Back to Squawk list
  • 23

The secret engine technology that made the SR-71 the fastest plane ever

On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers flew the first airplane ever at 6.8 mph (10.9 km/h). Only 61 years and five days later, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird took off. It's still the world's fastest airplane with a speed of 2,193 mph (3,530 km/h.) This fascinating video reveals how its top secret engine technology works. ( More...

Sort type: [Top] [Newest]

bbabis 3
And the Skunkworks did all this with 1/1000th the computing power of our smartphones!
ToddBaldwin3 7
They used a more powerful computer than any smart phone, their brains.
bbabis 3
You got that right! Brains and slide-rules.
Art Troutman 1
Would you believe - not one - but two dedicated Cray's!
bentwing60 2
Think Kelly Johnson without a General looking over his shoulder. He ran the design side of the skunk works from which the U2 SR and somewhere in there the F104 took flight. Pretty sure he was in on the T33, but that would be pre Skunk. The old saying a camel is a horse designed by committee is a perfect descriptor of modern USAF aircraft design. Too much money, too many generals, no Kelly Johnsons! Oh and somebody had to come up with the J58 and they did!
Art Troutman 1
The first model to come out of the Skunkworks was the P80 jet fighter for the US Air Corps - later re-designated the F-80. The T33 Trainer was a stretched F-80. BTW - Kelly had a hand in designing the F-104, but it was not built in the Skunkworks.
ToddBaldwin3 1
The other fascinating thing about the whole A-12/SR-71 project, at least to me, is the incrdibly fast time line for the R&D to design to deployment.
Jason Feldman 1
analog can be better than digital - just as autopilots can lead to over dependence on automation and not enough hand flying experience - using computers to design everything robs a skill as's necessary when you build a plane in 100 different places like we do today - there is something to be said for locking everyone in one room and hammering out all the issues in once place at one time.
Art Troutman 1
That's fine Jason - but one problem with "locking everyone in one room and hammering out all the issues in once [sic] one place at one time" is that you can't begin to be aware of all of the ultimate issues at the beginning! Once an 'issue' has been identified - 'hammering out' its solution will likely involve progressive 'trial & error' evolutionary steps - which take time. The breakthroughs come from having smart, experienced scientists and engineers, overseen by smart, experienced managers - with no outside interference. The result: "faster - cheaper - better" - compared to conventional R & D programs! We have helped some of our suppliers initiate comparable setups within their own companies - if for no other reason than to get their parts to us 'on time'! BTW - "D-to-A" and "A-to-D" conversions are a way of life in the industry!
oowmmr 1
Seems nothing was overlooked in the A12 and subsequent models development, fascinating!!!


Don't have an account? Register now (free) for customized features, flight alerts, and more!
Did you know that FlightAware flight tracking is supported by advertising?
You can help us keep FlightAware free by allowing ads from We work hard to keep our advertising relevant and unobtrusive to create a great experience. It's quick and easy to whitelist ads on FlightAware or please consider our premium accounts.