SR-71 Blackbird Fragment
SR-71 Blackbird Fragment
Above: Front of Specimen Card
This specimen is a metallic fragment from SR-71 61-7956, also known as NASA 831. With 1,454 successful flights and 3,967.5 flight hours, this craft holds the record for the most flight time regularly soaring above 80,000ft at speeds greater than Mach 3.2. It is also believed to be the single most photographed Blackbird aircraft.
The material comes from the overlapping flaps which surrounded the exhaust of the SR-71, also known as a "turkey feather". This particular piece is an inner ejector filler made of René 41, a superalloy selected specifically for its high-temperature resistance. This alloy is composed of nickel, chromium, cobalt, and titanium, and was also used in the outer shell of the Mercury space capsule. More information about this incredible material can be found in NASA's "Design and Development of the Blackbird: Challenges and Lessons Learned" [PDF].
Opening and closing according to the pressure output of the afterburner, engine nacelle exhaust ejectors are considered one of the hardest working parts of the aircraft. The size and shape of the fragments will vary and some will show scorch marks.
Above: A close-up of the turkey feather with scorch marks.
All fragments have sharp edges, so please use extreme caution when handling and never allow children to handle the specimens unattended.
The specimen is enclosed in a handsome, glass-topped riker box case measuring 4 1/2" x 3 1/2". A small information card is also included.
About the SR-71
The SR-71 was built for speed and stealth. Setting records as the world's fastest manned aircraft, the SR-71 easily cruised at more than three times the speed of sound. For those lucky few who were able to fly the SR-71, the experience turned out to be something also quasi-religious. That sense of reverence also extended to those who faced the SR-71 as an enemy aircraft. Viktor Belenko, the soviet MiG pilot who defected to Japan in 1976 wrote, "They taunted and toyed with the MiG-25s sent up to intercept them, scooting up to altitudes we could not reach, and circling leisurely above them or dashing off at speeds we could not match."
The first official Blackbird test flight occurred on April 30th, 1962. This model, the A-12, was a smaller, single-seat version of what would become the SR-71. The test took place at the secretive Groom Lake, Nevada Air Force base also known as Area-51. The first SR-71 flight took place less than two years later on December 22, 1964.
In 1991, after the retirement of the SR-71 program, two planes were given to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center (now the Armstrong Flight Research Center) in Edwards, California. These planes included a standard SR-71 and the SR-71B, a model built in order to train pilots of the aircraft. These planes would go on to be used for a number of experiments run by NASA until their final retirement in 1999.
The SR-71’s abilities made it an ideal platform for high speed, high altitude research in a variety of fields: aerodynamics, propulsion, thermal materials, atmospheric studies, and sonic boom characterization. During their time at NASA, the planes tested laser light as a way to produce air speed and altitude data, collected information on celestial objects on wavelengths blocked to ground based instruments, and was even used in a study to attempt to minimize the peaks of sonic booms on the ground.
As noted above, this specimen is a fragment of a "turkey feather" from SR-71 61-7956, also known as NASA 831. With 1,454 successful flights and 3,967.5 flight hours, this craft holds the record for the most flight time regularly soaring above 80,000ft at speeds greater than Mach 3.2. It is also believed to be the single most photographed Blackbird aircraft.
The turkey feathers are overlapping flaps that surrounded the exhaust of the SR-71. Opening and closing according to the pressure output of the afterburner, they are considered one of the hardest working parts of the aircraft. SR-71 61-7956 was retired in 1991 and is currently on display at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Would you like to know more about the SR-71? Read more about the SR-71 in Specimen Notes from the Mini Museum: Built for Speed! This article also covers the material used in the Third Edition of the Mini Museum.
Above: Back of Specimen Card