|STANDARD DATA: Seats 2. Gross wt. 170,000. Empty wt. 60,000. Fuel capacity 13,000+ gallons. 03-Jet-Engines two 32,500-lb Pratt & Whitney J-58 turbofans operating in continuous afterburn.
PERFORMANCE: Max cruise Mach 3.5+. Range 2,982 nm. Ceiling 85,000+.
Though it was conceived and designed back in the early 1960s, no air-breathing aircraft on earth can match the speed of the Lockheed’s SR-71 Blackbird. As a Cold War reconnaissance aircraft, it spent more time in hostile airspace than any other aircraft. Its development under the hand of Kelly Johnson at the Lockheed Skunk Works required the development of a variety of new technologies, including the titanium aircraft skin and the Mach 3+ powerplants. Though NASA flew the Blackbirds through 1999, the SR-71 left US Air Force service in January 1990. On a flight from the West Coast to the East Coast, where the aircraft was to retire to permanent static display at the Smithsonian, the Blackbird set a new transcontinental speed record, flying from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging a speed of 2,124 mph.