Jeremy Clarkson, the British auto hack, was driving his boyhood hero, the Lamborghini Countach and came to a conclusion. "Your childhood heroes are best served as posters on your bedroom wall. More often than not, they are very unruly and cumbersome in real life. You attempt to meet your heroes and they will break your heart."
Yeah, right. And I was going to meet two of mine today.
When I read about this plane, was when it was declassified as a military plane and CIA said that it was OK for the world to know about it. Its top speed is Mach 3 and it flies on the edge of the atmosphere. At 90,000ft and Mach 3, there was nothing as fast to catch it. It flew into enemy territory with reckless abandon. With no weapons on board, its only defenses were its stealth clothing and brutal top speed. And because it expanded every time it toof off, because of the heat produced by friction with air, it had gaps in its panels which would leak fuel.
It was this kind of light-year-ahead technology and out of the box thinking and of course the looks that got my goat. As a 10 year old (actually 17 year old), you cannot but be excited when you look at it. For me, what Kelly Johnson and his crack team at the Skunk Works of Lockheed Martin achieved makesthe SR-71 a legend. In service or in a museum.
(And by the way, do not smirk or laugh at the yellow thing in the picture above. That was used to spool up the Pratt and Whitney engines in the Blackbird and was made of 2 Mercury V8 engines pushing out close to 800 horsepower. Ok, now don't shit your pants.)
And like Messrs Johnsons and Co. were working their magic, around the same time, under an embargo and unable to borrow from military technology, the blokes at Aerospatiale-BAC came with an aviation icon that changed the airline game and created a whole new segment of passengers - the uber jet set. With that thin fuselage, ultra light weight body and delta wing configuration, this airline could push to Mach 2 and do a trans-atlantic flight in just above 3 hours. 9/11, among other things, spelt the end of this giant leap of mankind, but it can never erase the legacy of the Concorde. Always revered, always orgasm inducing. Always remembered.
While the Blackbird retired and much better machines came in to replace it, nothing ever matched it coin for coin. THe Concorde had no such luck. British Airways and Air France lost the spine to keep it running and others cancelled their orders. When the Concorde was retired, mankind as a race, took a step backwards in evolution. So it goes, and still they are my heroes. And today I saw them.
In metal. The touch was real. The feeling, surreal. Thank you Intrepid.