The SR-71 Blackbird
Here are the famous stories about the SR-71. Yes, the fastest speed over the West Coast is here. But you might find that the 'Slowest Flyby' is as thrilling. You decide how much is fact and how much is just a great story!
Was the Mig-25 Foxbat and the upgrade Mig-31 Foxhound capable of intercepting an SR-71? This question comes up regularly at SR-71 symposiums and Blackbird speaker events throughout the U.S. To put to rest this question is the purpose of this web page.
For the crew of SR-71 Blackbird No. 61-7974, flying at 83,000 feet off northern Norway, the sky was a dark purplish blue. The brighter stars were visible, and the earth far below gave no indication of their speed.
In 1982 during maintenance procedures at Beale Air Force Base a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird fell on its right wing during maintenance.
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, I rocketed past the line at 2,125 mph.
In January 1984 a rare incident occurred when the SR-71 Blackbird drag chute doors opened inadvertently at high Mach, creating problems, as RSO Lt. Col. Curt Osterheld (Ret) explains in Col. Richard H. Graham’s book The Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird:
During the 1980s, the U.S. flew regular SR-71 Blackbird aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Barents Sea and the Baltic Sea, the latter known as “Baltic Express” missions. On June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, a Blackbird launched from RAF Mildenhall, UK, piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced a pretty serious inflight emergency.
Great story told by SR-71 Pilot Maury Rosenberg
During the presidential elections of 1964 Barry Goldwater accused President Lyndon Johnson that he let military technology lapse. During a press conference on July 1964, President Johnson announced the existence of the SR-71 Strategic Reconnaisance airplance.
There were a lot of things we couldn't do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe. Even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.
As a former SR-71 pilot, and a professional keynote speaker, the question I'm most often asked is "How fast would that SR-71 fly?" I can be assured of hearing that question several times at any event I attend. It's an interesting question, given the aircraft's proclivity for speed, but there really isn’t one number to give, as the jet would always give you a little more speed if you wanted it to.
“On the morning of 29 July, 1968, my navigator, Jimmy Fagg, was not feeling well when we were having our preflight steak and eggs breakfast at the Personal Support Detachment. Butch Sheffield, returning from leave, walked in and mentioned he needed flight time and he would gladly substitute for Jimmy. “The flight was going well. We had just finished refueling and were accelerating thru approx 2.6 Mach and 65,000′, leaving Louisiana heading West. (ed.: usually a 40 minute flight to Sacramento) First indication of a problem was when the right engine “unstarted”. However, this was more serious than a routine inlet unstart.
The A-12’s first flight–unofficial and unannounced in keeping with a Lockheed tradition–took place on 25 (26?) April 1962 and almost caused the loss of the only OXCART aircraft built so far.