955 flies in full afterburner, showing 9 shock diamonds in the left engine's exhaust and 10 in the right.  According to Donn Byrnes, co-author of Blackbird Rising, "If you want to see how good an engine you have, count the shock diamonds --- if you can get 9 or better, you have got yourself one hell of an engine." - Lockheed photo by Bill Flanagan, via John Stone

Like all SR-71s with tail numbers below 958, 955 was never used for any operational missions.  The first 6 SR-71As were retained by the Air Force and Lockheed (3 each) as flight test aircraft, where new systems and configurations would be tested before being applied to the rest of the fleet.  The next two aircraft produced (956 and 957) were both SR-71B trainers, and were never flown outside of the United States.

An early photo of 955, taken February 29, 1968, with the Outstanding Unit Citation above her tail number.  This was prior to ever getting the Skunk logo.  She is shown at Edwards Air Force Base, returning from another flight. - Lockheed photo via Tony Landis

Donn Byrnes explains the markings below her cockpit:

"955 was my aircraft as I was the flight test engineer for that machine at Edwards.  If you look very closely at those white planform silhouettes, you should see a red capitol letter H inside.  The H stands for Hester.  That is the name of the particular flight test route we used to simulate a real [as we saw it at the time] operational mission.  It had four hot legs and three air refuelings.  The mission lasted about 8 hours.  There were only two aircraft at Edwards that ever attempted that mission and they were 955 and 954.  I guess we tried about 25 times to get those done and the most we succeeded was three or four times.  When the aircraft made it through the entire mission and the sensors got the pictures or radar images required, then one of those white silhouettes was painted on the side.  It did not happen very often."

955 was used overseas on one occasion.  In July 1983, she was flown to RAF Mildenhall to demonstrate the new ASARS (Advanced Synthetic Aperature Radar System) prior to fitting out the rest of the blackbird fleet.  To avoid unnecessary attention from the "tail-spotters" who watched every flight from the base and recorded every tail number they saw, 955 was dressed up as 962 prior to flying out there.  After the tests were completed and she was returned to Palmdale via Beale AFB, she was given back her old number and finished off the remainder of her flying career there.

955 in a banking turn over Edwards AFB (click on the image above for higher resolution)- USAF photo

Click here for a video of 955 refueling in flight.


17950 17951 17952 17953 17954 17955 17956 17957 17958 17959

17960 17961 17962 17963 17964 17965 17966 17967 17968 17969

17970 17971 17972 17973 17974 17975 17976 17977 17978 17979

17980 17981

Back to the Blackbird Photo Archive index

Back to the main page

Copyright © 1998-2001 Habu.Org