Moments in History

Big Bad Blackbirds


The alternate title for this post should probably be Bill Weaver: The Biggest Badass You Might Not Know. What most of you likely do know is that the SR-71 was a) awesome, and b) developed after/with the single-seat A-12. Mr. Weaver’s tale harkens back to the early days of testing and wringing out the kinks of the SR-71. I don’t want to retell the entire tale, just wet your whistle and send you over to read for yourself, but let me assure you, the whole story is definitely worth reading!

The flight in question, which Weaver calls his “most memorable”, occurred on Jan. 25, 1966, and along with him was Jim Zwayer, who was a Lockheed flight test reconnaissance and navigation systems specialist. Those recon and nav systems were one test focus, and the other bits of beta testing were “procedures designed to reduce trim drag and improve high-Mach cruise performance. The latter involved flying with the center-of-gravity (CG) located further aft than normal, which reduced the Blackbird’s longitudinal stability.” Reducing stability usually doesn’t sound like a good idea, but it can offer performance enhancements in certain flight regimes, much like having a racecar drive “loose” can make a car a faster on a given track.

After in-flight refuelling for the second leg of their flight, and accelerating to Mach 3.18, they initiated a 35 degree banked right turn. It was at this point they experienced a benign sounding “inlet unstart”. That unstart was actually a bit of a big deal. In Weaver’s words, “the right engine inlet’s automatic control system malfunctioned, requiring a switch to manual control. The SR-71′s inlet configuration was automatically adjusted during supersonic flight to decelerate air flow in the duct, slowing it to subsonic speed before reaching the engine’s face. This was accomplished by the inlet’s center-body spike translating aft, and by modulating the inlet’s forward bypass doors. Normally, these actions were scheduled automatically as a function of Mach number, positioning the normal shock wave (where air flow becomes subsonic) inside the inlet to ensure optimum engine performance.

Without proper scheduling, disturbances inside the inlet could result in the shock wave being expelled forward–a phenomenon known as an “inlet unstart.” That causes an instantaneous loss of engine thrust, explosive banging noises and violent yawing of the aircraft–like being in a train wreck. Unstarts were not uncommon at that time in the SR-71′s development, but a properly functioning system would recapture the shock wave and restore normal operation.”

What if the aircraft was in a relatively hard right turn and the right engine unstart did not clear? Here is your teaser: “AS FULL AWARENESS took hold, I realized I was not dead, but had somehow separated from the airplane.” Got you curious to read the rest? Hit the jump and follow the link, plus bonus SR-71 links!!

Continue reading Big Bad Blackbirds

Airborne Awesomosity

Atomic Toasters Goes To The Zoo


About half way between Detroit and Chicago sits the city of Kalamazoo, MI. Originally the home of Gibson guitars and now a major center in the craft beer movement, Kalamazoo seems to be a calm town. Until you walk into a building bordering the airport and stand under a pink Curtis P-40N Warhawk.

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Airborne Awesomosity

Building Awesome

Factory floor at the Skunkworks, building SR-71s

The Professor (remember him?) used this photo in a post a while back about OXCART. I think it is epically fantastic and it needs it’s own post. I’m not going to add any new knowledge about the A-12 or the SR-71. I’m just going to ask […]

Airborne Awesomosity

SR-71 Cockpit Checkout

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Nevada mountains sold separately.

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Nevada mountains sold separately.

We haven’t had a gratuitous SR-71 post in a while. Time to rectify that.

Continue reading SR-71 Cockpit Checkout

Airborne Awesomosity

Flight Plan

Photo Mar 07, 10 05 00 AM

We love the SR-71 here at Atomic Toasters Galactic Command. As well we should. It’s damn sexy. Twenty three years ago yesterday, the SR-71 was first retired from the US Air Force, before pulling a Michael Jordan. It had one last record-setting flight.

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Airborne Awesomosity

Blackbird Pron

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Nevada mountains sold separately.

I’ve spent most of the morning emailing back and forth between suppliers trying to coordinate details and approving valve performance tests. Emailing. I have done in 4 hours what would have taken days not that long ago. Yet, I look at aircraft like the SR-71 which, from contract award to first prototype, took just under 2 years and I wonder…have we really advanced?

Now that your brain is working, let’s get the rest of your body working after the jump.

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Airborne Awesomosity, Military-Grade Awesome

The Forward Cockpit of SR-71 #977


Tail number 977 in happier times

Good morning everyone.

Good news! Due to generosity of one our commenters, a Mr. Will Campbell, we have a large number of new SR-71 photographs to admire, most of which are hires.

Today we’re going to take a detailed look at the cockpit of SR-71 #977 which crashed on takeoff on October 10, 1968.


977 shortly after the crash. Image found


Continue reading The Forward Cockpit of SR-71 #977

Airborne Awesomosity, Ars gratia artis

Blackbird Porn Gallery


Click for hires image

 Good morning everyone.

Well, here I am again without a proper article to stultify your brain for the day. How very embarrassing, however there is nothing that can be done about it at this point. It’s time to go for the cheap shot.

The SR-71 Blackbird is hands down my favourite aircraft, and I know that it’s a favourite of many of you so-called readers out there. I’m not going to go into its history or development because most you know that better than I do. I don’t have a cool, previously unpublished pilot’s story to share either, dammit. No, what I’ve got is a gallery of hires photos that I’ve assembled from my collection that you can lose yourselves in for an hour or two. I doubt that there are any there that you haven’t already seen, but if there are, great! You just don’t come across new SR-71 photos that often these days, dammit again.

Since engineered is still off on safari in a windy building in an undisclosed location somewhere, this will also help somewhat to fill the void left by his lack of postings.

Continue reading Blackbird Porn Gallery


Startup: Follow the Camel

The Sopwith Camel was one of the most successful aircraft of the First World War. It racked up more kills than any other Allied craft, and took the lead by being simple, reliable and efficient. But in a way, it was also responsible for the Space Shuttle program.

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Startup: What Could Be More Awesome Than Flame Shockwaves?

The Pratt & Whitney J58 showing off its shock-waves.

For those of you unfamiliar, please meet the astonishing Pratt & Whitney J58, which may be the most convincing argument in favour of hybrid technology I’ve ever heard. Oh sure, it’s not a hybrid in the boring sense of a Toyota Prius, but strap […]