The SR-71 holds the record as the fastest air-breathing aircraft that ever flew, having attained speeds of over three times the speed of sound (Mach 3+). It once flew from San Diego to Washington D.C. in 68 minutes. Designed in the early 1960's as an elite reconnaissance aircraft for the military, it flew until retirement in 1998. Thirty-two aircraft were built by Lockheed at its famous "Skunk Works" plant in California, and twelve were lost to accidents. This photo of one of these amazing aircraft is signed in marker at the bottom, by Ben R. Rich, and by R. Richard Heppe. Rich (1925-1995) was the second director of the Skunk Works after founder Kelly Johnson. Considered "the father of stealth", he worked on the development of numerous famous aircraft, including the F-104, the famous U-2 spy plane, the A-12, the F-117, the F-22 fighter and the Blackbird. He was admitted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2005, ten years after his death. The other executive who signed this photo, R. Richard Heppe, is now a consultant in aerospace engineering. Like Rich, also a leader in the field, Heppe was the president of Lockheed California and a vice-president of Lockheed Corporation. This photo has seen some abuse, with some liquid having dripped on it (visible in the dark upper portion of the hangar) and there is some disturbance at left margin, as well as a stain at upper margin; but the value is in the overall significance of the SR-71 in aviation history and the signatures of two of the aviation leaders and pioneers who were so closely involved in the project, they having signed this. This is a fine piece of aviation memorabilia and militaria. SEE HUNDREDS OF PAINTINGS, PRINTS AND DRAWINGS IN MY SHOP.
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