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The first public Blackbird display was conducted at Edwards Air Force Base in February 1964. Lyndon Johnson announced the existence of the A-11, a 2,000-mph interceptor capable of flight at altitudes above 70,000 feet. A pair of YF-12As were flown down from Groom Lake to be displayed as A-11s at the event. 60-6936 posed for static shots and 60-6934 took off and performed flybys. They were still warm from the supersonic flight to Edwards when they were rolled into a hangar. The residual heat set off the sprinkler system in the hangar.
Mark Hickman ran across a set of photographs of the YF-12A display at the estate sale of General Dynamics executive Gordon E. MacDonald of St. Louis.
YF-12A 60-6934 takes off from the Edwards runway. Photo from estate of Gordon E. MacDonald via Mark Hickman.
YF-12A 60-6934 flies past. Photo from estate of Gordon E. MacDonald via Mark Hickman.
It appears that the photographer is attracting the wrong sort of attention from the MP as 60-6936 taxies to its parking place. Photo from estate of Gordon E. MacDonald via Mark Hickman.
YF-12A 60-6936 on static display. The business jet on the right side of the shot is the twin-engine prototype of the Lockheed Jetstar N329K. Production Jetstars had four engines. N329K was Kelly Johnson's personal transport. Photo from estate of Gordon E. MacDonald via Mark Hickman.
YF-12A, 60-6935 on static display at the May 19, 1970 Edwards AFB Open House. Photographer: Richard Lockett.
YF-12A, 60-6936 at the May 19, 1970 Edwards AFB Open House. Photographer: Richard Lockett.
NASA's first SR-71A, 61-7951 was given the fictitious designation YF-12C, and serial number 60-6937. It is seen at Edwards AFB, October 12, 1977, following the fourth Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Test flight.
YF-12A, 60-6935 on static display at the November 13, 1977 Edwards AFB Open House.
YF-12A, 60-6935 on static display at the November 12, 1978 Edwards AFB Open House. It had acquired a small set of canards for ride control experiments.
SR-71A, 61-7971 on static display at the May 31, 1980 Beale AFB airshow.
SR-71A, 61-7974 takes off at the Beale AFB airshow.
High speed afterburner pass.
Low speed dirty pass. Each main landing gear bogey is equipped with three wheels that are pressurized with nitrogen. The angle of attack is much greater at low airspeed.
SR-71A, 61-7974 deploys its drag chute as it lands at the end of its performance.
SR-71A, 61-7974 on static display at the October 5, 1980 Edwards AFB Open House. It has acquired the Skunk Works logo on its tail since the Beale AFB airshow the previous May.
Head-on view of SR-71A, 61-7974.
SR-71A, 61-7975 on static display at the November 2, 1980 March AFB airshow.
SR-71A, 61-7975 makes a low altitude pass as it departs March AFB on November 3, 1980, the day after the airshow. The Thunderbirds' T-38A Talons are parked on the flightline.
SR-71A 61-7971 on static display at the October 31, 1981 Beale AFB airshow.
SR-71A 61-7974 departed the October 31, 1981 Beale AFB airshow early in order to appear at two other airshows that day.
Long trails of shock diamonds appear in the exhaust flame as the afterburners ignite. They disappear after just a few seconds.
SR-71A, 61-7955 on static display at the October 30, 1983 Edwards AFB Open House. It was equipped with a larger capacity nose fairing than had been seen previously.
SR-71A, 61-7972 on static display at the November 3, 1985 Edwards AFB Open House. Low visibility markings were adopted in the mid-1980s. The white United States Air Force lettering was removed from the fuselage. Remaining markings were painted red.
SR-71A 61-7968 arriving at the October 15, 1988 March AFB airshow.
The entire upper portion of each vertical stabilizer is movable to provide adequate rudder control authority in the event of an engine failure.
The crew of SR-71A, 61-7968 step down from the acccess platform after greeting the crowd. Note Boeing B-17G, N3703G and Consolidated B-24J, N94459 in the background.
The crew of SR-71A, 61-7962 shake hands before departing the November 12, 1988 Norton Air Force Base airshow. The yellow boxes at the base of the ladders are the portable environmental control packs for their pressure suits.
SR-71A, 61-7962 departs the November 12, 1988 Norton Air Force Base airshow.
Surviving D-21 drones were in storage at AMARC on September 9, 1989. Eight of the seventeen drones are visible in this picture. They were placed in the middle of a row of McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs to limit their visibility.
SR-71A 61-7980 on static display at the October 14, 1989 Beale AFB airshow.
SR-71A, 61-7976 takes off at the October 14, 1989 Beale AFB airshow.
SR-71A, 61-7976 deploys its drag chute even before its nose wheels have touched down.
SR-71A, 61-7972 on static display at the October 29, 1989 Edwards AFB Open House.
SR-71A, 61-7972 makes a low speed, dirty pass later in the day. The Air Force retired the SR-71 fleet shortly after this airshow.
SR-71A, 61-7971 on static display in NASA markings at the October 6, 1990 Edwards AFB Open House.
A-12, 60-0924 at the future site of Blackbird Airpark in Palmdale on May 1, 1991. It still carries remnants of protective spray-on latex coating. Some parts of the airframe were still unpainted titanium. The Space Shuttle Endeavor can be seen on 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, N911NA in the background. Endeavor's delivery flight to the NASA Kennedy Space Center had been postoned until the following day.
The sole SR-71C, 61-7981 on static display at the June 27, 1992 Hill Air Force Base airshow. After the loss of the first SR-71B trainer, the rear fuselage of YF-12A, 60-6934 was mated to an engineering mockup of the SR-71A to create another trainer. The result was dubbed the "Titanium Bastard". It is in the collection of the Hill Air Force Base Museum.
The SR-71C was given a raised rear cockpit similar to the SR-71B.
The red BB tail code of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron had been applied to the tail of SR-71A, 61-7971 when it appeared at the 1996 Edwards AFB Open House.
The Air Force returned a pair of SR-71As to flightworthy status in 1997. The red BB tail code of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron had been applied to the tail of SR-71A,61-7967 when it appeared at the 1997 Nellis Golden Air Tattoo.
SR-71A, 61-7971 made several passes on the first day of the airshow. A flat tire prevented its appearance at the airshow the following day.
The afterburners do not always ignite at the same time.
NASA's SR-71A, N844NA and SR-71B, N831NA in their hangar at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center on July 13, 1997.
NASA's SR-71B, N831NA
NASA's SR-71B, N831NA
NASA's SR-71A, N844NA
Boeing-McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18B, N852NA assumes position off the wing of NASA's SR-71B, N831NA as it takes off at the Edwards Air Force Base open house on October 18, 1997.
Link to the NASA Dryden SR-71 Research project page.
The Air Force serial number of the SR-71B is 61-7956.
The trainer variants of the SR-71 have ventral fins under each engine nacelle, similar to those on the YF-12A. They offset the increase in area of the raised rear cockpit located forward of the center of gravity.
Note the effect that the turbulent exhaust has on the appearance of objects beyond the airplane.
The crew wears full pressure suits for their flight to 80,000 feet altitude.
NASA's SR-71B, N831NA was displayed in the main hangar at the October 9, 1999 Edwards Air Force Base Open House.
NASA's SR-71A, N844NA performed the flight demonstration at the October 9, 1999 Edwards Air Force Base Open House.
The Air Force serial number of NASA's SR-71A, N844NA is 61-7980.
Three GTD-21 drones parked on the edge of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards AFB, October 30, 2000.
You can buy a 2015 calendar featuring my photographs of Lockheed SR-71s.
A dozen photos of Lockheed SR-71s in flight or taxiing, taken between 1980 and 1999.
Lockheed SR-71s pictured include:
SR-71A 61-7964, Beale Air Force Base, May 31, 1980;
SR-71A 61-7965, March Air Force Base, November 3, 1980;
SR-71A 61-7964, Beale Air Force Base, October 31, 1981;
SR-71A 61-7968, March Air Force Base, November 3, 1988;
SR-71A 61-7976, Beale Air Force Base, October 14, 1989;
SR-71A 61-7972, Edwards Air Force Base, October 29, 1989;
SR-71A 61-7971, Nellis Air Force Base, March 26, 1997;
NASA SR-71B N831NA, Edwards Air Force Base, October 18, 1997;
NASA SR-71A N844NA, Edwards Air Force Base, October 9, 1999
Put a copy of the Lockheed SR-71: 2015 calendar in your Lulu.com shopping cart for $14.95.
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