This web page is dedicated to my loving father,
Edwin Simpson
June 20, 1920 - February 3, 2000. Retired Master Sergeant, USAF.

Edwin Simpson December 1956

One of Dan Simpson's favorite airplanes:
The SR-71 Blackbird

LOCKHEED's SR-71 BLACKBIRD is one of the most spectacular aircraft ever built. As the world's fastest and highest flying air-breathing aircraft, it can cruise at speeds of more than mach 3.2 (more than three times the speed of sound). It holds numerous records, including a Los Angeles to Washington D.C. flight of 64 minutes, 19 seconds! A technical marvel, the Blackbird flys at an altitude of 85,000 feet (published figure), and some sources say reaches altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet.

The SR-71 first flew on December 22, 1964. Originally used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Blackbird performed top-secret aerial surveillance missions during the Cold War. There were 32 SR-71s built and in 26 years of service, no aircraft was ever lost to hostile fire, despite the fact that they were shot at more than 1,000 times. In 1998 the Blackbird was retired from active military duty, a tradgic legacy of the Clinton Administration.

In the late 1990s, four Blackbirds were being flown by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif, used for high-speed, high-altitude research. They were loaned to NASA by the U.S. Air Force.

The last SR-71 flight was made on Saturday, October 9, 1999, at the Edwards AFB air show. The aircraft was also scheduled to make a flight the following day, but a fuel leak grounded the aircraft and prevented it from flying again. The NASA SR-71s were then put in flyable storage, where they remained until 2002. They were then sent to museums. [Sources]

Dan at March Field Air Museum

March Field Air Museum -

I saw the Blackbird fly on Saturday, November 3, 1984 at an air show at Norton AFB in San Bernardino, Calif. First, we were able to see it sitting on display. Then we watched it take off. It first did a high-speed low fly-by in front of the crowd. Then it did a slow speed-low fly-by. When it reached the middle of the viewing area, it pointed its noise straight up, gave full thrust, and shot vertically into the sky like a thundering rocket. It was out of sight in seconds, seemingly disappearing into space straight over our heads. It was an awesome spectacle!

  • Contractor: Lockheed Corporation
  • Power Plant: Two Pratt-Whitney JT11D-20B (J58) turbojet engines; 34,000lb thrust class per engine with afterburner
  • Accommodations: Crew of two in tandem, on ejection seats
  • Dimensions: Span 55ft 7in; length 107ft 5in; height 18ft 6in
  • Weight: Empty 60,000; gross 172,000
  • Performance: Max speed at 78,750ft is Mach 3+ (more than 2,200 mph)
  • Ceiling: Above 80,000 feet
  • Armament: None
  • Original Cost: Unknown
Source: U.S.A.F. Online Encyclopedia

SR-71 - Air Force Online Encyclopedia

On the deck of the Intrepid >>
This Blackbird (A-12) is on exhibit aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Intrepid as part of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City. It was on our list of attractions for our trip to New York in November 2000, but with so much to see and do in five days, we didn't get there. Some day. Meanwhile, the top photo is from the Intrepid website, the bottom is from Mouse-over for close up >>

Photo | Article

NASA map
How fast can you get there? Go to NASA Observatorium Aeronautics for an interactive map where you can find out the flight time between any two points in the world. Way cool!

Dan's SR-71 Links

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This page was last updated March 12, 2004.