Although the plane itself took its first flight more than 55 years ago, the SR-71 Blackbird is still the fastest jet engine plane ever constructed. Its incredible speed combined with sleek, futuristic appearance has made it highly popular in terms of interest by the general public. Yet, because it was designed as a spy plane, much of its activity remains a secret despite being retired for some years.
What follows are some interesting facts about the SR-71 Blackbird, including its world record speed and other interesting attributes that make it so fascinating.
The SR-71 uses Pratt & Whitney J58 jets that provide a thrust of 34,000 pounds each. That is the type of power normally generated by an ocean liner. The plane itself is 105 feet long, which translates to roughly 35 yards. This makes it unusually long for a single-seat aircraft.
It may be surprising to learn that such a fast plane weighs over 170,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel. This is because of the fuel needed and the amount of titanium and other materials to keep the plane together at high speeds.
One of the most interesting facts is that all pilots who wished to fly or even work on the plane had to be married before they could qualify. This was because the Air Force required all personnel who worked with the plane on a regular basis to be “emotionally stable”. And since marriage added to the stability, it became a requirement.
The SR-71 Blackbird holds the record for the fastest speed every obtained by a manned jet aircraft. That record was set during the Bicentennial which occurred in July 1976. The official speed was 2,193 miles per hour.
The official record was set by averages two passes made over a planned course. What is interesting is that while the jet well exceeded the top speed on its first pass, on the second pass one of the engines has shut down. Still, it was more than enough to set the official record which stands today.
In addition, it is quite clear that the SR-71 can exceed the 2,193mph set in 1976, but no official attempt has been made.
Despite being retired, there are currently no plans to create a replacement for the SR-71 Blackbird. This is due in part to the greater reliance on satellite imagery that can photograph safely from space. But also, in part because of the expense to create another jet capable of that type of speed and endurance. The records set by the SR-71 Blackbird will most likely not be broken in the foreseeable future.