Mach-3 SR-71 Blackbird’s HOT COCKPIT

Blackbird onboard USS Intrepid – Photo © Xavier Cotton http://www.passionpourlaviation.fr

As you may have heard, the mythical Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was a strategic reconnaissance aircraft able to fly at more than Mach 3 – Mach 3.3 ie around 3,500 km/h; or 1,900 kts; and at a maximum flight level of… FL 850 or 26 kilometers high!

The Blackbird indeed had a unique flight envelope with a particular doghouse plot (since she could not exceed 3.5 G), and an exceptionnal coffin corner limited by her CIT – Compressor Inlet Temperature of 427°C maximum.

This aircraft was also unique for her engines were two J58 ramjets fuelled by JP-7 especially refined for extreme flying purpose. This special fuel could drip and leak abundantly as the airframe made up of titanium was retracted while taxiing, and became airtight only when it got its operating shape while flying very fast and very high because of the air density, and surrounding pressure plus the heating caused by the air friction at such speeds. In short, the whole structure considerably expanded when airborne.

The irony – I heard it on the grapevine, or read it somewhere on the web – that titanium which turned into dark blue while flying (SR-71s probably deserved those unofficial other nicknames « Bluebird », or « Habu » viper) was « imported » from… USSR!

Pilots must have taken significant risks inherent in flying such an aircraft as mentioned in this previous post. These pilots used to fly over the USSR to take strategic reconnaissance photographs during the Cold war. They wore pressurized spacesuits so that their blood could not boil in case of decompression or ejection at such altitudes.

The Blackbird travelled faster than a rifle bullet, and the air friction could have melt aluminum-skinned aircraft. At Mach 3.2, fuel cycled behind the chine surface in order to cool the aircraft! The inner windshield temperature could reach 120°C even though a heavy-duty cooling system was on a full function. On landing, the outside temperature of the canopy could reach 300°C, and it must have been far beyond on the fuselage, and wing surfaces while flying at high speeds. The pilot could feel the heat behind his protective gloves!

Special thanks to Xavier Cotton for the Blackbird photos. Please, visit his website on http://www.passionpourlaviation.fr

Video – SAAB 35 DRAKEN tested as an interceptor

Austrian AF Draken - Saab J 35 - Photo © HoHun (2003)

The Swedish-made Saab 35 Draken was a second generation jet fighter. 644 of them were built. This fighter aircraft used to fly during the Cold War as early as 1955, and entered in service in 1960.

Maybe her particular double-delta shape was worth calling it « Draken » which means « kite ». She was more an air defense aircraft than a dogfighter aircraft.

She retired from the RDAF, the Royal Danish Air Force in 1993; from the SwAF, the Swedish Air Force in 1999; from the FIAF, the Finnish Air Force in 2000; and from the AAF, the Austrian Air Force in 2005.

Hereafter an interesting video featuring a Saab 29 Tunnan (Flying Barrel); a Saab 32 Lansen (Lance); and a Draken momentarily as an interceptor; with her rate of climb nearing 35,000ft/min, she could reach FL650 – more than 20 kilometres above the earth – to hit her target:

Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk – Stealth Aircraft

F-117 Nighthawk specifications video:

Nightmare scenario

U-2 – Strategic reconnaissance a/c

The Dragon Lady is said to be difficult to fly, but remaining for more than 12 hours in its cockpit must have been an actual ordeal…