SR-71 Blackbird

Jan 20, 2011

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.

Pwn’ed.

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


Last edited: May 1, 2016


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