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This SR-71 Blackbird Set the Absolute Speed Record That Still Stands

Dario Leone

Dario Leone

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This SR-71 Blackbird Set the Absolute Speed Record That Still Stands

Throughout its nearly 24-year career, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3-strategic reconnaissance aircraft remained the world’s fastest and highest-flying operational aircraft. From 80,000 feet, it could survey 100,000 square miles of Earth’s surface per hour.

So it comes as no surprise if, thanks to its astonishing flight characteristics, the aircraft has set numerous speed and altitude records throughout its career.

In July 1976, three US Air Force (USAF) aircrews, flying the Mach 3+ SR-71 high altitude reconnaissance aircraft, set three absolute world aviation records—the maximum performance by any type of aircraft—in two days. As explained by Jeff Rhodes in his Code One Magazine article Absolute Blackbirds, those marks still stand. One record, Absolute Speed, is still officially recognized as the fastest speed humans have ever traveled in an aircraft.

The keeping of aviation records goes back to October 1905 when representatives from eight countries, including the U.S., met in Paris to form the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, or FAI. The FAI later became the world governing body for official aircraft—and later, spacecraft—records and to supervise sport aviation competitions. The National Aeronautic Association, or NAA, is the U.S. representative to the FAI.

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