975 undergoing restoration at March Field Museum

975 undergoing restoration at March Field Museum, c. Feb. 2000 - photo courtesy of Shayne Meder

During the restoration of 975, March Field Museum's restoration manager Shayne Meder (MSgt-Ret, USAF) discovered that the left rudder of 975 was once the right rudder of 978, the "Rapid Rabbit."  Rudder sharing is not unusual in and of itself.  The left and right rudders are interchangable, and new rudders are not to be had thanks to McNamara ordering all blackbird tooling destroyed in February 1970.  Parts were often taken from decommissioned airframes or salvaged from wrecks when possible.

closeup of Rapid Rabbit tail art prior to restoration

closeup of Rapid Rabbit tail art, prior to restoration - photo courtesy of Shayne Meder

What makes the discovery of 978's rudder so significant is that she was lost in July of 1972.  Contemporary blackbird fans who thought they might never get to see this long-lost bird now have an opportunity to go back in time and catch another glimpse of the Rapid Rabbit.

975 with restored 978 tail

975 as she is now displayed, with restored 978 tail art - photo courtesy Paul Trainor

photo courtesy Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin photo of the same rudder as originally fitted to 978.

Sadly, all of this restoration work was lost when 975 was repainted again in 2009.  There is nothing left now to show the unique history of her left rudder.
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