Keith Eastwell Fine Art Photography

A Not So Secret Airplane

Blog > A Not So Secret Airplane
24/03/2015 - 20:00


The SR-71 : A Not So Secret Reconnaissance Aircraft and How One Memory Triggers Another


On the 7th September 1974 as a very excited fourteen year old, I was taken to the Farnborough Air Show.  Apart from my attempts’ at photographing the Concorde with my Zenith E in a crowd of thousands, I distinctly remember one other aircraft: The SR-71. If the Concorde could be described as white, streamlined and elegant, so the SR-71 was black, aggressive and menacing.




The front page of a booklet the crewmember was handing out, he was also autographing the front page of each copy. I guess his first name was Tom, not sure about the surname. He was a bit of celebrity back then due to the two-man crew having just flown across the Atlantic in a world beating time of 1hour 55 minutes.



I had colour film in my camera, which for me was extravagant given the processing costs, so I used it sparingly but took two pictures of the SR-71 and one of the aircrew signing autographs. Alas the forty-year-old negatives have faded and deteriorated to the point I’ve only been able to scan and produce reasonable B/W prints that I’m happy with.







Please correct me of I’m wrong but this plane still holds a few speed records set in the 1960’s. I’m sure no doubt our American friends are working on something faster as I type this, but the SR-71 still holds the airspeed record at over 2000 MPH.


Each mission was treated like a manned space flight as both aircrews had to wear a space suit instead of the standard flight suit, as the SR-71 flew on the edge of space at 80,000 feet.


I guess given an operational ceiling at the edge of space and its top speed there must have been less of a need for the US military to keep its existence a closely guarded secret. There wasn’t a missile in existence back then that could bring the jet down, it flew too high and it could out-run any missile.







Not sure if this guy was the pilot or the reconnaissance officer


This picture I took of one of the crew got me thinking, did my late father keep the leaflet somewhere? Sure enough after a bit of digging around at home…Bingo!




Given the SR-71 was a top secret aircraft in the seventies I’m amazed at how much detail the leaflet goes into.










My father died on Christmas day 2012 and in the following months in getting things sorted out etc, I discovered that although he didn’t take photographs, he was a hoarder of memories in many other shapes and forms. Birthday cards, letters and meticulous record keeping of home finances, together with bills and mountains of paper work and notes. I found two filling cabinet draws full of wage slips, all meticulously sorted into their years going back to 1964. My Dad never threw anything away and I never knew the extent of his record keeping and the silly things he’d keep to remind him of my three brothers, my mum and myself. Which is why it didn’t take me long to find the leaflet the crewmember was handing out 41 years ago.



0352_Mar11_PR.jpg     Nice one Dad.




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