SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

For discussions that drift from original topic.
An informal area for conversations, humor and observations that aren't necessarily strictly railroad related. No discussion of politics or religion. Ads are not permitted.

Moderators: othermoderator, moderator

Mark D
Conductor
Posts: 3203
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:01 pm
Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Mark D » Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:36 pm

Most people who like trains, also like boats cars and planes. Pretty much stuff that moves. The faster it moves, the bigger it is, or the more powerful it is, the more cool it is.
I was sifting through a bunch of old slides that never made it into a carousel years ago. It seems I've alwasy had more slides than carousels. Recently I found some in good shape for really cheap on ebay. Next thing I knew, I was trying to figure out what to put in them.
Well, these didn't make it, because I took them to the local photographer to have them scanned to a disk so I could put them here. Yep, right here. I was thinking Chaski.
Back in, oh I don't know, around 1992 I guess, I got an invite to visit the Minnesota Air National Guard museum with some friends as part of a group of engineers. It was a special event with dinner in the Fort Snelling Officers club afterward.
At the Air Guard msueum, they had just acquired a really cool new display. An A-12. This is the single seat version of the later YF-12A which is the predecessor to the most famous SR-71. All use the name "Blackbird" and all go incredibly fast. So fast that even though the design dates from the early '60s, they are still to this day the fastest manned airplane in the world. Nothing even comes close. Speeds way over Mach 3 and altitudes of FL85+. Basically, they fly to and cruise at the edge of space.
This was Americas best spy plane. Used to take photo's anywhere in the world on only a few hours notice, they had belly cameras that could photograph the proverbial numbers on the license plates of the cars down there. Nobody could shoot them down. Oh how the Russians tried!! We, (the USA) flew them with total impunity over the USSR. The crews aboard these "sleds" could watch the best SAM's the Soviets had do their best to reach them, but fall miles short. They couldn't go high enough and they couldn't go fast enough. They still can't.
But today the aircraft type is no longer in service. Very expensive to operate, it suffered from a combination of budget cuts and personal vendetta's. Call it rivalry, perhaps.
Back in the day, if the spooks needed to know what was happening TODAY over, say, Lybia, they could have all the pictures they wanted within a few hours. These photos were taken by total surprise to those on the ground, who might know within seconds of when the next survelliance sattelite is due to come by. These things showed up, did their work, and disappeared again so suddenly that usually those on the ground never even knew they had just been on candid camera. No time to bury the evidence.
Designed and built at the famous Lockheed "Skunk Works" in Burbank CA, which was headed up by the famous Kelly Johnson, also known for other famous aircraft such as the P-38 Lightning, it was brought from nebulous idea to operation aircraft in only a few short years.

But they were expensive. Even the fuel was special, and cost a lot. And to fire them up, they needed special stuff called Triethyoborate, TEB. Burns when exposed to air.
Built entirely of titanium. Engines bigger than the fuselage, the biggest jet engines built to date when designed. Pratt and Whitney J-58's. They are HUGE.
Here are a few photos of one of the earlest of the breed, an A12. I took these photos at the Air Guard Museum in Minneapolis back in the early '90s. I had a chance, even, to sit in the cockpit. Notice the instruments. All are just standard flight instruments that would be found in any aircraft, although undoubtedly calibrated to much higher altitudes and speeds. The only thing different is the fire control radar in the center top of the inst. panel. The early aircraft were intended as strategic attack aircraft that could be placed over enemy territory by surprise, and launch air to ground missiles with complete surprise.
So, here are a few photo's of this incredible aircraft that was designed back in the days of slide rules (if you don't know what those are, you're missing out on something) and drafting boards. (if you don't know what those are, you're missing out on something) Today, it's all CAD instead. A mechanical engineer I know calls CAD, "Super High Intensity Technology." The abbreviation tells what he thinks of it. He still uses a drafting board.
The phot's aren't the greatest. Downsized for internet. Plus I was using a new camera that I hadn't figured out yet. I still have it, and I still haven't figured it out. I switched to a different one.
Mark D.
Attachments
Mark03RESIZED.jpg
Looking at it from the rear. Engines look bigger than the aircraft, huh?
Mark03RESIZED.jpg (163.25 KiB) Viewed 9293 times
Mark08RESIZED.jpg
looking aft along the belly of the beast.
Mark08RESIZED.jpg (208.03 KiB) Viewed 9293 times
Mark06RESIZED.jpg
Pilots instrument panel. Not the most spacious cockpit. Imagine riding in this sled at 2500 mph
Mark06RESIZED.jpg (208.86 KiB) Viewed 9293 times
Last edited by Mark D on Thu Jan 08, 2009 10:12 am, edited 2 times in total.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Mark D
Conductor
Posts: 3203
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:01 pm
Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Mark D » Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:51 pm

And a few more.
Note in the third photo in the first post the yellow cart under the starboard wing. That's a "start cart" or also called a "Buick." These start carts originally had two 401 nailhead buick V8's in them, tied together to a vertical shaft that telescopes to a connector at the bottom of the engine nacelle. The Buicks are run up to somewhere around 5000 rpm to start the engine. Later on, when the big block Chevy's came to pass, these were changed over to 454 Chevy's. But they retained the nickname Buick.
I have a video of these beasts operating. You can easily hear those big V8's screaming their hearts out during startup. Then the green flame shoots out from the TEB igniting. TEB is used for afterburner, too. When an SR-71 takes off in afterburner, you also know he's going to go for an unlimited takeoff, or basically, a near vertical climb to out of sight altitude as soon as he's reached adequate air speed.
Attachments
Mark05resized.jpg
tail with bu number
Mark05resized.jpg (96.69 KiB) Viewed 9264 times
Mark12RESIZED.jpg
dead on the nose. note the pito tube off the side of that spear that points right you
Mark12RESIZED.jpg (195.24 KiB) Viewed 9264 times
Mark04RESIZED.jpg
The landing gear. Note the shiny dots. Studs? Not sure, but those are some awsome looking wheels.
Mark04RESIZED.jpg (220.53 KiB) Viewed 9267 times
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Mark D
Conductor
Posts: 3203
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:01 pm
Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Mark D » Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:00 pm

And last, and probably least, a couple more.
Note that everything to do with this aircraft had to be designed from scratch. Even the wire used inside the airframe was special. Tools had to be specially designed. Tools could contain no chromium. Tools with chromium would cause corrosion to the titanium structure. Same with fasteners. They had to be specially made just for the job.
Attachments
Mark13RESIZED.jpg
Check out the profile on the leading edge of the left wing.
Mark13RESIZED.jpg (172.89 KiB) Viewed 9268 times
Mark07RESIZED.jpg
Looking right at the "spike" on the #1 engine. These retract at speed so the engines don't "unstart"
Mark07RESIZED.jpg (208.55 KiB) Viewed 9270 times
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Wowak
Conductor
Posts: 132
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 6:47 pm
Location: Schuylkill Co., PA

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Wowak » Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:35 pm

MarkD never fails to deliver cool stuff.
-Former Moderator

Fitz
Conductor
Posts: 908
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Waldport, OR, USA
Contact:

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Fitz » Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:34 am

Mark, a subject dear to my heart. We could sure use those SR's right now, surprising the enemy with the intel that they gathered. They might have known that they had been copied by the muted double sonic boom when one of these beauties overflew them. I have tracked down a few of the "relocated" birds. This photo was easy, it was in the Blackbird Air Park in Palmdale, CA, where an SR and an A-12, D-21, U-2 and J-58 engine are all displayed. Another is here in Oregon at the Evergreen museum in McMinnville, a real class operation. One is a gate guard at the former Castle AFB, now museum, in Atwater, CA.
Image[/img]
Image

Mark D
Conductor
Posts: 3203
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:01 pm
Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Mark D » Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:34 pm

Fitz, I have a few questions you might be able to answer.
One, what number is that aircraft you're sitting in? And do you know the number of the one at McMinnville?

Also, I have this DVD of the last SR flight out of Kadena AFB, Okinawa. Cool video. Aircraft 962.
So, am I mixed up with something else, or when this aircraft left Kadena, did it fly direct to Dulles DIA, and in so doing set another world speed record? Also, if so, is it the aircraft that was then towed through the streets of Washington DC and is now on display at the National Air and Space museum?
Or am I thinking of another aircraft, another flight, and maybe several other flights?
Also, was this flight out of Kadena the last SR flight ever? Or was there another aircraft, or more, still in service somewhere else in the world for a while? If so, which number/s?
Thanks,
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Fitz
Conductor
Posts: 908
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Waldport, OR, USA
Contact:

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Fitz » Thu Jan 08, 2009 8:10 pm

Mark, I'll give it a try. 17962, the one that made the last flight out of Kadena, did not fly to Washington, DC. I don't really know what the USAF schedule was for a "last flight." The one that set the cross country record(s) from LA to DC was 17972, which was the Flight Test airplane at Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA. I was there for that one. I don't think it got towed through Washington, as it landed at Dulles, which is quite a distance outside of the city. It is now displayed at the U-H (can't remember the names) division of the Smithsonian that is at Dulles. The two that are in Palmdale and here in Oregon I believe are the last two that were assigned to NASA after the program was cancelled. 17971 is at McMinnville and 17973 is at Palmdale, along with A-12 06924, the first one. The one at Castle AFB is 17960. The only survivor of the original flight test three is 17951, on display at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, AZ. 17950 was destroyed in a braking test accident at Edwards, and 17952 was the one that Bill Weaver survived after an in flight breakup at speed and altitude over New Mexico in 1966.
I have to put this link to Leland Haynes' great website on all things Blackbird:
http://www.wvi.com/~sr71webmaster/sr-71~1.htm[/url]
Image

Mark D
Conductor
Posts: 3203
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:01 pm
Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Mark D » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:25 am

Thanks Fitz. I do recall a newspaper article with photo of 972 being towed down some street after setting that new record.
Seems like any time someone decided to set a new record with one of those things, they just went ahead and did it.

Do you know if any were stored servicable? I mean, with engines still in them and the wings NOT cut, like happened to 932. Once the wings are cut, they cannot possibly ever fly again. The question being that if some dept. in Gov. decided that they needed to make one or two of these go again, and were willing and able to put all the infrastructure together again, is there an aircraft or two that could still be made airworthy?
That video of Leyland Haynes is incredible. I really like those near vertical departures. And the sound of those Buicks doing their best to start a J58. Hearing the voice of the master himself, Kelly Johnson, describing the aircraft, and the D-21 incident is also memorable. And the little airshow at Kadena. Cool!
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Fitz
Conductor
Posts: 908
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Waldport, OR, USA
Contact:

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Fitz » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:31 pm

That's a good question, Mark. I am just guessing here, but I think 17972 which is at Dulles could be made to fly again. Maybe the one in Palmdale, too. Infrastructure is the key word. I doubt if any fuel or TEB would be available. I do know that if it was ever brought up, to try to fly one again, the USAF ground crew guys would come out of the woodwork to make it happen. They had great pride in that bird.
Image

Fitz
Conductor
Posts: 908
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Waldport, OR, USA
Contact:

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Fitz » Sun Jan 11, 2009 5:48 pm

I found another picture of A-12 06924 and SR 17973 at Palmdale.
Image[/img]
For some reason it doesn't show. The URL is correct. ??
http://www.pioneer.net/~fitzrr/sr&a12.jpg
Image

Mark D
Conductor
Posts: 3203
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:01 pm
Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Mark D » Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:06 am

Fitz, that is a great photo. It shows something I was not aware of before. I knew that the SR has much more chine than the A12 or YF-12A, but this shows a very different profile for the entire nose section between the A12 and SR.
I recall reading somewhere that one of the early sled drivers said that the YF-12A or, possibly it was the A12 itself, was actually a slightly faster aircraft than the SR. Not sure how he'd know this, because it seems to me that pilots weren't allowed to exceed the maximum certified speed rating, whatever that is. It's different in every book I read. Probably none of them are accurate. All of them in the 2200 to 2500 mph area, though, IIRC.

By the way, do you know whatever happened to that one SR that was specially built as a trainer aircraft? My memory says there was one built with the RSO cockpit raised up above the pilot cockpit for dual visibility, to be used for training purposes. Where did that one go?
Have any of them that weren't wrecked been scrapped? Or are they all around somewhere?
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Fitz
Conductor
Posts: 908
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Waldport, OR, USA
Contact:

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Fitz » Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:26 pm

Mark, origninally there were two trainers built, 17956 and 17957, the 7th and 8th of the production run. 17957 suffered the loss of both generators, thus relegated to emergency power, on a flight out of Beale AFB in January 1968. The pilots elected to try to make it to Beale, and almost did. With no AC power there were no fuel boost pumps, and both engines flamed out. The airplane crashed about 7 miles short of Beale. I later met Dave Fruehauf, who was the "student" on this flight. Both pilots ejected and survived.
17956 is not too far from you. It is a resident of the Kalamazoo Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, MI.
A third "trainer" the only SR-71C, was built from the rear end of YF-12 06934 and a functional SR mockup front end. It was numbered 17981 and suffered from a lot of operational problems as one of a kind. It, too, is preserved at Hill AFB, Utah.
I don't know of any that were scrapped, other than the ones that crashed. There are a whole lot of them displayed around the country.
I almost forgot, there was an A-12 trainer, too. If I remember right, it is displayed near the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. Can't remember the number, but it was known as the "titanium goose."
I never saw the flight manual for the A-12, but am quite sure it was limited to the same Mach no. as the SR. It was a limitation of the Compressor Inlet Temp of the engines. I did "hear" that all of them had excess thrust even at the limit Mach and the A-12 was more likely to "slip" into excess speed. Don't know that for sure. I do recall a test flight where one of our test airplanes got to Mach 3.35 or thereabouts without exceeding the CIT limit. Must have been weird atmospheric conditions. It was a fantastic airplane, or series of airplanes.
Image

Mark D
Conductor
Posts: 3203
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:01 pm
Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Mark D » Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:41 am

And as I understand it, altitude plays a big part in speed. At least, it generally does. Possible that the M3.35 aircraft was also running at a higher altitude than is normally considered the limit? That could allow for higher speed right there without much affect on the inlet air, as the air would be thinner?

I guess we'll never really know just what the absolute limits of the aircraft are, because since it performed to needed parameters, there was no real point in tempting fate by pressing beyond the limits just to see what it'll do. And Mach 3.35 in air with a manned and reusable aircraft is mighty fast by any human standards.

In the video narrated by Kelly Johnson where the YF-12A is going through testing they launch a missile. It's interesting that the missile only slowly pulls ahead of the aircraft. It's like the aircraft would run over the missile if the pilot were to descend to the missile's altitude.
In all truth, faster than a speeding bullet!
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Fitz
Conductor
Posts: 908
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Waldport, OR, USA
Contact:

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Fitz » Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:26 pm

Mark, I found an almost forgotten box of old pictures today. Lookee here, this is the surviving SR-71B, and despite NASA's "831" she is in reality USAF 17956. When the USAF gave up, they loaned 17971 and 17973 to NASA, along with the trainer to train their pilots. Makes sense. I think the NASA markings are still on this bird.
Image
Image

Mark D
Conductor
Posts: 3203
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:01 pm
Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

Re: SR-71's, YF-12A's and A12's All go FAST

Postby Mark D » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:20 am

So Nasa got three aircraft in total.
Do you know what, if any, airspeed or other performance limitations were applied to the B model, due to the raised rear cockpit?

All three of the NASA aircraft are on display at various places now, so did NASA ever use any of them at all? Or was that program enede before it got off the ground?
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve


Return to “Roundhouse discussions”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests