blackbird design


The original Blackbird was designated the A-12 and made its first flight on April 30, 1962. The single-seat A-12 soon evolved into the larger SR-71, which added a second seat for a Reconnaissance Systems Officer and carried more fuel than the A-12. The SR-71’s first flight was on December 22, 1964.


     The historic SR-71 simulator, on display at the incredible Frontiers of Flight museum in Dallas, Texas, was used for crew selection and training for the SR-71 Blackbird. It was designed and manufactured from 1963 to 1965 by Link Aviation Inc.

     The simulator was in use at Beale Air Force Base in Northern California until 1990, when the USAF Blackbird Program was cancelled. The Air Force transferred the simulator, along with three flying SR-71 aircraft to NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, now called Armstrong Flight Research Center, in Southern California. The sim stayed at Armstrong until 2006, and it rests here in Dallas today.

     The first photo shows the pilot cabin, where the pilot and flight instructor sat. This pilot cabin would simulate motion, and when the simulator unstarted, you felt it; though, it wasn’t as violent as an unstart could be in the actual aircraft. The Reconnaissance Systems Operator (RSO) cockpit, shown in the second photo,did not need to move. These cockpits could be used in tandem, or separately, depending on what mode was selected.