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Is the SR-71 still the fastest aircraft?

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32 replies to this topic

#1 of 33 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted December 20 2006 - 07:37 AM

I remember seeing one at an airshow (it was grounded) and the plaque next to it said they were first designed in the 60s Posted Image

Despite their birthdate they still look amazing:

Posted Image

#2 of 33 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted December 20 2006 - 07:52 AM

Yes, they do. The SR-71 was first operational in 1964. It holds the speed records for, at least, known aircraft. It's the "unknown aircraft" that might have displaced the SR-71's performance numbers. Specifically, the so-called "Aurora" aircraft: It's not a confirmed vehicle, but evidence suggests it exists. And the story in that the Aurora may in fact even be able to reach suborbital space. Eventually, we will know. But, again, as far as confirmed aircraft are concerned, the SR-71 is at the top.

#3 of 33 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted December 20 2006 - 08:06 AM

Hey, I was designed in the 60's and I still look . . . well . . . not amazing, but pretty damn good if I may say so myself. Posted Image

#4 of 33 OFFLINE   Bryan X

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Posted December 20 2006 - 09:07 AM

I saw one up close and personal in a hanger at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Those things are just as incredible looking in person.

Here's one of the more interesting facts about this plane:

Due to the great temperature changes in flight, the fuselage panels did not fit perfectly on the ground and were essentially loose. Proper alignment was only achieved when the airframe warmed up due to the air resistance at high speeds, causing the airframe to expand several inches. Because of this, and the lack of a fuel sealing system that could handle the extreme temperatures, the aircraft would leak its JP-7 jet fuel onto the runway before it took off. The aircraft would quickly make a short sprint, meant to warm up the airframe, and was then air-to-air refueled before departing on its mission.

Cool video:

#5 of 33 OFFLINE   Bonnie*F


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Posted December 20 2006 - 10:22 AM

Haven't seen a SR-17 but I did see an A-12 which is the forerunner at the USS Battleship Alabama Memorial Park right on Mobile Bay. According to the website SR-17 Online (www.sr-71.org), the A-12 was marginally faster than the SR-17. Both are beautiful pieces of machinery.

#6 of 33 OFFLINE   Joe D

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Posted December 20 2006 - 10:42 AM

There is a SR-71 at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville Oregon where the Spruce Goose is located. I highly recommend going to see both.

#7 of 33 OFFLINE   Blu



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Posted December 20 2006 - 11:21 AM

I believe there is also an SR-71 in Hutchinson Kansas at the Cosmosphere.

#8 of 33 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted December 20 2006 - 11:44 AM

Actually the SR-71's design was started in the late 1950's, as Kelly Johnson knew that the U2 would soon be in range of Soviet SAMs.

When I went to work for Lockheed in 1979, I was somewhat awestruck in that I was joining an organization that had built an all-titanium Mach 2.5+ aircraft TWENTY YEARS earlier. Posted Image

Beats me how Aurora is doing. Why don't you ask Jack? Posted Image
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#9 of 33 OFFLINE   Jay Taylor

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Posted December 20 2006 - 01:29 PM

It wasn’t that long ago when the F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter and the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber were classified aircraft. Mysterious night time sightings were reported as UFOs. Now they fly in broad daylight over the Super Bowl.

Will we eventually have Aurora (aka SR-91) flyovers at sporting events? Possibly, but I doubt it.

According to the Wikipedia some people believe that “the Aurora project was cancelled due to a shift from spyplanes to high-tech unmanned aerial vehicles and reconnaissance satellites which can do the same job as a spyplane”.

Wikipedia: Aurora

But even if the Aurora project was cancelled it may have set some speed records.

So now we get to read about sightings of triangular shaped aircraft near places like Area 51 and let our imagination run wild:

Aurora Project

To see the “Donuts-on-a-Rope” contrail video, click on the link under “Current Knowledge of Aurora”:

FirstScience.com - Aurora

"Donuts-on-a-Rope" contrail photos:

The Aurora Aircraft Page
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#10 of 33 OFFLINE   ChristopherDAC



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Posted December 20 2006 - 01:32 PM

I think I got kicked out of university for discussing… certain interesting possibilities… with the designer of the so-called "Aurora" vehicle. At least, that's the least paranoid explanation I can come up with. It's worth remembering that there was a fighter variant of the A-12. The A-12/SR-71 was a one-off, hand-built type of aircraft, but in the even there were more of them made than of the aircraft they were proposed as escorts for, the superb B-70 Valkyrie, which was designed for large-scale production. There never was a "production model" B-70 built, so the full Mach 3 cruise capability was never demonstrated, but the aircraft was something special. One of them would have been an ideal component of a developmental two-stage-to-orbit space transportation system (to make an obvious example, a Mercury-Redstone combination launched from a B-70 at 100 000 feet and Mach 3 could have made orbit). I think the YF-12 was actually equipped with antisatellite missiles at one time. That was my problem, by the way. I worked out that, if this "Aurora" thing exists (as I have reason to believe it does), it could be a component of a workable — or working — 2STO system. Then I tried to discuss it with someone who ought to know. Shortly after that, strange things began to happen to me. What happened wasn't so odd, given how academia operates, but how it happened was distinctly surreal.

#11 of 33 OFFLINE   alan halvorson

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Posted December 20 2006 - 03:42 PM

Are there any still flying? They have been retired from military use (so far as we know), but I knew a few examples were still being flown for research purposes. I'll bet these have been retired too. After the SR-71, what is the next fastest plane? Can any other plane cruise at more than Mach 1? The F-22 and F-35, probably? The Minnesota National Air Guard once held an open cockpit day at their museum where they had an A-12. No how, no way could I have ever flown in one of these things, even if the cockpit could have been arranged to fit me (they couldn't close the canopy on me and I didn't even have a helmut on). For as big as these aircraft are, they sure didn't allow much room for the pilot. Even though I am not claustrophobic, flying for hours confined within that tiny area would have driven me batty.
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#12 of 33 OFFLINE   JohnRice


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Posted December 20 2006 - 04:04 PM

As I recall, it was retired several (about 15) years ago and then brought back into service.

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#13 of 33 OFFLINE   BrianW



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Posted December 20 2006 - 04:40 PM

If the Aurora existed, which it doesn't, it doesn't have -- I mean it wouldn't have 2STO capability, particularly with regard to time-on-target, global reconnaissance missions, which we have no desire to do, so that's NOT what the Aurora is for. If it existed, that is. Christopher, you'll be required to report to your supervisor's office first thing in the morning. You'll receive an envelope containing specific instructions to follow regarding your upcoming transfer to Alaska. If all goes well, you should be there by Christmas. Or else. Oh, and if anybody is still wondering, the SR-71 IS the fastest bird ever flown. Ever. Trust me. (I've always wanted to do that.)
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#14 of 33 OFFLINE   BrianW



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Posted December 20 2006 - 05:01 PM

Wow, I just checked out some of the links you all provided. If the Aurora's (presumed) Pulse Wave Detonation Engine works the way it sounds like it works, it sounds like a bumpy ride. I wonder what the pulse frequency is? If we knew the height of the contrails, which would allow us to determine the distance between the "donuts", we could then calculate the pulse frequency of the engine as a function of the aircraft's speed. If the speed is sufficiently high enough, you wouldn't even be able to feel the thrust variations. Even better, knowing the distance between the contrail donuts, we could make a pretty good guess what the minimum speed would have to be in order for the aircraft not to tear itself apart as a result of the impulse nature of the engine's operation. Hey, do you guys hear helicopters? Black helicopters?
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#15 of 33 OFFLINE   Ashley Seymour

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Posted December 20 2006 - 05:36 PM

While stationed with the Air Force in Okinawa in 1970, the B-52’s were withdrawn. Nothing made as much noise taking off or landing as the eight engine bomber that was not concerned with sound abating technology. After they left the only plane that made that same sound was the SR-71. It would take off almost vertically and the distinctive silhouette was spooky. “Even though I am not claustrophobic, flying for hours confined within that tiny area would have driven me batty.” Flying long hours was not an issue and not what the stress the pilots faced. Flying at 2,000 mph causes a different level of stress.
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#16 of 33 OFFLINE   Yee-Ming



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Posted December 20 2006 - 09:11 PM

Have a look at this thread for Blackbird stories:-


#17 of 33 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted December 20 2006 - 11:12 PM

Jack, you wouldn't be talking about those pulsed vapor trails that crossed the US now would you?

#18 of 33 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted December 21 2006 - 01:42 AM

I believe the old Soviet "competitor" to the YF-12/SR-71 the Mig-25 Foxbat, would be the next fastest plane.

Posted Image

Look at those engines.... My goodness, talk about power.

I don't think you could call the Shuttle a plane, but it cruses at something like 30,000 mph I believe.
Edit: oops - make that something like 20K mph.
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#19 of 33 OFFLINE   alan halvorson

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Posted December 21 2006 - 01:53 AM

If it could go this fast, the shuttle could go to the moon. Orbiting speed is between 17-18,000 mph. Escape velocity is something like 25,000 mph.
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#20 of 33 OFFLINE   RobertR


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Posted December 21 2006 - 01:57 AM

Hmmm. Is the X-15 being left out of the discussion because it wasn't an air breather? The SR71 is an awesome machine I very much admire, but the X-15 flew MUCH faster and MUCH higher.

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