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Construction of the first SR-71 Blackbird (61-7950) was completed by Lockheed at its Burbank California Skunk Works in October of 1964. The aircraft was then broken down for shipment to Palmdale, California where it was reassembled. Kelly Johnson, the famous aircraft designer for Lockheed, had oversight responsibility for this project, and Kelly gave specific instructions to Robert Gilliland, the pilot chosen for the first flight of the Blackbird. The first flight was originally scheduled for December 21, 1964. Bad weather had caused a one-day postponement. During the first flight only Gilliland would be on board, and a trio of F-104 fighters would fly chase. Following take off Gilliland performed a number of stability and handling checks. He then took the Blackbird up to 30,000 feet and easily went supersonic (hitting Mach 1.2) before some caution lights came on. Determining that he faced no serious problems Gilliland accelerated to Mach 1.5 and climbed to 50,000 feet. Returning to Palmdale he made a subsonic flyby before lining up for his landing. The first six SR-71s produced were assigned to flight-testing at Edwards AFB. The first successful aerial refueling of a Blackbird occurred on April 25, 1965, and two pilot training aircraft (designated SR-71B) were delivered in 1965. A set back to the program occurred in January 1966 when an SR-71 was lost over New Mexico and a year later the original Blackbird (61-7950) was destroyed when the craft caught fire during braking tests at Edwards. Overall ten Blackbirds were lost during the first six years of the program. A total of thirty-two SR-71A aircraft were produced. In March of 1990 an SR-71 was flown from California to Washington before being retired to the Smithsonians Air and Space Museum.
Blackbird Artwork Collection
Habu 972 at Mach 3.0 by Philip West.
The Untouchable by Philip West.
Above and Beyond by Philip West.
The Black is Back by Robert Tomlin.
Outrun the Thunder by John D Shaw.
SR17A Blackbird - 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, RAF Mildenhall (PHOTO) by C F Allan.
Way Ahead of its Time by Stan Stokes.
First Flight of the Blackbird by Stan Stokes.
Lockheed SR-71A 64-17973 of 9th SRW, USAF by Keith Woodcock.
|Signatures for : Blackbird|
|A list of all signatures from our database who are associated with this aircraft. A profile page is available by clicking their name.|
Click the name above to see prints signed by Robert Gilliland
| Robert Gilliland |
Test pilot, the first pilot to fly the SR-71 Blackbird.
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