Incredible though it may seem to many, Lockheed's amazing SR-71 Blackbird family was 40 last month. Celebrating the event close to the former "modern" Skunk Works at "Blackbird Airpark" in Palmdale, California, were Lou Schalk, Bob Gilliland and Jim Eastham. Schalk flew the first A-12, Gilliland the first SR-71 and Eastham the first YF-12. As the discussion turned towards memories of searing through the edge of space in this remarkable aircraft at Mach 3 plus, it seemed all the more incredible that these startling machines were museum pieces. Yet how many of the Los Angeles-based attendees to the event had heard the pre-dawn, telltale rattle of windows, telling them that something, somewhere was flying fast overhead? Despite all the talk of satellites and all the denials, it seems difficult to believe that the black world has not hatched a Blackbird of its own for the 21st century.

Source: Flight International