Pure Speed!

SR-71 Blackbird
SR-71 Blackbird

The world's fastest piloted aircraft first flew on 22 December 1964, at a speed of 2,193 mph, the SR-71 still holds the record as the world's fastest stealth aircraft. Check out the videos below!

On the first flight, piloted by Bob Gilliland, the SR-71 reached a top speed of Mach 3.4. USAF Pilot, Major Brian Shul, later reported reaching a speed of Mach 3.5 on an operational sortie while evading a missile over Libya.

The SR-71 was developed to be a long-range, advanced, strategic reconnaissance (SR) aircraft capable of reaching speeds over Mach 3. The first flight took place on Dec. 22, 1964. The U.S. Air Force retired its fleet of SR-71s Jan. 26, 1990. A few of the original “Blackbirds” were put back in service from 1995 until January 1997. The aircraft on display at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum was among them.

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Check out our new SR-71 T-Shirts, and other cool Blackbird/Skunk Works gear !
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The Blackbirds flew for34 years gathering intel from all over the world. Blackbird pilots evaded all 4,000 missiles and it remains the only Air Force aircraft to never lose a crewmember.

The SR-71 was built by Lockheed's Skunk Works. They were contracted to to build a dozen spy planes, named "A-12" on 11 February 1960. Skunk Works built several developmental variations of the SR-71 such as the YF-12A Interceptor, the B-71 Bomber, and the M-21 code-named "Tagboard," to name a few.

The Blackbird was designed to operate at extreme velocities, altitudes and temperatures. The SR-71 was on the leading edge of aeronautical engineering and it was the first aircraft constructed with titanium. That was because the friction created at Mach 2.6 would melt an aluminum frame. Its engineering was so cutting edge that even the tools to build the SR-71 needed to be designed from scratch.


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 First Flight: 1964
Top speed: 2,193 mph
Introduced: January 1966
Manufacturer: Lockheed
Engine type: Pratt & Whitney J58
Number built: 32
Retired: 1999

Come see this historical aircraft in person at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.


Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

Daniel Cullen

Always a pleasure seeing art and science collaborate . The SR-71 is Magnificent .

Earl Holmes

Always was inspired by the black hawk any formation on it I would always and still do take time to read it.
I am from California and I heard that sonic boom on what I believe it's last flight when it went out over the pacific ocean and headed back east to retirement. That trip I believe was a record breaker as well.

Sam Blackwelder

Hello! I had a question, which may simply be due to my lack of understanding in terms of planes and speed. It is reported that the fastest speed of the SR-71 is 2,193 mph. It is also reported that the fastest speed is Mach 3.5. However, Mach 3.5 is roughly equivalent to 2685 mph, which is significantly higher than the previously reported maximum speed. Is there another factor that is accounted for in one measurement and not the other? How is it that the reported top speeds do not match? Again, I am genuinely curious and would love to learn more about this.

Darbo Long

The SR-71 is among the most beautiful planes of all time. When looked at head-on, however, it sometimes reminds me of Daffy Duck cartoons when Daffy got hit on the head by a brick. Nevertheless, simply walking around this jet in the Evergreen Aviation Museum gives me the chills every time; it's elegance, surface simplicity and effectiveness are legendary. For anyone living in Oregon or southern Washington state, it is worth a trip to Evergreen to see this breath-taking airplane.

I highly recommend reading any biography of "Kelly" Johnson, the design genius behind this awesome plane, as well as several other famous airframes such as the U-2, F-104 Starfighter, P-80 and others. Alternately, read a history of Lockheed's "Skunk Works" to learn how these planes were designed and built in record time and usually under budget.


I have read that when it was operational, it set the speed record, but if it was beaten then they would take it up again. So the record wasn’t the top speed of the plane!

Alan Burch

Sam Black Welder even though the aircraft was retired in 1992 the top speed and altitude are still classified as Top Secret. We probably will never know the true capabilities of the aircraft.

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