When it comes to top-secret stealth aircraft, the SR-71 should be at the top (or at the very least, somewhere near the apex) of the list. Developed through the “skunk works”, a black-project division of Lockheed Martin, the “Blackbird” was truly a one-of-a-kind plane. For example, rather than taking evasive maneuvers at the hands of being targeted by a surface-to-air missile, like any other craft might, the SR-71 could move fast enough to actually out accelerate the threat. In fact, to this day (since 1976), the Blackbird remains the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft on the record books. Nevertheless, there are probably still a few things that you don’t know about this plane, even if you’re already familiar with it. Let’s explore…
How much distance could the Blackbird cover in a second, exactly? Believe it or not, it’s said that the SR-71 was actually capable of moving at an astounding 1.6 miles per second!
As to be expected, high speeds mean intense heat. In order to prevent the craft from breaking up during flight its external layer is made of a special titanium alloy which can withstand the sort of temperatures which would melt aluminum. Even its tires are special; they have aluminum mixed together with the latex and were even filled with nitrogen.
Speaking of tire-related anecdotes, did you know that the Blackbird’s tire pressure was 415 psi?! That’s over 12 times the pressure that you’ll find in your car tires.
Due to its ramjet engine design, when flying at faster speeds in higher altitudes, the plane used less fuel. Currently, it’s the only design known to employ this sort of extreme fuel efficiency model.
Due to the fact that construction of the SR-71 was top secret, the CIA actually had to create several companies to disguise the purchase of the titanium required for its construction.
Working with titanium wasn’t easy, either. Actually, some technologies had to be invented for the project in order to facilitate the use of this material. For example, your run-of-the-mill drills were only good for around 17 individual rivet holes before they were rendered useless. Moreover, welding with as little oxygen being present as possible was also an important issue. Argon gas was used during the welding process to ensure more elaborate welds.
Believe it or not, the SR-71 was said to have leaked fuel like crazy while on the ground. This was due to the gaps in the fuselage, which allowed for joint expansion, which is critical when you’re moving extremely fast at higher altitudes. As a result, it was common to keep it completely empty (of fuel) when grounded.
SR-71 Blackbird pilots actually had to wear modified space suits (also called “pressure suits”) due to the fact that they would be flying at altitudes of 80,000 feet or more.