Monday, February 7, 2011
Catch me if you can...
The SR-71 Blackbird was built almost entirely of titanium, 85% basically, which back in the late 60s was unheard of in an airframe. Traveling at mach 3+ had its disadvantages though. Friction with the air around it would cause the temperature of the air craft to rise to 500 degrees, this led to sections of the wings and fuselage to being corrugated to allow for the expansion of the heated titanium. It would literally leak fuel all over the runway before take off until it became hot enough to make a snug fit. So it was usually the case that they would make a few fast flybys to warm up and then refuel in the air before the mission. Luckily its fuel was extremely hard to ignite.
It was designed to be stealth but truly it was very detectable, and it really didn't matter anyway since it could outrun anything in the sky, even surface to air missles. To this day not a single one was shot down with over 3000 shots being taken at it. They would just kick in the afterburner and get away. To make things even more difficult they would often operate at 80,000 feet. To put that in perspective a human being cannot maintain consciousness around about 12,000 feet, their lungs just can't absorb enough oxygen in the low pressure environment. Also standard oxygen masks are only good up to around 40,000 feet, after which it because extremely difficult to exhale do to the pressure difference. That's why they wore space suits, and they where later used in the space shuttle.
Pull the yellow lever, I dare you. You'd get a flash wave of temperatures over 450 degrees upon ejection. It is defiantly one of the coolest looking birds ever built, and its performance was a match. Lots where lost to accidents and malfunctions but an awesome aircraft that flew to the edge of space.