SR-71 pilots coming to Kansas Cosmosphere
Admirers of the SR-71 Blackbird spyplane on display at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson can meet some of the men who flew it.
Close to 20 former SR-71 pilots will be at the Cosmosphere this Friday and Saturday for a series of events, including interactive displays and a live symposium.
Air Force Col. Jim Shelton amassed about 911 flight hours in the world's fastest spyplane between 1968 and 1974. He said the photographs he took were invaluable to the intelligence community. In one mission over Egypt during the Yom Kippur War in 1963, the Blackbird helped in keeping the Israelis honest about their movements.
"The president contacted Golda Mair and told her that she was farther into Egypt than she had been telling people," Shelton said. "And of course, she wanted to know how, he said well, we have photographic proof of where the battle line is."
Shelton said he felt safe flying the SR-71, even over hostile territory. The plane's altitude of 82,000 feet and top speed of more than 35 miles per second made it nearly impossible to shoot down.
"After a while, the North Vietnamese quit firing because it was a waste of their missiles," Shelton said.
Blackbirds flew missions for more than four decades, beginning in 1964. None was ever shot down.
On Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. pilots and crew will interact with more than 300 children from Allen STEM Magnet School and Farris Elementary School in Hutchinson.
The event is underwritten, in part, by the Kansas Air National Guard.