At the height of the Cold War in 1964, President Johnson announced a new aircraft dedicated to strategic reconnaissance. The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane flew more than three-and-a-half times the speed of sound, so fast that no other aircraft could catch it. Above 80,000 feet, its pilots had to wear full-pressure flight suits similar to what was used aboard the space shuttle. Developed by the renowned Lockheed Skunk Works, the SR-71 was an awesome aircraft in every respect, and it took the world by storm. The SR-71 was in service with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998, when it was withdrawn from use, superseded by satellite technology. Twelve of the thirty-two aircraft were destroyed in accidents, but none were ever lost to enemy action. Throughout its thirty-four-year career, the SR-71 was the world’s fastest and highest-flying operational manned aircraft. It set world records for altitude and speed: an absolute altitude record of 85,069 feet on July 28, 1974, and an absolute speed record of 2,193.2 miles per hour on the same day. On September 1, 1974, it set a speed and time record over a recognized course between New York and London (3,508 miles) of 1,435.587 miles per hour and an elapsed time of 1 hour, 54 minutes, 56.4 seconds. SR-71 covers every aspect of the SR-71’s development, manufacture, modification, and active service from the insider’s perspective of one its pilots and is lavishly illustrated with more than 200 photos.
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About the Author
Colonel Richard H. Graham (Planto, TX) is an Air Force veteran of fifteen years of assignments within the SR-71 community. Colonel Graham was a command pilot with more than 4,600 military flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with eighteen oak leaf clusters, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with “V” device, and one oak leaf cluster, Combat Readiness Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four service stars, and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm. Colonel Graham’s previous books include Flying the SR-71 Blackbird: In the Cockpit on a Secret Operational Mission, SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales and Legends, and SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story.