The Blackbird

The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” is a long-range, advanced, strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft. The first flight of an SR-71 took place on Dec. 22, 1964, and the first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in January 1966. The US Air Force retired its fleet of SR-71s on Jan. 26.

B-58 navigator recalls dropping Mark-53 nuclear bomb (without plutonium pit) while flying at 500 feet and at 628 knots, low level recce missions, dinner with Doolittle Raiders and Jimmy Stewart
CLICK HERE to see The Aviation Geek Club contributor Linda Sheffield’s T-shirt designs! Linda has a personal relationship with the SR-71 because her father Butch Sheffield flew the Blackbird from test flight in 1965 until 1973. Butch’s Granddaughter’s Lisa Burroughs and Susan Miller are graphic designers. They designed most of the merchandise that is for sale on Threadless. A percentage of the profits go to Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base. This nonprofit charity is personal to the Sheffield family because they are raising money to house SR-71, #955. This was the first Blackbird that Butch Sheffield flew on Oct. 4, 1965.

Throughout its nearly 24-year career, the SR-71 remained the world’s fastest and highest-flying operational aircraft. From 80,000 feet, it could survey 100,000 square miles of Earth’s surface per hour.

SR-71 pilot Jim Shelton and SR-71 RSO Gary Coleman received the 1973 Trophy for the recon and crew of the for flying the longest Blackbird operational sortie ever: 11 hours and 19 minutes during the Yom Kippur War.

Before they took off on that long flight, they had to get the Blackbird from Beale to Griffiss Air ForceBase (AFB).

Penn State expert mistakes SR-71’s shockwave for a meteorite entering the Earth’s atmosphere

Shelton recalls in Rich Graham’s book SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales, and Legends;

‘On short notice, we took off in SR-71 #979 and headed for Griffiss Air Force Base with one in-flight refueling over Nevada as we headed east at Mach 3 at 80,000 feet. Our route took us south of Chicago and north of Indianapolis. Passing south of Chicago, I said to Gary, “I can see the lights of Chicago out the left window.” The lights of Indianapolis on the right were so clear that we must have been creating quite a sonic boom that was touching the ground and disturbing many people.

SR-71 art
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.  Dawn at 80.000ft – SR-71 Blackbird

‘However, it turned out to be worse than I thought, as indicated by the articles that appeared in the newspaper on October 12, 1973, when the shockwave stretched from Indiana to New York State; Jim says he laughed at the media quotes when Dr. Alexander, a Penn State Expert, said it was conceivable it could’ve been a meteorite entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

‘Do you think that we were going to tell the world that they were wrong that it was really an SR-71 going to Griffith Air Force Base?’

Sonic boom complaints

Shelton concludes;

‘At Beale there was an office that handled sonic boom complaints on a full-time basis. The office received boom complaints from everyone and anyone farmers claimed that their cows would not give milk anymore, chickens wouldn’t lay eggs.’

Be sure to check out Linda Sheffield Miller (Col Richard (Butch) Sheffield’s daughter, Col. Sheffield was an SR-71 Reconnaissance Systems Officer) Twitter X Page Habubrats SR-71 and Facebook Page Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder Habubrats for awesome Blackbird’s photos and stories.

The Penn State expert who mistook the shockwave created by an SR-71 flying at Mach 3, at 80,000 ft for a meteorite entering the Earth's atmosphere
This model is available in multiple sizes from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin and U.S. Air Force