“For decades, they couldn’t talk about the super-secret SR-71 Blackbird. On February 21 and 22 they’ll tell you all about it,” stated an intriguing news release from the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. During the weekend of Feb. 21 and 22, visitors to the museum will have a rare opportunity to participate in an SR-71 symposium, it explained. The symposium will take place under the wing of an SR-71 on display in the Spirit of Freedom Hangar at the Pima Air & Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia in Tucson.
At the symposium, more than 20 former SR-71 crew members, maintenance personnel and Lockheed employees who were involved with the top-secret SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft will share their experiences, said museum spokeswoman Elaine Nathanson.
The two-man SR-71 crews wore space suits, flying to altitudes higher than 85,000 feet at speeds exceeding mach 3.2 (roughly 2,100 mph). To give an idea of the speed of the SR-71, Nathanson said it could fly from Tucson to Phoenix in three minutes. The crews flew over denied territory, taking photographs at precise locations with camera resolution said to be high enough to identify an object the size of a golf ball.
Former SR-71 pilot Richard H. Graham, Col., USAF (Ret), author of three books on the SR-71, will moderate some of the panel discussions. A veteran of 15 years in the SR-71 community, he is uniquely qualified to tell the story, she said. Another Blackbird author, Donn Byrnes, also a retired USAF colonel, will be there, too. Byrnes, who was a flight test engineer for the SR-71, has written “Blackbird Rising” and “Air Superiority Blue.” Their SR-71 books will be for sale and both authors will be available to sign copies, Nathanson said. Other SR-71 merchandise will be available in the Museum Store, she added.
Panel discussions with SR-71 Symposium members are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on both days. Attending symposium sessions and speaking with the participants is included in the price of museum admission, which is $15.50 for adults; $12.75 for seniors and $9 for children age 7 to 12. Special two-day passes are available for $20 for adults; $16.75 for seniors and $12.50 for children older than six, Nathanson said.
For information: Elaine Nathanson, 520-745-8221 or 520-490-9889 or www.pimaair.org