Smithsonian Magazine profiles the SR-71 Blackbird, one of the most advanced aircraft of all time:
Created as the ultimate spy plane, the SR-71, which first took to the air in December 1964, flew reconnaissance missions until 1990, capable of hurtling along at more than Mach 3, about 2,280 miles per hour — faster than a rifle bullet — at 85,000 feet, or 16 miles above the earth. It is the fastest jet-powered airplane ever built. At top speeds, the surface heat of the airframe could reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit. In their pressurized suits and breathing pure oxygen — mandated by the extreme altitude — the two-man crew looked like astronauts.
Brian Shul, one of fewer than a hundred pilots who flew the plane on recon missions from Beale Air Force base in California as well as bases in England and Japan, calls the SR-71 simply “the most remarkable airplane of the 20th century. We’ll never see a plane like that again.”
I was a major airplane geek as a kid. I loved going to airshows and read everything I could about military aircraft, particularly the SR-71. One of my most prized childhood possessions was a photograph of an SR-71 autographed by some real honest-to-God Blackbird pilots. Via