The final time an SR-71 Blackbird ever flew was over an Edwards Air Force Base open house on October 9, 1999. Its familiar sonic booms and thunderous roar would no longer tear through the Antelope Valley. Though, on the night of September 12, 2002, a single J58 engine would once more light up the High Desert with its bright afterburner plume. The engine that powered the Blackbird through four decades high speed, high altitude flight had its final firing that summer night, attached to a test stand at the edge of Rogers Dry Lake. Pratt & Whitney staff disposed of Edwards’ stockpile of the specialized JP7 fuel by running the engine in afterburner for hours. Some bystanders shed tears during this final firing. Some filled ziploc bags with the fuel, then tossed them by hand into the plume, watching them ignite and sparkle as they disturbed the sonic flow.
Following this last hurrah, many J58 engines remain on display in museums. The photos above show examples of these at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona.