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 This special fuel could drip and leak abundantly as the airframe made up of titanium was retracted while taxiing, and became airtight only when it got its operating shape while flying very fast and very high because of the air density, and surrounding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

7 major airlines outsourcing 40% of their maintenance

A Boeing 737-300 has recently been forced to perform an emergency landing after an explosive depressurization due to a rather big hole in its fuselage. Reports suggested that some MRO (Maintenance; Repair; and Overhaul) operations had been outsourced to El Salvador, and might have caused such an accident.

However, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) said that the last heavy « C » check – the last major MRO operation on the aircraft – was performed at the Dallas Southwest maintenance facilities in March 2010.

The TWU (Transport Workers Union) has condemned the use of aircraft repair stations outside the USA, calling on Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration to toughen the FAA’s oversight – Watch the video:

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2nd fuselage with a hole – Southwest Airlines aircraft grounded

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4 had been forced to make an emergency landing less than two years ago. Another B-737-3H4 has just had a 6′ hole in its fuselage during a flight causing sudden decompression, and emergency landing.

The NTSB is leading an investigation into exactly what happened to this Southwest Airlines flight – a 737 which had a hole come open during a flight from Phoenix to Sacramento at FL 360 (altitude: 36,000 feet that is to say almost 11 kilometers high). It was a harrowing experience for the passengers and the crew members. Watch the video: