Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird

We have spent the last five months in the Grand Teton National Park doing our usual summer gig working the Jenny Lake Store, as we have the last three years. Despite promises that we would have internet, wifi and cell service over the course of three years, none failed to materialize and we were forced to read, talk with each other and play games like Mexican Train. It actually was refreshing to be off the grid, and while it did present some logistical problems vis a vis talking to family and friends we did manage to survive. One drawback of course was the inability to keep up with the blog, which actually depending, on your point of view, could have been a blessing. We are now back in the land of connectivity and off I go again to the land of blog.

Prior to heading to the Tetons in late spring, we were down in Tucson, a great time of year to be there, and headed over to the Pima Air Museum one day to look at a history of military aircraft mothballed inside a huge hangar and on a dusty field. I am in awe of these aircraft, marvel at their speed, their firepower, their technical capabilities that were developed as long as 75 years ago, embracing technology that even today seems improbable. Speed is relative when your family car can hit speeds of 150mph and you are holding on for dear life and these pilots are reaching 1700mph with the ice in their veins remaining constant. The Right Stuff! So here, in no particular order, are some of the planes that caught my eye.

F8 Crusader – The Last of the Gunfighters

This aircraft was built by Vought and was a single engine, supersonic, carrier based air superiority jet plane. It first flew in 1955 and was primarily used during the Vietnam war by the US NAVY. It was the last series of aircraft built with guns as its armament – 4 x 20mm Colt Mk 12 cannons (this lingo is over my pay grade and I credit Wikipedia for the info) with a 125 rocket propelled grenades (RPG). It also had two side fuselage pylons for additional types of rocket and missile combinations. Powered by a single Pratt & Whitney J57-P-11 turbojet engine with 18,900 pounds of thrust, this baby could fly at 1227 mph at an altitude of 36,000 feet, with a cruising speed of 308 mp and a vertical rate of climb 19,000 ft/min. 1955 technology? FAST!!!

Martin B-57E Canberra Bomber

The Martin B-57E was an aircraft developed by the Untied States as the first jet bomber to drop bombs during combat that aimed at targets of “immediate military value” such as combatants, military installations or military equipment. In contrast, strategic bombing was aimed at crippling future enemy military production by bombing cities and factories thus crippling an enemy’s will to continue supporting a long term war. It first flew in 1956 but it was during the Vietnam War that it became a dominant player, used first as a reconnaissance aircraft and then as a tactical bomber. This aircraft did not have the supersonic qualities of the Vought F8 Crusader, but it still had a top speed of 598 mph, a cruising speed of of 476 mph, could climb at 6,180 feet/minute and had a range 950 miles. It had 4x 20mm M39 cannon and carried 4500 lb of bombs in the bay and four external supports capable of carrying unguided rockets. Its tactical and reconnaissance capabilities were vital to the US effort in Vietnam. FAST!!!

General Dynamics F-111E Aardvark Bomber

Imagined and created in 1955 for the USAF as a supersonic low-level tactical bomber. It is a swing-wing aircraft designed to maneuver efficiently at low and high speeds. Also used extensively in the Vietnam War, this speedster was powered by 2 xPratt & Whitney TF30-P-100 afterburning turbofan engines. They powered this jet as fast as the description suggests getting it up to 1,650mph with a rate of climb of 25,890 ft/min. Oh yeah, it had weapons too – besides the guns it also had thermonuclear air to surface missiles and all kinds of laser-guided bombs. FAST!!!

McDonennell Douglas F-15A Eagle Fighter

F -Fast? 1,875 mph. Check! Range3,450 miles. My RV gets around 450 miles on a full tank. Engines? Pratt and Whitney F100. By contrast out RV is a V10. And slow. Our RV gets a tidy 6 – 7 mpg. The F-15 burns 23,000 gallons per hour. Our RV cost $160,000 new – this fighter ran around 30,000,000 USD when it was introduced in 1976. Our RV can climb a hill at about 30 mph while the F-15 A zooms into the sky at 67,250 feet per minute. I can’t do the math to convert to speed in mph. The F -15 has been a mainstay of the US Air Force fighter arsenal since its inception in 1972 and it has seen many upgrades that keeps it at the top of the world’s most complete fighter aircraft. FAST!!!

Republic F – 105G

This plane was built in the 1959’s with the intention of delivering nuclear bombs at supersonic speeds and was the largest single seat single engine fighter ever built. Like the other aircraft featured in this blog, the F-105 really came into its own during the Vietnam war where it saw action dropping thousands of bombs and shooting down 28 MIG aircraft. It had a top speed of 1,386 mph, a range of 2,070 mph, a climb rate of 34,000 fpm, and had a ceiling of 52,000 feet. This was the workhouse of the United states effort in Vietnam. FAST!!!

Grumman F – 14A Tomcat

The last generation of the “Cat” series, this plane was created when the F-111 was found incapable of carrier landings and takeoffs. The F -14A entered service in 1974 onboard the USS Enterprise and flew some of the last combat missions over Vietnam and provided air cover over Saigon during the evacuation. It was subsequently involved in every US military engagement until its retirement in 2006. This twin tailed baby with swing wings was the symbol of American naval aviation from the 1970’s to the first years of the 21st century. Tom Cruise flew this aircraft in Top Gun at a top speed of 1,544 mph, powered by two Pratt and Whitney TF-30 P-414A engines capable of 20,900 lbs of thrust that enabled a rate of climb of 45,000 ft/minute. FAST!!!

Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird

The SR-71A Blackbird was THE signature aircraft of the Cold War – a long-range, high altitude, Mach 3-plus strategic reconnaissance spy plane that was developed and manufactured by Lockheed Corporation. This baby was quick, agile and deadly – and still holds a number of flight records. Mind you, this aircraft first flew in December 1964 – 57 years ago – set a speed record in 1976 of 2,193mph and flew at a sustained altitude of 85,069 feet. In 1974 it flew from New York to London in 1 hour 55 minutes 42 seconds – no in-flight services that day!It was a two-seater aircraft powered by two Pratt and Whitney J-58 turbojets with 34,000 pounds of thrust in each engine. It could climb and disappear into the wild blue yonder at 11,820 ft/min and had a range of 3,200 miles. From an altitude of 80,000 feet it could survey 100,00 square miles of the earth’s surface per hour. Put into service in January of 1966 it was science fiction at its best – in perspective the SUV was not a reality and probably not even a blip on the radar – in 1966 the fastest production car in the US was a Oldsmobile 442 W30 with a top speed of 105.2 mph. This same car had an acceleration of 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds – it had a fuel consumption of 9.5 mpg – in 1966 this four-wheel buggy was fast – but the SR – 71A defined SUPERFAST.

We are often, even very often challenged to put out a quick meal with all the ingredients to make it seem a gourmet effort. Not much of a challenge to throw a jar of store bought marinara sauce into a pan, boil some pasta, plate it and garnish it with fake parmesan. Kind of like getting relationship advice from Taco Bell’s sauce packets. But the recipe below, accomplished in 30 minutes, is a visual and tasty treat – gourmet qualities in a quick preparation. Jamie Oliver is a pretty creative chef and he doesn’t let you down with this Flaky Pastry Pesto Chicken. The only thing that would make it more authentic would be a homemade pesto – but then that wouldn’t be quick and easy would it. Enjoy!

3 Replies to “Let’s Go Fast”

  1. Wow, yes, going fast! If you get to NYC, don’t miss the Intrepid, an aircraft carrier turned into a museum. It has lots of fast planes on it’s deck and even a space shuttle below deck. By the way, can’t wait to see what you two find in Europe. I just hope the internet accessibility is better there. 😉 Safe and fun travels, and be sure to document it all.


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