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 This special fuel could drip and leak abundantly as the airframe made up of titanium was retracted while taxiing, and became airtight only when it got its operating shape while flying very fast and very high because of the air density, and surrounding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

Volcanic ash posing a threat to flight safety

Sunday 5/22/2011 – Breaking news:

The Grimsvötn volcano began erupting yesterday. It is located underneath the uninhabited Vatnajokull glacier in southeastern Iceland. As it has been sending ash into the skies up to flight level 650 i.e. 65,000 ft or around 20 kilometers or 12 miles.

The European fleets might be grounded due to the spreading of an ash cloud which is forecast to drift over Scotland on Tuesday – May 24, 2011 – and expected to reach France and Spain by Thursday or Friday. Here is an interesting short documentary about how the scientists examine the volcanic ash, and how they determine that it can pose a threat to aircraft.

Watch the video:

LC-130 takes off for Operation Deep Freeze

Master Sgt. Joseph Sinatra checks the air spring pressure on an LC-130 Hercules during a stop Oct. 18, 2010, at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. The springs are used to absorb the shock of landing the ski-equipped aircraft on the Antarctic ice. Sergeant Sinatra and the rest of his LC-130 aircrew stopped at Hickam while en route to Antarctica to support Operation Deep Freeze, the Defense Department’s logistical support to U.S. research activities at the southernmost continent. Sergeant Sinatra is an LC-130 crew chief assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base, N.Y. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kerry Jackson).
US Air Force Link (www.af.mil) courtesy

LC-130 taking off with JATO from Greenland
LC-130 taking off with JATO from Greenland – Photo © Søren Wedel Nielsen (Copyright 2005)

Volcanic ash – Flight hazard explained

Volcanic ash poses major flight hazard to airlines

18:12 16/04/2010 Volcanic ash poses major flight hazard to airlines. >>

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