SITE MENU / This Article Content
To gain additional thrust at critical moments such as takeoff and transition to supersonic speed, Concorde's engines are fitted with afterburners.
Concorde's aesthetically pleasing shape is matched by a standard of service more luxurious than that of any other scheduled airliner.
FACTS AND FIGURES
▶ Since Concorde entered scheduled service in 1976, British and French aircraft have carried 3,000,000 supersonic passengers.
▶ Concorde's only rival, the Soviet Tu-144, is no longer in service.
▶ During supersonic flight, Concorde's skin heats to 260° F at the nose.
▶ As fuel is burned off during a flight, Concorde rises an additional 9,850 feet.
▶ Concorde flies 10 miles in the time it takes to fill a passenger's champagne glass.
▶ The 14 Concordes have clocked more supersonic hours than all the fighters used by the world's air forces.
▶ High-flying reconnaissance
▶ World's fastest jet
The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is the most spectacular performer ever to leave the ground under its own power and spread wings. Thirty years after entering service, the Blackbird is aloft again after a premature retirement. It is still the world's fastest and highest-flying operational aircraft.
SR-71s operate at the extreme edge of the Earth's atmosphere, and their crews need to wear space suits to have a chance of surviving in the event of an emergency.
Eye in the sky
When it first flew in the 1960s, the black, needle-nosed SR-71 was an amazing performer. Three decades later, the Blackbird's capability continues to be unmatched, and the superfast jet has been pulled out of early retirement to resume reconnaissance flights. A pilot who watched this speedster return to flying condition called it a "magic machine."
But the Blackbird is more than an incredibly spectacular flier. Using cameras and electronic sensors, the SK-71 can look down from above or peer sideways hundreds of miles into enemy territory with a clarity that no other reconnaissance aircraft can equal. Before the Cold War ended, the SK-71 flew in support of the NATO allies, usually staying on its side of the border while spying on the other side.
The SK-71 has very powerful engines and uses special fuel, requiring its own tankers for long missions. Though space satellites have taken over many aerial eavesdropping duties, this "eye in the sky" with pilot and observer on board will continue to be used sparingly, like the treasure it is, when a crisis erupts somewhere around the globe.
Above: It took a lot of effort to keep the SR-71 and its space-suited pilots in the air. One estimate has put the cost of flying the Blackbird at more than $200,000 per hour.
Below: For many years the U.S. Air Force would say only that the Blackbird cruised "above 80,000 feet." It is now known that the jet can fly at at least 100,000 feet without any difficulty and can probably zoom even higher.
The 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing of the United States Air Force is housed at Beale Air Force Base, California, with detachments to Kadena on Okinawa and RAF Mildenhall in England.
SPECIFICATIONS SR-71 A
Type: Two-seat all-weather strategic reconnaissance aircraft with electronic, optical, infrared or radar sensors.
Powerplant: Two Pratt & Whitney J58 turbo - ramjets each delivering 32,500 lb.- thrust with afterburners.