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The SR-71 afterburner blowing apart during an air show

by Till Daisd
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The main image in this post, taken at Andrews Air Force Base at an Air Show in May 1984, shows the SR-71 Blackbird #960 right afterburner blowing apart

The post’s main image, of an SR-71 #960 right afterburner blowing apart, was taken in May 1984 at an air show at Andrews Air Force Base (AFB), now known as Joint Base Andrews. Here are a few quotes taken from a May 14, 1984, Washington Post article.

‘A highly sophisticated Air Force spy plane that was on public display here Saturday caught fire yesterday as it took off from Andrews Air Force Base, authorities reported.

‘The pilot of the SR-71 Blackbird shut down the burning right engine of the high-altitude reconnaissance jet and brought the airplane, which carries a crew of two, safely back to the runway, an Andrews spokesman said.

‘[…] The cause of the fire could not be learned last night. Officials said that it will be investigated by the Air Force.

‘The plane has been here at least since Friday morning, according to an Andrews spokesman, but authorities said they did not know just when it arrived from Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, Calif., where it is attached to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. Although its missions and activities are still shrouded to a great extent in secrecy, the black-painted SR-71 was one of a number of aircraft parked on the ramp at Andrews Saturday for inspection at the air show, attended by an estimated 370,000 persons.

‘Visitors were permitted to approach to within about five feet of the needle-nosed 107-foot 5-inch long airplane, which has a wingspan of 55 feet 7 inches.

‘A spokesman for the Strategic Air Command, which operates the SR-71s, said the craft, manufactured by Lockheed, can fly “higher and faster than any other planes in our inventory.” He said they can climb to above 80,000 feet and reach three times the speed of sound.

‘The plane, said to carry a wide variety of information-gathering sensors along with cameras, was taking off shortly after noon yesterday when, according to a witness, the engine on its right side “burst into flames.”

As previously mentioned, Blackbird #960 (SR-71) was involved in the accident. Blackbird Reconnaissance Systems Officer (RSO) Butch Sheffield was informed by Kelly Johnson that the SR-71 was structurally unsound. This very identical airframe nearly crashed once before.

It was flown once in the 1970s by Butch Sheffield and Ben Bowles, and again in the 1980s by Dave Peters and Ed Bethart.

Then it had another accident in 1984. This SR-71 managed to avoid death three times. Currently, the 960 is visible from the outside of Castle Air Force Base in California.

Check out the Habubrats and Born into the Wilde Blue Yonder Facebook pages for further Blackbird photos and stories.


Photo by John Olp shared by Mike Relja

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