YouTube – SR-71 Blackbird
Max. Fuel Burned:
Pratt & Whitney J-58
2 x 32,500 lbs.ea.
12,219 U.S. gallons
107 ft. 3 in.
55 ft. 7 in.
85,000 feet +
The fastest jet plane ever to take flight, the SR-71 Blackbird built by Lockheed, had an outer skin that heated to temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees F. The effect of this was the strengthening of aircraft components with age.
Interestingly the fuselage shape and radar absorbing paint of the SR-71 Blackbird would make it hard to detect on radar were it not for its exhaust. The aircraft was never hit by missiles due to its speed, not stealth capabilities.
To better withstand high temperatures, the outer skin of the aircraft was made of titanium. Conventional aircraft usually have aluminum skins.
Due to extreme operating temperatures, the airplane lacked sealed fuel cells. It would seep fluids when cold. It would be fueled on the ground just sufficiently to be able to take off, warm up the air frame, and then meet with a refueling air tanker to take on sufficient fuel for its mission.
The first flight of SR-71 Blackbird was on Dec. 22, 1964. It became operational in March of 1968 and was retired in 1998. On July 27, 1976 it set the still standing speed record of 2,193.167 mph. On July 28, 1976 a SR-71 set the altitude record for sustained level flight of 85,069 feet.
The SR-71 Blackbird used a special alloy of titanium that could be worked at lower temperatures to reduce costs. Fuel was used for cooling the leading edge of the wings.
A corrugated titanium sheeting was used on the inner portions of the wings. It expands and contracts better than other materials used on conventional aircraft.
The shock wave from compression coming off of the nose of the SR-71 Blackbird flowed into the engines, making them more efficient. Movable cones, called “spikes” in front of the engine air inlets directed incoming air at maximized angles to achieve the greatest efficiency. A jack screw controlled by a computer actuated the spikes. A spike could move as much as 26 inches in total.
To reduce the pressures to the engines at high speeds, bleed holes and bypass doors were incorporated. Chines, originally intended to lower the radar signature, were found to significantly increase lift. This aided in maneuverability and slowed landing speeds.
The unique engines of the SR-71 Blackbird had a two stage design. Turbojet engines inside of ram jets enabled the aircraft to fly at slower speeds. The J58 engines could operate continuously on afterburner; the only military engines that were ever designed to do so.
Two 455 cid General Motors engines turning a single shaft were mounted on a cart and used to start the aircraft engines. The noise was deafening. This was eventually changed and the aircraft were later started with a conventional start cart adapted for the J58 engines.
ASARS (Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System) were the high-resolution mapping systems used in all SR-71 Blackbird aircraft.
The original designation of the SR-71 Blackbird was RS-71. That stood for reconnaissance/strike. However, the Air Force recommended changing the designation.
A total of 32 SR-71 Blackbird aircraft were manufactured. Accidents claimed 12 with no lives taken.
RC SR-71 Blackbird
Lance Campbell began building his RC SR-71 Blackbird in 2002. It first flew in 2011. His spectacular RC SR-71 has a 82 in. wingspan and is 156 in. long. It is powered by twin AMT turbine engines developing 20 lbf. thrust each. All up weight is around 45 lbs.
The RC SR-71 Blackbird from Ultimate Jets is of all carbon fiber/PEI construction. Wingspan is 82 in. and length is 156 in. It can be powered by two B-100F or B-140F jet turbine engines. All up weight is about 64 lbs.
The Surrey RC Models ARF RC SR-71 Blackbird has a 29 1/2 in. wingspan and is 47 1/2 in. long. Construction is EPO foam. Included are retracts and two 3500 kV motors turning 64mm EDF units. All up weight is around 34 oz.