NASA’s Research Aircraft Fleet on ramp at Dryden Flight Research Center: Rockwell-Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm X-31, McDonnell Douglas F-15 ACTIVE, Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, Convair F-106 Delta Dart, General Dynamics F-16XL, NASA X-38, Radio Controlled Mothership and McDonnell Douglas X-36.
It’s time to pay homage to some of Lockheed’s work, and a couple other interesting birds. The Museum of Aviation near Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia is home to all of these planes. I thought I’d snap a few extra photos during my last visit. I’m quite partial to Lockheed’s work, being descended form a Skunk Works engineer and Lockheed advisory board member. Growing up near the Marietta, Georgia plant, I became accustom to seeing new C-130 and F-22 aircraft rolling off the assembly line almost daily, flying overhead to their first destination.
Photo One: This Lockheed JetStar VC-140B used as VIP transport for the Air Force. It even carried presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter, using call sign Air Force One when aboard. The prototype JetStar was used as Kelly Johnson’s personal transport aircraft. Another JetStar was owned by Elvis. When my grandfather worked for the Lockheed Skunk Works, he told tales of flying aboard JetStar with a suitcase handcuffed to his wrist, en route to speak with CIA officials. Yes, this actually happened. My grandfather was “that guy”.
Photo Two: This Lockheed F-80B was derived the P-80, the first operational American jet fighter. Armed with six .50 machine guns, the light jet was said to slow down abruptly when the pilot squeezed off a burst.
Photo Three: This Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar C-60A was the paratroop version. The Lodestar was a stretched Lockheed Vega to add more cargo space. Some of the birds were modified Vegas, some were built from the ground up.
Photo Four: The Lockheed T-33 was a trainer, specifically to transition prop plane pilots into jet pilots. This is essentially a trainer version of the P-80.
Photo Five: Moving away from Lockheed for a moment, we have the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger (foreground) and F-106A Delta Dart (background). The F-102 was the first American operational super sonic fighter. The F-106, originally designated the F-102B, was heavily modified F-102, giving it better speed and altitude performance. Both of these aircraft feature a “vision splitter” windscreen, like the Lockheed Blackbird family of aircraft.
Photo Six & Seven: Lastly, we have the SR-71A Blackbird, #17958. What more could I say about this bird that hasn’t already been said? Probably a lot. The final photo shows fuel tank 6, extending past the elevons. An easy way to tell the SR-71 and A-12 apart is, the A-12 aft-most fuel tank does not protrude past the elevons. This final photo was photographed with my iPhone. SR-71 #17958 was covered in two previous posts. (Click here to read about her world record setting flights.) (Click here for additional information about #17958)
In 1972, Grumman briefly courted the Air Defense Command (ADC) of the United States Air Force for the F-14B Tomcat as a replacement for their aging Convair F-106 Delta Darts. The F-14B was optimized as a long-range interceptor with “Advanced Technology Engine” F401 turbofans. One F-14 was painted in ADC livery, including “Buzz Code” and ADC emblems. The Air Force declined the aircraft, and the F-14B was cancelled in 1974.