Lecture in Cranfield to reveal secret work of fastest flying aircraft

Col. (ret'd) Rich Graham
Col. (ret'd) Rich Graham

A lecture on the world’s fastest and highest flying aircraft used for intelligence purposes is to be given in Cranfield.

The evening is being hosted by Milton Keynes Aviation Society and welcomes Colonel (ret’d) Rich Graham, pictured, for the evening event, A View From 85,000 Feet, at Cranfield University.

The aircraft, The Blackbird, was conceived as early as 1958 by the renowned aircraft engineer Kelly Johnson.

The lecture will look at the gigantic leap in technology he and his engineers had to overcome at the Lockheed ‘Skunk Works’ which was phenomenal.

Built in total secrecy, the first Blackbird flew on April 26, 1962, and its purpose was to gather highly classified intelligence on hostile countries around the world.

Flying at Mach 3+ speeds and cruising at over 85,000 feet, the SR-71 could survey over 100,000 square miles every hour, gathering millions of bits of intelligence. When cruising at over 2,200mph, with skin friction temperatures reaching 600 degrees F, the SR-71 performed at its very best.

From 1967 to 1990, the SR-71 served seven US presidents, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon and other government agencies. It provided them with the necessary intelligence to make crucial political and military decisions during the Cold War era.

Col. Graham’s entertaining presentation includes a short video honouring Kelly Johnson.

This presentation links the world of engineering with aviation and gives the audience a much deeper appreciation of just how far ‘outside the box’ Kelly Johnson had to think.

A Q&A session wil be held at the end to give the audience an opportunity to ask questions about the once highly classified programme. Col. Graham will also have his five SR-71 books he has authored for those who want to purchase autographed copies.

The lecture will be held on Tuesday, May 8, in the Lord Kings Norton room, Mitchell Hall, Cranfield University, MK43 0AL. A cash bar will be available from 7pm with the lecture at 8pm. In order to attend, members and visitors must register in advance as capacity will be limited and the society will be unable to admit anyone who arrives on the night without having registered in advance. Please contact Chris Bosworth at cj.bos@ntlworld.com or 07860 629494 to book a place.

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