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Lockheed SR-71 to be topic of February Lunch & Learn

Posted on Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 4:00 pm

STAFF WRITER

Erin McCullough

 

Cold War history buffs and aeronautics fanatics alike are invited to learn all about the Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” during Tullahoma Parks and Recreation’s February Lunch and Learn program.

According to Program Manager Lyle Russell, February’s Lunch and Learn will feature Capt. Dave Fruehauf, who is a retired Air Force pilot who flew SR-71s in the 1960s.

Fruehauf will be entertaining and educating the audience with tales from his time as one of the lucky few who piloted these master stealth engines, according to Russell.

“We thought that it would be a neat thing for the aerospace community that we have in Tullahoma to hear about this plane,” he said.

“I think for anybody who’s interested in aerospace history or plane enthusiasts will definitely enjoy the chance to hear his stories,” he said.

“That plane could touch the edge of space and still come down,” Russell said.

 

‘Blackbird’

According to its manufacturer’s website, Lockheed, the SR-71, or “Blackbird” as it’s more commonly known, is a record-breaking unarmed spy plane that was used during the height of the Cold War in the United States. It was the brainchild of Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, one of the pre-eminent aeronautical architects of the 20th century. Johnson is most famous for the creation of the Blackbird, as well as the Lockheed U-2.

Blackbirds were used during aerial reconnaissance missions and specially equipped to evade surface-to-air missile detection thanks to their minimal radar footprint.

Blackbirds have held the world record for the highest-flying and fastest-flying manned aircraft since 1972, according to Lockheed.

The planes were designed to fly faster than Mach 3 (2,301.81 mph) at altitudes over 85,000 feet in order to escape detection from radar and air defense systems during the Cold War. It was also one of the first attempts at military stealth design, according to Lockheed.

The aircraft is one of the first to utilize titanium for the majority of its structure, with the metal accounting for almost 85 percent of the body of the plane.

According to Lockheed, the metal proved to be a “particularly sensitive” one to work with, so the company had to develop new methods for the fabrication of the aircraft.

According to Johnson, the website says, “everything had to be invented” in order to create the aircraft.

The plane derives its nickname from its paint job, according to Lockheed.

An employee was trying to figure out how to raise the ambient temperature inside the cockpit up from -60 degrees when he remembered the color black both emits and absorbs heat. The aircraft were then all painted black, and the nickname “Blackbird” was born.

Blackbirds were permanently retired from the Air Force in 1998, with the final flight of an SR-71 taking place Oct. 9, 1999.

 

If you want to go

Those looking to hear from Fruehauf may attend the discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 11:45 a.m. The cost to attend is $8.75 per person and can be paid by cash, check or card at the front desk at D.W. Wilson Community Center. Payments may also be made in advance by calling the center.

Space is limited, so call and reserve your spot today by calling the parks and recreation department at 455-1121.

D.W. Wilson is located at 501 N. Collins St.

Erin McCullough may be reached by email at tnrept09@lcs.net.