Still not satisfied, the 4-cross emblem of the 9th Strategic Reconnaisance Wing was applied to the top of both rudders.  Also, someone realized that the tail number was still not up to new Air Force standards - under the current scheme, 17-971 would refer to an airplane ordered in 1917.

Air Force aircraft have serial numbers consisting of a 2-digit base number indicating the fiscal year the aircraft is ordered - NOT the first year it flew - and a sequence number identifying the aircraft within that fiscal year.  Since the SR-71 was ordered by the Strategic Air Command in 1961, all SR-71s have serial numbers from 61-7950 thru 61-7981.  Currently the serial numbers of USAF aircraft show the last 2 digits of the fiscal year, followed by the last 3 digits of the sequence number.  Previously, only the last digit of the FY was used, followed by the entire sequence number.  This is where the leading "1" came from, and why the A-12s, which were ordered in 1960, have tail numbers starting with "0" (60-6924 thru 60-6939).  For a detailed explanation of US Military serial numbers, click on this link:


Nowadays the Cold War is over and planes are a lot more expensive than they used to be, and we don't buy as many as we once did.  As a result, 5-digit serial numbers (2-digit fiscal year + 3-digit sequence number) have been standard for a while.  Air Force regs now call for the fiscal year in small numbers, followed by the sequence number in larger numbers.  The 7 got dropped, and the Beale Bandits were repainted as AF61-967 and AF61-971.

In November 2002, her outer wings and engine nacelles were removed by volunteers from the Evergreen Aviation Museum and taken to their new home in Oregon.  The rest of the airframe is due to be delivered to the museum in early May 2003.

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

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