This is a wonderful pin, even for those of you not so interested in aircraft. For those of you that are, like the Museum of Flight and the Smithsonian, this is a must.
Technically it is a beautiful piece of jewelry, unlike most cheapo airplane pins. The gray enamels show the graceful molding of shapes underneath, while a bright red razor thin line representing the planes only visible markings, is silk screened on top so it seems to float on the enamels. The shape itself is very dramatic and recalls the Manta Ray (which, with its dramatic shape, has proven very popular itself). Anyway, if we are going to have airplanes at all, it would seem that we should have the fastest one ever, right? How fast is it? Well, it holds the coast to coast record: take a guess. Give up? ONE HOUR! (well, okay 64 minutes...) That's right from Palmdale, California to Washington D.C. in one hour. (Poetically enough this record run was made on the craft's last flight during transport to the Smithsonian where it is now on display...) The aircraft is capable of sustained Mach 3 flight. (Three times the speed of sound.) For the 'layman' this equates literally, faster than a speeding bullet from a high powered rifle! Think about that for a minute. Think to a rifle range where someone shoots a 30-06. If an SR-71 were passing over at the same time, the guy in the airplane would be going faster than the bullet (which you can't even see it's going so fast). And while the bullet peters out in a matter of seconds, the SR-71 can sustain it from coast to coast. From take-off the airplane is at 25,000 feet in four minutes. To me, the amazing thing about all this is that this is quite an old airplane. It is '60's technology and had been retired from military service a few years back (1990) , only to be brought back briefly to take pictures of the former Yugoslavia. (Today the remaining operating ships have been turned over to NASA where they are used for weather research). It has two big J-58 engines (which are actually '50's technology!) with huge afterburners. Unlike the modern fan-jets, these babies roar and crackle like real jets! The Blackbirds were developed as reconnaissance aircraft and were apparently very effective as such, particularly considering the pre-satellite era in which most of their operations took place. Each flight of these craft is something akin to a space launch, and in air refueling is generally required for longer missions. (In fact the whole plane is one big fuel cell with a couple of huge ram jets attached to the sides and a single pilot perched way up on front of a long peninsular 100ft nose). In most pictures of it you will see the whole airplane "sweating" with fuel which is by design.) The craft is fashioned largely of titanium, and features a lot of sort of organic joints and seams which expand and contract with the considerable heat generated at these speeds, but which seep JP-7 at normal temperatures. The shape and feel of this airplane from any angle is breathtaking and you never really get used to it. I think it will never look 'out of date', though of course there isn't a shred of effort spent on any 'style': this form is all function. It is a very pure artifact. I conclude the discussion with an observation of one "sled driver" who was heard to say:
‘We did Nebraska in seven and a half minutes today. I think that's the best way to do Nebraska’. SIZE: 1.25"X2"
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