SR-71 "Blackbird"

What can we say about the awesome SR-71 Blackbird?  It is the masterpiece of the Lockheed Skunk Works and aircraft designer Kelly Johnson.  It was designed to outrun enemy missiles and is the undefeated, fastest airplane in the world!  And, just like Superman, it can go "faster than a speeding bullet".  Much has already been written about the SR-71 (just do a search for it on your favorite Internet search engine), so we are going to concentrate on the SR-71's impact on the Mojave Desert.

The SR-71 began service in 1966 and was retired, for the first time, in 1990.  The powers-that-be soon realized, however, how valuable these planes were for wartime reconnaissance and for high-speed flight research so some SR-71's were brought back into service a few years later and used in the Persian Gulf War.

It wasn't until the 1990's that SR-71's appeared at Air Shows.  After their 1990 retirement, many SR-71's remained retired and are on static display in museums ranging from Richmond, Virginia to Seattle, Washington.  Two of the planes are even on display at a park near Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, where the aircraft had been manufactured.

Now that some of these planes are back in service and not quite so secret anymore, they are appearing in more Air Shows.  At the 1999 Air Show at Edwards, the crowds were treated to an aerial demonstration given by NASA's SR-71 #61-7980.  This show was the aircraft's last flight and included a very noisy, high altitude flyby at mach 2 so that everyone could experience the double sonic boom!  The 2002 Air Show had a static display of an SR-71 (seen in the pictures below) but at the 2003 show, there was no SR-71 on display or in the sky.  You just never quite know when one will be at an Air Show.

Although sightings today are rare, the best places to spot an SR-71 in flight are either Edwards AFB or the Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale.  At Edwards, the NASA Dryden Research Center on the northern edge of the base, will occasionally use one or two SR-71's for experiments or you can sometimes catch an SR-71 taking off or landing at the Palmdale Skunk Works facility where it comes in to be serviced.  

Front view of the SR-71.  From far-away, you have no idea that the SR-71 has such a flat fuselage.
Closer look at the nose of the SR-71.  Most static displays of the SR-71 have the cockpit covered like this probably because they want to keep the instrument panel a secret.
Rear-view of the twin-tailed Blackbird.
Front view of the starboard, high-performance J75 jet engine manufactured by Pratt & Whittney.
This view shows the shallow angle of the front of the J75 engine cone.  This shape is very efficient at scooping air into the engine and creating the reaction a jet engine needs to produce maximum thrust.
A closer look at the starboard side and wing of an SR-71.  Just ten years ago, the public wouldn't even think of getting this close to an SR-71.

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