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Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
Strategic reconnaissance aircraft

The Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” is a long-range, high-altitude, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed and manufactured by the American aerospace company Lockheed Corporation.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

This Blackbird accrued about 2,800 hours of flight time during 24 years of active service with the U.S. Air Force. On its last flight, March 6, 1990, Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph Vida set a speed record by flying from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging 3,418 kilometers (2,124 miles) per hour. At the flight’s conclusion, they landed at Washington-Dulles International Airport and turned the airplane over to the Smithsonian.

SR-71 Blackbird – Creating the Blackbird

Gary Powers’ U-2 aircraft was disabled. Hit by Soviet surface-to-air missiles, the plane fell from 70,000 feet to 30,000 feet before Powers could release himself and bail out of the damaged cockpit.  It was May 1, 1960, and the Cold War was heating up.

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At Lockheed’s advanced development group, the Skunk Works® in Burbank, work had already begun on an innovative aircraft to improve intelligence-gathering, one that would fly faster than any aircraft before or since, at greater altitude, and with a minimal radar cross section. 

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