Remembering the last flight of the world's fastest plane

though-it-has-now-been-out-of-service-for-16-years-the-sr-71-remains-a-point-of-pride-for-the-us-military-and-a-popular-attraction-at-museums-around-the-country

On October 9, 1999, the storied run of the Lockheed Martin SR-71 came to an end after more than 30 years of carrying out covert surveillance missions at an altitude three times as high as Mount Everest.

The SR-71, or “Blackbird” as it’s commonly known, was developed by Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works crew. It was a triumph of engineering that combined the most advanced technology available at the time in a way that hasn’t been replicated since.

The SR-71 flew in the US Air Force for more than 30 years, breaking records for speed and distance that stand to this day. In the photos below, relive the stunning legacy of the world’s fastest plane.

“Everything had to be invented,” Skunk Works’ Kelly Johnson said of creating the SR-71. The insane heat and speed of the Blackbird necessitated titanium construction, which was a first. Tools needed to be invented to deal with the brittle titanium alloy.

Factory_floor

To manage the intense temperatures of Earth’s upper atmosphere, and to help baffle radar detection, the plane had to be painted jet black.

to-manage-the-intense-temperatures-of-earths-upper-atmosphere-and-to-help-baffle-radar-detection-the-plane-had-to-be-painted-jet-black

The plane also featured an extremely low cross section and swooping angles, which made it a nightmare for radar detection devices.

the-plane-also-featured-an-extremely-low-cross-section-and-swooping-angles-which-made-it-a-nightmare-for-radar-detection-devices

Because of the stratospheric altitudes the Blackbird traversed, pilots needed to wear fully pressurized space suits.

because-of-the-stratospheric-altitudes-the-blackbird-traversed-pilots-needed-to-wear-fully-pressurized-space-suits

The SR-71 was operated by a pilot and a reconnaissance systems officer. The purpose of the plane was to photograph hundreds of thousands of miles of terrain for analysis.

the-sr-71-was-operated-by-a-pilot-and-a-reconnaissance-systems-officer-the-purpose-of-the-plane-was-to-photograph-hundreds-of-thousands-of-miles-of-terrain-for-analysis

A pilot mans the brakes as the SR-71 is towed out of the hangar.

Here’s a look at the cockpit of the world’s fastest plane. The SR-71 was equipped with twin jet engines that were most comfortable flying at over three times the speed of sound.

heres-a-look-at-the-cockpit-of-the-worlds-fastest-plane-the-sr-71-was-equipped-with-twin-jet-engines-that-were-most-comfortable-flying-at-over-three-times-the-speed-of-sound

And again, because the plane was flying at 80,000 feet and its sole objective was surveillance, the SR-71 was unarmed.

and-again-because-the-plane-was-flying-at-80000-feet-and-its-sole-objective-was-surveillance-the-sr-71-was-unarmed

And because the SR-71 had no missile defense, the standard operating procedure was to simply crank the throttle and outrun any enemy. In the history of the Blackbird, not a single one was shot down. Twelve were lost due to mishaps, however.

twelve-blackbirds-however-were-lost-to-crashes

The Blackbird family logged 3,551 sorties by 1990 and 11,675 hours above Mach 3.

the-blackbird-family-clocked-3551-sorties-by-1990-and-11675-hours-above-mach-3

Though it has now been out of service for 16 years, the SR-71 remains a point of pride for the US military and a popular attraction at museums around the country.

though-it-has-now-been-out-of-service-for-16-years-the-sr-71-remains-a-point-of-pride-for-the-us-military-and-a-popular-attraction-at-museums-around-the-country

TOP ARTICLES
A Vietnam veteran returned a library book after 52 years

A Marine deployed to a recon battalion in Vietnam wanted a perspective on the locals. So he checked a book out from the base library... for half a century.

This musician made a music video with the SEAL who killed bin Laden

Tim Montana is a musician with a “rip-roaring, swamp’rockin’ vibe” — and he’s just getting started. The coolest thing about him? He loves helping vets.

This is what the Army's 'Iron Men of Metz' and Attila the Hun have in common

The Iron Men of Metz did what only Attila the Hun could do some 1,500 years before: capture the heavily fortified city of Metz and force the enemy out.

5 terribly hilarious gifts to scuff up a basic trainee

Why not show that you truly care about your young recruit by also helping their trainers mess with them? Get in on the fun! Be creative.

The MARSOC driving course is not like your typical day at the DMV

These Marines continuously train to keep their skills sharp and take pride in being the best at all ends of the spectrum — including tactical driving.

7 more phrases old school veterans can't stop saying — and we love it

We love our old-school veterans that don't have a problem speaking their minds. They have some humorous sayings that we still use to this day.

This Army nurse's epic fight for a memorial for women Vietnam veterans

Some 11,000 women served in Vietnam, many as nurses and many under hostile fire. They had to fight to have their memorial built on the National Mall.

5 tips to prepare potential boots to join the military

No matter which branch you're thinking of joining, these mental and physical tips will help you be ready for when you're staring at a smoky bear hat.

6 reasons the Air Force wants to get its hands on Russian DNA

Ankle bone connected to the shin bone, shin bone connected to the knee bone, knee bone connected to a Russian, Air Force wants to get his genome.

US Navy searches for 3 missing sailors after plane crashes en route to USS Ronald Reagan

The US Navy is conducting a search for the 3 missing sailors after a plane carrying 11 passengers crashed into the sea southeast of Okinawa.