The SR-71 was the brainchild of Kelly Johnson,

the famed Lockheed designer who created the

P-38, the F-104 Star fighter, and the U-2. After

the Soviets shot down Gary Powers' U-2 in 1960,

Johnson began to develop an aircraft that would

fly three miles higher and five times faster than

the spy plane-and still be capable of photographing

your license plate. However, flying at 2,000 mph

would create intense heat on the aircraft's skin.

Lockheed engineers used a titanium alloy to

construct more than 90 percent of the SR-71,

creating special tools and manufacturing

procedures to hand-build each of the 40 planes.

Special heat-resistant fuel, oil, and hydraulic

fluids that would function at 85,000 feet and

higher also had to be developed.

In 1962, the first Blackbird successfully flew, and

in 1966, the same year I graduated from high school,

the Air Force began flying operational SR-71 missions.

I came to the program in 1983 with a sterling record

and a recommendation from my commander,

completing the week long interview and meeting

Walt,   my partner for the next four years He would

ride four feet behind me, working all the cameras,

radios, and electronic jamming equipment. I joked

that if we were ever captured, he was the spy and

I was just the driver. He told me to keep the pointy end forward.

We trained for a year, flying out of Beale AFB in

California, Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, and RAF

Mildenhall in England. On a typical training mission,

we would take off near Sacramento, refuel over

Nevada, accelerate into  Montana, obtain high Mach

over Colorado, turn right over New Mexico, speed

across the Los Angeles Basin, run up the West Coast,

turn right at Seattle, then return to Beale. Total flight

time: two hours and 40 minutes.

One day, high above Arizona, we were monitoring

the radio traffic of all the mortal airplanes below us...

First, a Cessna pilot asked the air traffic controllers

to check his ground speed. 'Ninety knots,' ATC replied..

A Bonanza soon made the same request.

'One-twenty on the ground,' was the reply. To our

surprise, a navy F-18 came over the radio with a

ground speed check. I knew exactly what he was

doing. Of course, he had a ground speed indicator

in his cockpit, but he wanted to let all the

bug-smashers in the valley know what real speed

was 'Dusty 52, we show you at 620 on the ground,'

ATC responded.

The situation was too ripe. I heard

the click of  Walt's mike button in the rear seat.

In his most innocent voice, Walt startled the

controller by asking for a ground speed check

from 81,000 feet, clearly above controlled airspace.

In a cool, professional voice, the controller replied,

'Aspen20, I show you at 1,982 knots on the ground.'

We did not hear another transmission on that

frequency all the way to the coast.

The Blackbird always showed us something new,

each aircraft possessing its own unique personality.

In time, we realized we were flying a national

treasure. When we taxied out of our revetments

for takeoff, people took notice. Traffic congregated

near the airfield fences, because everyone wanted

to see and hear the mighty SR-71 You could not be

a part of this program and not come to love the

airplane. Slowly, she revealed her secrets to us as we earned her trust.

One moonless night, while flying a routine training

mission over the Pacific, I wondered what the sky

would look like from 84,000 feet if the cockpit lighting

were dark. While heading home on a straight course,

I slowly turned down all of the lighting, reducing the

glare and revealing the night sky.

Within seconds,   I turned the lights back up, fearful that the jet would

know and somehow punish me. But my desire to see

the sky overruled my caution, I dimmed the lighting

again. To my amazement, I saw a bright light outside

my window. As my eyes adjusted to the view, I

realized that the brilliance was the broad expanse

of the Milky Way, now a gleaming stripe across the sky.

Shooting stars flashed across the canvas every

few seconds. It was like a fireworks display with no sound.

I knew I had to get my eyes back on the

instruments, and reluctantly I brought my attention

back inside. To my surprise, with the cockpit lighting

still off, I could see every gauge, lit by starlight. In

the plane's mirrors, I could see the eerie shine of

my gold spacesuit incandescently illuminated in a

celestial glow. I stole one last glance out the window..

Despite our speed, we seemed still before the

heavens, humbled in the radiance of a much greater

power. For those few moments, I felt a part of

something far more significant than anything we

were doing in the plane. The sharp sound of Walt's

voice on the radio brought me back to the tasks at

hand as I prepared for our descent.

San Diego Aerospace Museum

The SR-71 was an expensive aircraft to operate.

The most significant cost was tanker support, and

in 1990, confronted with budget cutbacks, the Air

Force retired the SR-71.

The SR-71 served six presidents, protecting America

for a quarter of a century. Unbeknownst to most

of the country, the plane flew over North Vietnam ,

Red   China, North Korea , the   Middle East, South

Africa, Cuba , Nicaragua , Iran , Libya , and the

Falkland Islands. On a weekly basis, the SR-71

kept watch over every Soviet nuclear submarine

and mobile missile site, and all of their troop

movements. It was a key factor in winning the Cold War.

I am proud to say I flew about 500 hours in this

aircraft. I knew her well. She gave way to no plane,

proudly dragging her sonic boom through enemy

backyards with great impunity. She defeated every

missile, outran every MiG, and always brought us

home. In the first 100 years of manned flight, no

aircraft was more remarkable..

The Blackbird had outrun nearly 4,000 missiles,

not once taking a scratch from enemy fire.

On her final flight, the Blackbird, destined for

the Smithsonian National Air and Space

Museum, sped from Los Angeles to Washington

in 64 minutes, averaging 2,145 mph and

setting four speed records.
This was once a highly sensitive
program at Norton AFB.

SR-71 Blackbird
In April 1986, following an attack on American

soldiers in a Berlin disco, President Reagan

ordered the bombing of Muammar Qaddafi's

terrorist camps in Libya. My duty was to fly

over Libya and take photos recording the

damage our F-111's had inflicted.. Qaddafi

had established a 'line of death,' a territorial

marking across the Gulf of Sidra, swearing

to shoot down any intruder that crossed the

boundary. On the morning of April 15,

We rocketed past the line at 2,125 mph.

I was piloting the SR-71 spy plane, the world's

fastest jet, accompanied by a Marine Major (Walt),

the aircraft's reconnaissance systems officer (RSO).

We had crossed into Libya and were approaching

our final turn over the bleak desert landscape when

Walt informed me that he was receiving missile

launch signals. I quickly increased our speed,

calculating the time it would take for the

weapons-most likely SA-2 and SA-4 surface-to-air

missiles capable of Mach 5 - to reach our altitude..

I estimated that we could beat the rocket-powered

missiles to the turn and stayed our course, betting

our lives on the plane's performance.

After several agonizingly long seconds, we made

the turn and blasted toward the Mediterranean.

'You might want to pull it back,'Walt suggested.

It was then that I noticed I still had the throttles

full forward. The plane was flying a mile every 1.6

seconds, well above our Mach 3.2 limit. It was

the fastest we would ever fly. I pulled the throttles

to idle just south of  Sicily, but we still overran

the refueling tanker awaiting us over Gibraltar.

Scores of significant aircraft have been produced

in the 100 years of flight, following the achievements

of the Wright brothers, which we celebrate in

December. Aircraft such as the Boeing 707,

the F-86 Sabre Jet, and the P-51 Mustang are

among the important machines that have flown

our skies. But the SR-71, also known as the

Blackbird, stands alone as a significant contributor

to Cold War victory and as the fastest plane

ever-and only 93 Air Force pilots ever steered

the 'sled,' as we called our aircraft.
SR-71 Blackbird

Reconnaissance Aircraft

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is a two-seat twin-engined
long-range supersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft built
by the American manufacturer Lockheed. The SR-71 is
capable of flying at speeds over Mach 3.2 and at a height of
85,000 feet (25.900 Meter).
Crew        2

Propulsion        2 Turbojet Engines
Engine Model        Pratt & Whitney J58-1
Engine Power (each)
dry/with Afterburner        106,8 / 151,2 kN        24000 / 34000 lbf

Speed        3222 km/h        1740 kts
2002 mph
Mmo (max. Mach)        Mach 3.3+
Service Ceiling        25.908 m        85.000 ft
Rate of climb        3600 m/min        11810 ft/min
Range        5.926 km        3.200 NM
3.683 mi.

Empty Weight        27.216 kg        60.000 lbs
max. Takeoff Weight        77.110 kg        170.000 lbs

Wing Span        16,94 m        55,6 ft
Wing Area        167,0 m²        1798 ft²
Length        32,74 m        107,4 ft
Height        5,64 m        18,5 ft

First Flight        22.12.1964 (30.04.1962 Lockheed A-12)
Production Status        out of production
Total Production        32
Developed from        Lockheed A-12

ICAO Code        SR71

Data for (Version)        Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
Variants        SR-71A, SR-71B, SR-71C

The SR-71 was in duty from 1964 until 1989 and after a
reactivation from 1993 until 1998.It was designed by the
Lockheed Advanced Development Projects Devision better
known as Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was in duty with
the United States Air Force and the NASA only.
85.000 feet = 16.098 miles
Mach 1 = 761.2 mph
X-3 = 2283.6 mph