The SR-71 Blackbird was designed to fly deep into hostile territory, avoiding interception with its tremendous speed and high altitude. The crew had to wear pressure suits similar to those worn by astronauts because the SR-71 could safely operate at altitudes greater than sixteen miles, or 25,908 m (85,000 ft), above the earth while flying at a top speed of Mach 3.3.
It is therefore not surprising that, thanks to its amazing flight characteristics, the Blackbird set many speed and altitude records throughout its career.
To give a real perspective of the incredible speed the iconic Blackbird could achieve, SR-71 pilot David Peters tells the following fabulous story.
“I’m really tired of hearing ‘the story of LA speed’, so I thought I’d relay a mission that gives real perspective to the speed of the Blackbird.
“We were TDY at Det. 1 in Kadena AB, Okinawa. One of the birds had to be traded and my backseat, Ed Bethart, and I had to take him home. The replacement arrived on Friday and we were to leave on Saturday morning. So, in true Habu tradition, we greeted the incoming crew and went to happy hour Friday night at the officers club.
“We got up on Saturday morning and got ready to go home. Departure was scheduled for 1000. Everything went well and we left right on time. I left to do a passage through the Korean DMZ and then into the tankers in the Sea of Japan. Good refueling and climbing to the Sea of Okhotsk and the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia and from there to other tankers off Adak in the Aleutian Islands. Another good refueling and heading to Beale AFB in California. We came in with a low pull approach in a closed circuit and landed. After decombination and debriefing, we dropped off our classified flight documents, jumped into a car and arrived at the officers’ club for Friday night happy hour at 4:30 p.m. 5:30 p.m. before leaving Kadena.
“Try this in any plane other than the SR-71. Plus, it’s actually a true story.
Be sure to check out the Habubrats Facebook page of Linda Sheffield Miller (the daughter of Col. Richard (Butch) Sheffield, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) for Blackbird’s great photos and stories.
Photo credit: David Peters and US Air Force