SR-71 Blackbird

My favorite aircraft of all time must be the Lockheed SR-71. It’s long sleek black fuselage and extreme altitude and speed is awesome. That it was also capable of flying 5400 km between refueling, cruising at mach 3, is equally impressive.

I just re-read this story about a reconnaissance run just after Operation El Dorado Canyon. After succesfully making the final turn over the Libyan desert and outrunning some SAM missiles the author writes:

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.

Mindboggling speed.

I remember hearing the news about the bombing of Libya, I was 15 at that time. I thought it was kind of awesome that they had pulled that off, but also worried in many ways. War and violence is always a bad thing, but I am endlessly fascinated by military technology.

Another anecdote about flying the SR-71:

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 twin 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 Walter’s mike button in the rear seat. In his most innocent voice, Walter 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, ‘Aspen 20, 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.


Too bad they’re not flying the SR-71 any more. It was a really beautiful aircraft.