Dreaming of a Blackbird

Growing up I had an unhealthy obsession with the SR-71 Blackbird. Something about its design was so cool to me.

The fastest jet in the world. Black. Sleek. The ability to spy on other countries. It had everything a boy could want.

I remember my brother Mick had a model of one. I’d look at it and imagine flying in that big old bird all over the world.

Kind of funny considering how much I hate to fly – oh the wonders of youth.

Until last Sunday I’m not sure the last time I’d thought of the Blackbird. I certainly have no desire to fly in one now and I don’t own any models, or really think about planes at all – except to watch the giant C-17s that circle Tacoma.

So when Veronica and I randomly decided to visit The Museum of Flight something deep in my brain jarred loose – Hey, I think they have an SR-71 Blackbird there!

This M-21 is one of only two built and the only one surviving. It is the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird.
This M-21 is one of only two built and the only one surviving. It is the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird.

I was close. The museum has an SR-71 cockpit, and also features the ultra-rare M-21 which is the SR-71s precursor.

Only two M-21s were ever built and the other one didn’t survive a crash.

Walking around the SR-71 mothership shows off its sleek design and it is easy to remember sunny (all right rainy, who am I kidding) days laying in bed and dreaming of flying the jet across the world.

The M-21 sits in the middle of the museum’s Great Gallery, a giant hall featuring 40 or so planes hanging and perched at all manner of angles.

It’s obvious that I’m not the only one who has a love affair with these planes as it is the showcase of the floor.

Me pretending to fly over Russia during the Cold War. This SR-71 Blackbird cockpit is on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Me pretending to fly over Russia during the Cold War. This SR-71 Blackbird cockpit is on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Only 20 of the 32 SR-71s built survive and while the Seattle museum doesn’t have a whole one, it does have the aforementioned cockpit which came from a plane that crashed in 1968.

After waiting in a rather long line, I got to fulfill a childhood dream. I wasn’t even embarrassed when I made Veronica take my picture.

The problem with childhood fantasies is they aren’t often rooted in reality – as I discovered when I had to fold my 6-foot-5 frame into the tiny cockpit.

Who needs reality, though, when you can dream, right? So while I’ll never fly in a Blackbird for real – and no one else will either, since it is decommissioned – a boy can dream for a moment.

– Craig Craker

I don't know much about engines, but that looks like something straight out of Hollywood.
I don’t know much about engines, but that looks like something straight out of Hollywood.

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