[VIDEO] SR-71 Blackbird: How to Fly the World’s Fastest PlanePosted: May 2, 2014
Colonel Rich Graham flew the Blackbird from 1974 until the mid-1980s, first as a mission pilot and then as a trainer. He later took command of all Blackbird detachments – in California, Mildenhall in the UK and at Kadena on the Japanese island of Okinawa. He has also written several books about the aircraft. Here he tells BBC Future about what made the SR-71 such a remarkable plane.
It was a plane which flew at the edge of space; so high that most other jet engines would seize because of the lack of air. A plane that flew so fast that its airframe heated and grew during flight. A plane that, if needed, could outrun missiles launched to bring it down.
[See Colonel Rich Graham’s book: SR-71: The Complete Illustrated History of the Blackbird, The World’s Highest, Fastest Plane at Amazon.com]
The Lockheed SR-71 was a product of airplane maker Lockheed’s Skunk Works, a secretive project which came up with some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. It was designed after the loss of a U-2 spyplane over the Soviet Union in 1960 – a plane thought to fly too high to be shot down. The Blackbird would fly even higher, and at speeds of Mach 3.3 it would be fast enough to outrun any missile fired at it.
From 1966 until its last mission in 1989, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird flew thousands of missions around the globe, photographing military installations from China to Egypt, the Arctic Circle to North Korea.
Col. Graham has recently published a second volume on the SR-71, entitled SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales and Legends. His first book, “SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story” tells the crew’s story of how they lived and flew the world’s fastest and highest flying aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird. A veteran of 15 years of assignments within the SR-71 community, he is uniquely qualified to tell their story. Col. Graham frequently speaks about the SR-71 program at aviation events across the United States.
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