Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Shows Off

Believe it or not, since the dawn of aerospace, there’s been a major record broken for speed nearly every year since Wilbur Wright piloted the first airplane off of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. That record for fastest air flight was 6.82 mph. The last manned aircraft to break a speed record was in 1976. That flight was done by Captain Eldon Joersz and Major George Morgan in the illustrious Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Since that fateful day, no manned aircraft has officially surpassed that record of 2,193.2 mph. That was over three times the speed of sound.

It’s amazing to think that it’s been over forty years since the record for fastest manned flight was broken. What’s changed? Haven’t we continued to improve in technology or the ability to move aircraft at exceedingly fast speeds? The answer is undoubtedly yes. But there has yet to be a concrete challenger to that steadfast SR-71 Blackbird – synonymous with American ingenuity and engineering.

The SR-71 was designed in the subterranean dwelling of Skunk Works – a division of Lockheed Martin specially dedicated to classified aerospace designs. Only 32 SR-71s were built from 1964 until the end of its career in 1998 and of those, 12 were lost due to accidents. Aircraft traveling at three times the speed of sound are a bit more prone to failure than traditional jet aircraft which typically fly in speeds hovering just over Mach 1.