Top 10: fascinating facts about the SR-71 blackbird

2y ago


1: It is officially the fastest air-breathing aircraft to have taken to the skies, reaching 2,193.13mph in July 1976.

2:The navigation system was designed before the days of GPS and worked through mapping the stars in the sky. Named "R2-D2" it computed navigational fixes using stars sighted through the lens in the top of the unit. These fixes were used to update the inertial navigation system and provided course guidance with an accuracy of at least 90 meters

The SR-71's star-reading navigation system, designed before the days of GPS. Affectionately knows as "R2-D2"

3: During its 32 years of service, over 1000 missiles were fired at the SR. None made contact

Aircraft #978 nicknamed 'Rapid Rabbit' made a second attempted landing, however having jettisoned the drag chute during attempt #1 it was unable to stop before reaching the end of the runway. Both aircrew were unhurt

4: There were 32 aircraft built in total, an average of one for each year of service. 12 were lost in accidents and not a single one was officially lost to enemy action. You can read the details of each aircraft loss here -

5: Each finished aircraft cost the Air Force $33m a piece in the 1970's. Today that price would increase by a factor of ten.

6: The SR required a large amount of titanium in its construction. At the time the USSR was the largest supplier of this metal. As the aircraft was top-secret, the CIA set up a number of fake companies to purchase the titanium through, in order to alleviate any suspicion.

7: The technology that went into the landing gear made it the largest piece of solid titanium to be forged at the time.

When it was forged, the landing gear was the largest single piece of billet titanium ever made

8: During flight the airframe reaches over 900 degrees celsius through friction at Mach 3. Pilot Brian Shul, author of the fantastic book 'Sled Driver' commented that his cabin heater had failed and his hands were becoming numb. In order to remedy this, he placed his hands against the window to warm them through. A unique SR-71 advantage!

Pilot Brian Shul takes a "selfie" before they were cool, whilst flying his SR-71 at 85,000 feet

9: Piloting the SR-71 is no easy task. From a physical perspective a pilot could lose five pounds in bodyweight during a four-hour mission.

10: Amazingly, no computers were used in the design of the SR-71. Each component was designed using a slide rule.