this is really really sad….
this is THE most relevant thing to my life right now. I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes.
god, i love this
We call ships ‘she.’ We call our war machines ‘women.’ We compare women to black widows and vipers. And you’re going to tell me it’s not ‘lady-like’ to scream, to take up space, to fight and demand respect and do whatever the hell I want. You’ve looked at nuclear bombs and been so in awe that you could only name them after women. Don’t try to down-play my power.
I want to frame this and put it next to my computer.
October 9, 2014
Fifteen years ago today, this aircraft, SR-71A 17980, wrote the final chapter of the most amazing story in aviation history. On October 9, 1999, during an Edwards Air Force Base open house, she performed the last flight of any Blackbird aircraft. Several hundred spectators peered across desert scrub and joshua trees as 17980 began her final takeoff roll. A mirage hugged the earth, seemingly distorting the aircraft as she accelerated across the runway. A NASA F/A-18 Hornet joined her flank just before liftoff. The roar of the chase plane was completely overpowered by the Blackbird’s two massive J58 engines in afterburner, shaking the tarmac underneath. When the aircraft rotated and flew into the sky, spectators applauded, none of them knowing that this was the last time any Blackbird would depart the confines of gravity.
Over the course of 30 minutes, 17980 climbed out of sight to an altitude of roughly 80,000 feet. Spectators waited on the ground as the announcer explained that she would soon pass overhead at triplesonic speed. The decision was made to dump fuel as they passed, creating what looked like a thin white contrail behind the aircraft, acting as a visual marker for onlookers. The announcer warned, “From those altitudes, the sonic boom is relatively soft and sometimes, if the atmospheric conditions are just right, the boom does not make it to the ground.” Not a second after he made this statement, a distinct, satisfying thump was heard and felt by every audience member. 17980 would never miss her last opportunity to drag a sonic shockwave across astonished onlookers.
Our Blackbird descended and made three low passes for the audience, gleaming in the bright sunlight of the California High Desert. She touched down, deployed her dragchute and gracefully taxied to her parking area. A flight was scheduled for the next day, but an inordinate fuel leak was discovered, grounding the aircraft. She would never fly again, making a bittersweet end to all Blackbird flights.
17980 continues to gleam in the California desert sun, albeit silently, day in and day out, proudly on display by the main gate of NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center.