no man has gone before.

SR-71 Blackbird

May 1 1960 Gary Powers and the "Dragon Lady" made there way into the Soviet Union, only to become bait by new missile technology being developed by the Soviet military. The CIA was concerned over the Soviets non-compliance with the "Open Skies" act.
Already by May of 1954 Clarence "Kelly" Johnson chief of ADP (Advanced Development Projects) acquired the name "Skunk Works. One engineer hated the smell of the plant and started answering the phone identifying the plant as "Skunk Works" The name has stuck since.
While the U-2 was completing missions Kelly Johnson thought it was time to speed up the U-2 with a follow on aircraft. Designs from the US NAVY, Lockheed and Corvair were submitted to the CIA. Lockheed's A-12 design won. Thus project "Oxcart" began. The A-12 is a proof of concept vehicle which evolved into the SR-71. A-12 moved into the secret Groom Lake aka "The Ranch" or better known "Area 51" to begin setup and testing. While the A-12 and YF-12 Interceptor both were not as successful, attention was turned to a reconnaissance aircraft. The RS-71/SR-71 was born. Using the same airframe Kelly Johnson morphed the YF-12/A-12 into the SR-71

Prototype 64-17950 first flew Dec 1964 SR-71A
There are 2 types of aircraft. SR-71A / SR-71B

SR-71A is a standard 2 crew aircraft. Pilot and RSO (Reconnaissance Systems Officer)

SR-71B is a training aircraft.

Powerplant - 2 Pratt & Whitney J58 (JT11D-20) continuous-bleed afterburning turbojets each rated at 32,500 lbs static thrust at sea level


Empty 67,500 lbs / 30,816 kg
Gross takeoff 152,000 lbs / 69,090 kg
Max fuel 84,180 lbs / 38,184 kg


Wing span 55.58 ft / 16.94 m
Wing area 1,795 sq ft / 166.82 m squared
Length 103.83 ft / 31.65 m
Height 18.50 ft / 5.64 m
32 SR-71's were built
Range: 3,200 nautical miles (without refueling)
The estimated maximum speed of the aircraft is Mach 3.2 to Mach 3.5. The estimated maximum altitude is 85,000 feet but some sources say that the SR-71 can fly up to 100,000 feet and can probably go even higher

In order for the SR-71 to fly the worldwide missions, it has a special fleet of modified KC-135Q tankers for refueling. SR-71s run on JP-7 fuel, that fills the six large tanks in the fuselage. The component parts of the Blackbird fit very loosely together to allow for expansion at high temperatures. At rest on the ground, fuel leaks out constantly, since the tanks in the fuselage and wings only seal at operating temperatures. There is little danger of fire since the JP-7 fuel is very stable with an extremely high flash point.
A Boeing 747 test air-tanker. this test was to provide info on the stability between the 2 aircraft. no fuel was transfered

In 1989, the Air Force SR-71 program was officially terminated due to budgetary reasons.This early retirement decision was realized to have been a large mistake and in September of 1994, Congress voted to allocate 100 million dollars for the reactivation of three SR-71s. Then in April of 1995, the first reactivated SR-71A (64-17971) made its maiden flight after being refurbished by Lockheed. In June, the first reactivated aircraft returned to the Air Force inventory. Shortly after, in August, the second aircraft was reactivated (64-17967) and made its first flight after being refurbished by Lockheed.

2 B Cont.

posted on Mar, 4 2007 @ 08:21 AM
if there are any stories or additional info you might have, i would love for you to share your ideas..

posted on Mar, 4 2007 @ 08:31 AM
Yes, I would like to hear more about the whole program as well. Also, if there are any additional SR71 Black bird photos to share, they would be appreciated too... Very cool plane...

I would like to also hear more details about why Congress realized it was a mistake to drop the program then suddenly start it up again... Did they realize that current black projects to replace the Blackbird were not ready yet for actual missions? Or were they worried about information leaks about the technology used on the current black projects to replace Blackbird if the new plane went into active duty? There has to be more to that story...

posted on Mar, 4 2007 @ 08:52 AM
our military has new and advanced projects. take the ge90 engine for example. that is a engine that is now being put into passenger aircraft. with composites being used in engines it saves weight. you also have this engine putting out 100,000 lbs of thrust.. so if this is for public use now.. i can imagine what they have cooking up for our new "black projects"

this plane needed TLC 24-7. it was very expensive to run.
The U.S. Air Force retired its fleet of SR-71s on January 26 1990, allegedly because of a decreasing defense budget and high costs of operation. The reconnaissance aspect of the SR-71 could be performed cheaper, and often better by reconnaissance satellites and drones. The SR-71's performance was still unequalled, but eventually there were few things that it could do that could not be done by other devices, and it was very expensive to operate. Also, parts were no longer being manufactured for the aircraft, so other airframes had to be cannibalized in order to keep the fleet airworthy. The USAF returned the SR-71 to the active Air Force inventory in 1995 and began flying operational missions in January 1997. The planes were permanently retired in 1998.

posted on Mar, 4 2007 @ 06:44 PM
this shows the temperatures the SR-71 reaches in flight.

posted on Mar, 4 2007 @ 06:51 PM
this historic picture is noteworthy

[edit on 4-3-2007 by skunkworks82]

posted on Mar, 4 2007 @ 06:58 PM

posted on Mar, 6 2007 @ 12:15 AM
Were they intentionally re-operationalised for only a year or so?
Or was the re-retirement another reaction to the changing environment?

posted on Mar, 6 2007 @ 02:14 AM
Lets not forget the XB-70 I always thought it was a cool plane
Though it was no blackbird they were thinking "out of the box" I always found it humorous that the sr-71 leaked like a sieve on the ground, it had to be going fast so it could expand and fill in the gaps.
I think I remember something about it growing 2 inches in length when in the higher mach speeds. What an amazing plane especially coming of the drawing board so long ago. I wouldn't even mind having it blow the widows out of my house, just as long as I could watch it go by.

posted on Mar, 6 2007 @ 10:32 AM
Here are some interesting Blckbird facts:

There were four major types of Blackbirds built:

A-12 single-seat reconnaissance aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

YF-12A interceptor operated by the USAF and capable of launching air-to-air missiles. It had a pilot and a Fire Control Officer (FCO).

M-21 mothership for D-21 reconnaissance drone. It had a pilot and a Launch Control Officer (LCO).

SR-71 dual-seat reconnaissance aircraft operated by U.S. Air Force. It had a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Operator (RSO).

There were also trainer versions of the A-12 and SR-71. These were called the TA-12, SR-71B, and SR-71C. They had a second cockpit for an instructor pilot. It was located above and behind the student cockpit. The SR-71C was a trainer built from the front half of a static test SR-71 fuselage, the aft section of the first YF-12A, and a new instructor’s cockpit. It replaced the second SR-71B that crashed on 11 January 1968.

The D-21 drone is a smaller member of the Blackbird family. It was an unpiloted, ramjet-powered drone that launched from a pylon on top of the M-21 mothership. It was designed to fly at speeds of Mach 3.5 and altitudes up to 90,000 feet while carrying a camera over hostile territory. Film packages were designed to be dropped for mid-air recovery by a C-130 crew. The D-21B was a later model, built after an accident precluded further use of the M-21 as a launch platform. The D-21B was designed for launch from a B-52H.

The Blackbird is comprised of about 85-percent titanium (with stainless steel and some aluminum and other alloys) and 15% composite materials (primarily asbestos-silicone laminates). The YF-12A, TA-12 and the first A-12 lacked the composite anti-radar material edge treatments.

How many Blackbirds were built?
A-12 (single-seat, Reconnaissance, CIA) 12
TA-12 (Trainer) 1
M-21 (Mothership) 2
YF-12A (Interceptor) 3
SR-71A (dual-seat, Reconnaissance, USAF) 29
SR-71B (Trainer) 2
SR-71C (Trainer) 1
D-21 (Drone, 16 later converted to D-21B) 20
D-21B (18 plus 16 converted from original D-21) 34

Sometimes, in reference to the joint USAF/NASA YF-12 research program (1969-1979), we see reference to a "YF-12C." It was actually the second SR-71A built (serial no. 61-7951), as flown by NASA from July 1971 through September 1978. The bogus designation was used to hide the fact that NASA was operating the SR-71. It was given a tail number from a (then secret) A-12. The number, 06937, fell into the same sequence as NASA’s YF-12A aircraft (06935 and 06936). NASA announced that the "YF-12C" would be the third aircraft in the program, but the announcement came on the day that one of the YF-12A aircraft (60-6936) crashed so that left YF-12A (60-6935) and the "YF-12C" to complete the program.

The maximum design cruise speed was Mach 3.2. Slightly higher speeds have been achieved when conditions permitted. Speed was limited by compressor inlet temperature restrictions.

Fastest known flights:
YF-12A (60-6936) – Mach 3.14 (2,070 mph), USAF, official record, 1 May 1965
A-12 (60-6928) – Mach 3.29 (2,171 mph), CIA, unofficial record, 8 May 1965
SR-71A (61-7958) – Mach 3.32 (2,193 mph), USAF, official record, 28 July 1976

The Blackbirds were designed to fly as high as 90,000 feet, but typically operated between 70,000 and 85,000 feet.

Highest known flights:
YF-12A (60-6936) – 80,257 feet, USAF, official record, 1 May 1965
SR-71A (61-7962) – 85,068 feet, USAF, official record, 28 July 1976
SR-71A (61-7953) – 86,700 feet (cruise), USAF, unofficial record, CAT II test, 1968
SR-71A (61-7953) – 89,650 feet (zoom), USAF, unofficial record, CAT II test, 1968
A-12 (60-6932) – 90,000 feet, CIA, unofficial record, 14 August 1965

A total of 20 Blackbirds have crashed. They include five of the A-12 model, two YF-12A interceptors, one M-21 while launching a D-21 drone, ten SR-71A and two SR-71B trainers.

The last Blackbird flight took place on 9 October 1999 at the Edwards AFB Air Show and Open House when SR-71A (61-7980 / NASA 844) achieved 80,100 feet and Mach 3.21.

[edit on 6-3-2007 by Shadowhawk]

[edit on 6-3-2007 by Shadowhawk]

posted on Mar, 6 2007 @ 05:09 PM
Some suggestions:


And the most legendary of them all: B-52.

posted on Mar, 6 2007 @ 09:22 PM
I dont know if this would help much put i took some pics of blackbird that probably arent on google or anything

they are pretty light i took them with a cheap camera maybe you could darken them and they would look nice

posted on Mar, 6 2007 @ 09:32 PM
I love to see you do something on the F-14.

Great work.


posted on Mar, 7 2007 @ 12:32 AM
Im very glad to see you guys are putting this thread to good use. i will post more pictures as i find them.. but im mostly lookiing for rare ones to post..

future threads will be posted once a week

posted on Mar, 7 2007 @ 03:39 AM
Surely the first legend of the air must be the wright flyer?

The 2nd probably the Eindecker...

3rd the Vickers Vimy...

Although the spirit of st louis must fit in there somewhere.

posted on Mar, 7 2007 @ 04:01 AM
of course they are very impotant
they made it so planes exist today
but based on the lack of intrest and interesting information
im picking my own set of aircraft
in a non important order

posted on Mar, 11 2007 @ 09:26 AM
I have been lucky enough to see this awesome craft take off and to a couple of flybys at an air show in San Bernardino CA. I think it was the very last appearance it made before being retired.

posted on Mar, 11 2007 @ 09:42 AM

Oct 29, 1999

posted on Mar, 11 2007 @ 12:49 PM

Originally posted by Shadowhawk
M-21 mothership for D-21 reconnaissance drone. It had a pilot and a Launch Control Officer (LCO).

In his book Skunkworks Ben Rich referrs to this aircraft as the M-12.


posted on Mar, 11 2007 @ 01:54 PM

Originally posted by skunkworks82
...The USAF returned the SR-71 to the active Air Force inventory in 1995 and began flying operational missions in January 1997. The planes were permanently retired in 1998.

In 2000 I was working just out of Brunswick, Ga. I am in the telecom industry, and on that Saturday morning I was on top of the tower, installing a new cell system. Well, it was a sight..I saw it coming, the Blackbird was flying at about 600 feet, I was 250 feet up. What a sight it was! I actually was waving both my arms as it flew just off to the side of me- and as it went past, I thought I saw a slight roll off on his port side...acknowledging my waving, I like to believe. I am not an aviation buff, but there is no mistaking the roar of the engines, and the profile of that bird. I am curious, why was this bird flying in 2000? And why was it flying at so low of an altitude?

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