The Legacy of Flight

Images from the archives of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum

Otto Lilienthal gliding. (NASM)

SR-71 Blackbird


Slowed to a mere subsonic speed at a conventional altitude, a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird refuels from a Boeing KC-135 tanker. Once topped off, the reconnaissance plane will disconnect, fire its afterburners, and return to its preferred cruising altitude and speed—as high as 83,000 feet, as fast as Mach 3.3. No other jet aircraft has ever gone higher or faster.


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