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Unseen Footage of the SR-71 at Edwards AFB

Our friend recently posted a long lost VHS video of the SR-71. Filmed between 1990 and 1995, it features some amazing footage of our fastest Mach 3+ jet ever to grace the skies. ( More...

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avionik99 17
I worked the SR-71'a at Beale AFB back in the mid 70's. I was in comm repair and would come in early in the am to preflight the jet and follow her out to the hammerhead in the launch truck. We had the most awesome view of he full AB take offs. Yup those were the days of good ole SAC command.
Dan Shoffner 8
Thats about the time my brother Jim Shoffner was at Beale with the SR. We got a brief glance of the bird on our visit to Beale, What a machine!!
William Barker 7
Absolutely! I was a Lockheed FSR at Beale about that time. Loved to watch those full AB take offs.
bentwing60 5
WB, did the SR-71s have an apu of any sort?

The reason I ask is because a turbine of some sort could be heard operating right up until the crew began the process of all systems shutdown and egress.

What an awesome beast of an airplane, and the NASA F16XL was a rare treat as well in this video!
Mike Taylor 1
I don't know, but it looked like an F-18, not F-16. Twin verts and engines??
John Taylor 3
The first to taxi by was the NASA SR-71, the second to taxi by was an F-16 and the third to taxi by was an F-18.
John Taylor 1
Plus, the first to take off was the F-16 and the second was the F-18. So you were both right.
bentwing60 1
DDGo. the GD, NASA Dryden F16XL and go back and watch the video again, the F16XL is not only shown as a chase plane, but is also credited as one of the rare breed captured in the process.

When this historical series of videos was taken, "Filmed between 1990 and 1995", NASA was the sole operator of the aircraft during part of that time period.

"During 1989, the USAF retired the SR-71 largely for political reasons; several were briefly reactivated during the 1990s before their second retirement in 1998. NASA was the final operator of the Blackbird, who used it as a research platform, and was retired in 1999." Hence the "Other Awesome NASA Planes In The Video" quote below the trailer.

Just an FYI.
William Barker 1
I don't recall any apu on the SRs. What you may have heard were the various AC/cooling systems spinning down during the systems shutdown.
2sheds 2
There is an APU at Castle Air Museum and it famous for having 4 Buick V-8s. At least some were the Al block V-8s that could really snort.
David Ingram 6
The original start carts were built by a auto performance speed shop using current Nail Head Buick motors with no mufflers, hence the base being woke up with the Buicks. Chevy 454s were used later and then some kind of air starter was developed. I like telling the car show Buick guys about them.
William Barker 3
Those weren't APUs (Auxiliary Power Units). Those were the start carts. They were needed to spin up the turbines, and yes, they could really snort. I could hear them all the way over in my building across the road.
Hank Armstrong 1
Was one in Boeing Museum too.
Ron Streetenberger 2
I was a link tech rep transitioning from NASA Apollo simulator program to commercial program in 1966. At the time Link was working on project X. It turned out to be the SR71 simulator.
Dan Drimmie 5
I was an Identification officer in 22nd NORAD region when I encountered an SR running from England to Cali. on an attempt to set a transoceanic/transcontinental speed record. She did it under 4 hrs iirc. Our SAGE tracking computers could not keep up with her...we had to go manual with humans...the speed exceeded the design limits of NORAD computers of the time. It was classified at the time...lets just say she was flying over 1000kts FASTER than Concord.
Matt Smith 4
Have to pass that on to my Dad - once I'm gone too of course.. He helped design Concorde.
Jim Isbell 4
That plane has been flying for over 50 years and its STILL the fastest airplane in the world...........
clarify 5
... that we know about.
Jim Isbell 3
SkyAware123 1
Chuck Chall 4
I watched them come and go from the end of the runway in Kadena, Okinawa in the early 70's when I was stationed there in the Navy.
Peter Mitchell 3
Timeless and excellent footage, love these snippets of history. Many thanks for sharing.
Dave Kutz 3
I was an AGE repairman for the SR71 at Beale and TDY to Kadena from 1969-1972. Once had to recover it in Kunson AB in South Korea. My job was repairing the two Buick Wildcat engines in the AG330M which had one throttle for both engines. Four Barrel carbs.
Chuck Wain 3
It was Kelly Johnson not Jim Kelly that lead the design team, pretty big factual error.
William Owens 1
I worked as a contractor with my brother n law at the USFL Houston Gamblers facility in SW Houston where the team practiced, when I was fortunate enough to meet Quarterback Jim Kelly. A very nice fellow. He was MVP for the league that year in the early 80s. Good times.
John Twohy 3
sure, is a pretty bird.
Matt Smith 2
Man there are some memories: I was at the EAFB airshow in 1997? 1998? (Fiftieth anniversary of the USAF: saw one of the last flights at the show - standing on the shock diamonds going straight up. Unfortunately by the time I got to EAFB 2004-12 for the ABL program they weren't flying. We used to eat lunch outside and watch aircraft every day to "stretch our eyes" away from PC work all day.

Noticed comments on the sound of the ground carts: they needed ~ 3-400 horsepower: 2 Buick Wildcat V-8 engines with uncorked headers did the trick. 1991-8 lived in Palmdale 3 miles south of USAF 42: is the open-air museum still at 25th & P?

Chase birds: there was a 16 earlier on and both 16 and 18 on the later part at EAFB - shot from the North side.

SOOOOO... what have we done since the 60's that's anywhere near as impressive for just plain everything? Kelly Johnson we need you again.
Ron Streetenberger 2
Thanks for the video, Jim. I worked at AFP 42. in the mid 50's on the F106 program. Shifting gears-how many of you know of Ralph Parr, the greatest military aviator of all time?
John Smart 2
Stationed at Camp Zukeran Okinawa many years go and was fortunate to watch many “Habu’s” operating out of Kadena AB. A AWESOME plane!
Elliot Cannon 2
I worked on the "Q" model KC-135 that refueled the SR-71 at Kadena in Okinawa back in the 60's. I've got some Super 8 movies (remember them) of it somewhere.
Ken Lawrence 2
As I recall, They had to use a pyrophoric (pentaborane) stored in a squib for each engine to ignite the fuel. I think the fuel was JP-7. Worked crash rescue and spent a lot of time watching the SR7i and YF12 from the first arrival at Edwards. The start cart with the Buick engines was as an exciteng sound as the AB's on takeoff.
William Owens 3
Such cool footage. Sometimes I wonder who put who in charge of making stupid decisions like mothballing the best of the best. Almost reminds me of what the hell that’s going on now
Sam Hobbs 1
Is maintenance costs of the SR-71 low? Did it provide better imagery than satellites?
i5xswipe 2
The SR71 was developed in a time before satellite imagery as we know it today was developed. We had manned "satellites" in parallel with the Mercury launches, this was essentially the first for low Earth orbit imaginary. Satellite technology would evolve, and become the norm.

The problem with satellites at that time was the limited ability to capture images. You are at the mercy of the satellite's orbit, with limited ability to change the orbit. This is further affected by night and weather. If the satellite doesn't pass over the target of interest, and you don't have clear skies and daylight at that time it passes the target, You can't get the image. The SR71 could be deployed at a whims notice and be on station rather quickly, under ideal conditions.
Sam Hobbs 1
My question about satellite imagery was about the technology that existed at the time the SR-71 was mothballed and after that, not at the time the SR-71 was developed.
William Owens 1
The way things are going you are hard pressed to put all eggs in the sat basket. If I needed imagery NOW and the sat cannot be tasked due to mechanical issues or just flat out disappearances, the 71 can get there and be gone b-4 they know it
SkyAware123 1
perhaps there's something faster out there. perhaps. This plane first flew in 1962.... SIXTY TWO.
Matt Smith 1
think this one through...
1903 (call it 19022) Wright Brothers...
60 years later in 1962 KJ and the Skunk Works brings THIS out -
60 years later in 2022 ... WHAT have we done with aircraft since then in the preceding 60 years, other than bigger and more crowded...?????

Single Stage to Orbit would have maybe impressed me as much, but we never did it. (efficiencies and budget issues killed Lockheed's (again!) VentureStar? X-33? with the Rocketdyne Aerospike in it during late 90's (I was Rocketdyne at the time but not in propulsion...)
Joseph Sede 2
Question. Does that chase plane get tossed around in the wake of the Blackbird? TIA
William Barker 3
Those T-38 chase planes always flew offset to the SRs flight path to avoid the wake. (FYI, Lockheed themselves originally used F-104s as chase. They still couldn't keep up during climb-out, and that's one fast airplane in its own right. There's old footage somewhere of an F-104 flying chase at speed during an SR takeoff. The SR, from roll, to full AB takeoff and climb- out, left that 104 behind like it was parked in mid-air.)
SorenTwin 2
If it ever flew into that wake, it would. Like any other aircraft.
W Woodard 1
Amazing footage. I can only imagine the adrenaline those test pilots must have felt. Thanks for sharing.
Dave Kutz 1
the twin Buick Wildcat engines were just in front of the main control panel. A 8 inch or so gear rose up to mesh with bottom of engine then crank engines to turn it. Similar to a Submarine up scope.
2sheds 1
AF plant 42 is at Palmdale. Maybe I misunderstood the reference.
Who is Jim Kelly?
The genius of the SR71 was Ben Rich who was a thermal guy. That whole thing was a thermal nightmare but they worked the problems and got great solutions.
paul trubits 1
He was the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills
William Owens 1
That was after the Houston Gamblers USFL
Jim Isbell 1
I got to see one take off from a base in England back in the 80s. I was impressed with the angle of takeoff. It was straight along the axis of the aircraft. There was no "mushing" toward the belly. Just straight up along a fixed line.
Sam Hobbs 1
A SR-71 flew over Burbank Airport in 1990 when Lockheed moved out of Burbank. I was there to see the demonstration.
jerry sarfati fa 2
I was there too. We walked over from bldg 67. CALAC
Sam Hobbs 1
I forget what building it was that we were in; it was the building with the computers and programmers, near yours probably.
jerry sarfati fa 1
67 had computer training and education and CADAM upstairs.
Sam Hobbs 1
Upstairs had all the business programmers, including systems such as order entry, engineering and manufacturing parts lists and instructions. And there were scientific programmers too. I talked with the CADAM people often.
Hank Armstrong 1
Never forget the man behind the machine, Clarence Kelly Johnson. Mr. "Keep It Simple Stupid"(KISS Principle)
"SR-71 Cockpit Checkout" video on YouTube. You won't be disappointed.
Alan Hume 1
I stood under the one on display at Duxford Air Museum, Cambridgeshire, UK in 2010. So impressive! They had drip trays on the floor under both engines. Very loose on the ground but tightened up considerably at altitude.
Very Cool!! I can watch that all day long.
Tom Mecker 1
In the early 70's I remember the SR-71 was forced to make an emergency landing at Reese AFB in Lubbock, Texas. It was early evening and as soon as it touched down it was covered which a very large tarp. It took off a few hours later just after midnight I believe. It was a big surprise for us.
William Owens 1
Hey Kurtz, that was the mid engine version right?
Alan Glover 1
Jeff Pelletier 1
Great video. I highly recommend if you're ever in the Dulles area to go see this amazing aircraft up close and personal. I used to live near Dulles Airport and had the privilege of seeing this aircraft years ago. When I was there they still let you walk right under it but now it appears they have safety gates surrounding it. It was one of the highlights of the museum along with the Enola Gay B-29 Superfortress and Space Shuttle Enterprise. The Enterprise has since been moved out of there however I think Discovery is there now.
Sam Hobbs 2
And there is a SR-71 in Edwards AFB, California and Atwater, California and many other places.
paul trubits 1
It is called the Udvar Hazy Center
SkyAware123 -2
relax, you're not that special. there's another one in the Pima space and air museum in az.
John Taylor 2
Coulda said it little more friendly though...


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