The Blackbird is one of the most iconic aircraft in history. Queen Amidala’s transport in Episode 1 of the Star Wars saga looks an awful lot like one. In Virginia, you can get the image of an SR-71 on your license plate. People who can’t tell the difference between a C-5 and an F-35 recognize the Blackbird’s distinctive shape. And a large number of them can tell you it flew really high and was very fast and took pictures.
From the time development of the A-12 was authorized on 29 August 1959 until 16 May 1967 when the last new SR-71A rolled out of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation factory in Burbank, California, forty-nine Blackbirds took to the skies.
One additional aircraft, the lone SR-71C, was known as The Bastard, and it really was. This aircraft was created by taking the forward fuselage of the SR-71 ground-based static test article and mating it to the aft fuselage of one of the YF-12s (Air Force serial number 60-6934) that had been damaged in a landing accident.
The fifty aircraft in the Blackbird family included twelve single-seat A-12s and one two-seat A-12B trainer for the CIA; two M-21 “motherships” used in the D-21 ramjet-powered unmanned aerial vehicle program; three YF-12 interceptors for the US Air Force; 29 SR-71As, two SR-71B trainers with a raised rear cockpit, and the one SR-71C.
Over the Blackbird family’s thirty-seven year career, twenty aircraft were lost in accidents. The remaining thirty aircraft are all on display in sixteen US states and in the United Kingdom. No other production aircraft in history has sixty percent of its entire fleet on display.
Only three of these aircraft, an A-12 parked on the grounds of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, an SR-71A at NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, California, and an SR-71 at Beale AFB, California, can’t be seen by the general public.
Here’s a list of locations where the Blackbirds nest today.
A-12 60-06930 – On display; U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville
A-12 60-06937 – On display; Southern Museum of Flight, Birmingham
A-12 60-06938 – On display; USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile
SR-71A 61-7951 – On display; Pima Air Museum, Tucson
A-12 60-06924 – On display; Blackbird Airpark, Palmdale
A-12 60-06927 – On display; California Science Center, Los Angeles
A-12 60-06933 – On display; San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego
SR-71A 61-7955 – On display; Air Force Flight Test Center Museum, Edwards AFB, Rosamond
SR-71A 61-7960 – On display; Castle Air Museum, near Atwater
SR-71A 61-7963 – On display; Beale AFB, Marysville (Not viewable to the public)
SR-71A 61-7973 – On display; Blackbird Airpark, Palmdale
SR-71A 61-7975 – On display; March Field Museum, March ARB, Riverside
SR-71A 61-7980/NASA 844 – On display; Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB, Rosamond (Not viewable by the public)
SR-71A 61-7959 – On display; USAF Armament Museum, Eglin AFB, Valparaiso
SR-71A 61-7958 – On display; Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB, Warner Robins
SR-71A 61-7961 – On display; Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, Hutchinson
SR-71A 61-7967 – On display; Barksdale Global Power Museum, Barksdale AFB, Bossier City
SR-71B 61-7956 – On display; Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum, Kalamazoo
SR-71A 61-7964 – On display; Strategic Air and Space Museum, near Ashland
A-12 60-06925 – On display; Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, New York City
YF-12A 60-06935 – On display; National Museum of the US Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton
SR-71A 61-7976 – On display; National Museum of the US Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton
SR-71A 61-7971 – On display; Evergreen Aviation Museum, McMinnville
SR-71A 61-7979 – On display; USAF History and Traditions Museum, JB San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio
SR-71C 61-7981 – On display; Hill Aerospace Museum, Hill AFB, Salt Lake City
A-12 60-06931 – On display; CIA Headquarters, Langley (Not viewable by the public)
SR-71A 61-7968 – On display; Virginia Aviation Museum, Richmond
SR-71A 61-7972 – On display; National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly
M-21 60-06940 – On display; Museum of Flight, Seattle
SR-71A 61-7962 – On display; Imperial War Museum-Duxford, Duxford