Thursday, April 10, 2014

Oh That Black Bird Is Back

Many years ago I was intrigued with Lockheed, "Skunk Works", and more importantly the SR-71 project. A top secret  project that left many fantasizing about its merits. I had one family member involved in its R & D and later on as a contracted factory rep with the Air Force, representing Lockheed and the SR-71. I gained little or no insight for its capabilities. All I learned came from books on the subject, and various nods, shrugs, and smiles from my uncle. He gave me a wealth of commemorative objects for milestones flown in the SR-71.



Then out comes this "Second Black Bird" from Boeing and Air New Zealand, refreshing all my memories of those heady days of the SR71. The times when it out flew over Russian, Lybia and Vietnam with missiles shooting at it during the cold war and the Vietnam conflict. How it ate and devoured Fox Bat engines (MiG 25). At the time, Russia (USSR) bragged, it had the world's fastest jet, yet the SR-71 flat-out, out ran every thing with wings, and almost all the missiles of the day. I remember those days, it was reported that the SR-71 skipped around the edges of space and back.

However, here comes the 787-9 from Air New Zealand, with those same eery markings of the SR.71 in an all Black hull.



Those same soulful stirrings are awakened again while looking at this beautiful Black Bird from Air NewZealand. Even though, I never rode in/on an SR-71, only a special breed of Aviators or Astronaut types did, I crave those child hood dreams through this new 787-9 aircraft. Today, a passenger only has to gaze out those huge windows and dream of going Mach 3+ in a SR-71, having its big Boeing wings flexing out its muscles in relative silence over the Pacific. The Kiwi 787-9 will ply those same oceans were the SR-71 once often flew, as it secretly observed the world scene.

Welcome back "Black Bird", you are a graceful and elegant super plane that will make many a dreamer happy like myself.

Even though this paricular Black Bird misses an all titanium hull, and extending engine nacelles for hyper jet speed. It brings its own swagger with its all plastic hull, super computers and newer and more efficient jet engines. There is a taste of titanium in the Air New Zealand's "Black Bird". It doesn't go skipping off space, but the passengers have plenty of space with its travel comfort while passengers are getting there safer and more rested.

The SR-71 did not have a wind tunnel for testing Mach 3+. Engineers of the day used Lake Washington, and various hydroplane hulls when determining final configuration. No wind tunnel would emulate Mach 3+ for testing wing and body configuration.

This new NZA "Black Bird" had a mass of computer models, wind tunnels and no slide rule-ruling for figuring out the optimal hull and wing build. In many ways this "Black Bird" is so far superior to the old Black Bird in its own rights. Both aircraft were purpose driven, but this one, the 787-9, measures how far the aviation frontier has travelled with its passengers. The old Black Bird is relegated to museums like Smithsonian. I salute the SR-71, and applaud Air New Zealand for its first 787-9 in all Black. A fitting tribute for aviation's progress.