Air travel today isn't nearly as luxurious or anticipated as it used to be. Part of that has to do with increased security and decreased leg space, more restrictive benefits and altogether disappearing in-flight perks.
But the least enjoyable part of flying anywhere is probably the amount of time the entire process takes. But what if instead of sitting on a plane forever, you could get to a transatlantic destination in the same time it takes to watch a romantic comedy? What if instead of needing 6 or 7 hours to get from New York to London, you could do so in 1 hr 54 min?
That was the dream achieved by the Lockheed SR-71A.
Known as the Blackbird, this marvel of modern mechanics took off from New York on Sept. 1, 1974, with London as its destination.
Rather than the tedious ocean crossing that the average man is used to on such a flight, United States Air Force Major James V. Sullivan and Major Noel F. Widdifield flew the Blackbird between the two capitals in a blistering 1 hr 54 min 56.4 sec, the fastest flight across the Atlantic.
The average speed over the 5,570.80 km (3,461.53 mi) route was 2,908.02 km/h (1,806.96 mph). The pilots only slowed to refuel once from a specially-modified KC-135 refuelling tanker aircraft midflight. Amazingly, despite continued improvements in aeronautics and technology, the Blackbird's record still stands.
What made the now-retired Blackbird so fast was both its design and its ability to reach such high cruising altitudes, where air is thinner and thus air speed greater. Whereas the average commercial aircraft will typically reach cruising altitudes in the range of 30,000-35,000 ft (), t he Blackbird flashed across radar gates during its record flight at a height around 24,384 m (80,000 ft).
Unsurprisingly, the SR-71A would go on two years later to be the plane that broke the record for the fastest speed by a manned aircraft, hitting 3,529.56 km/h (2,193.17 mph) by Captain Eldon W. Joersz and Major George T. Morgan Jr. near Beale Air Force Base, California, USA, on a 25 km (15.5 mi) course on July 28, 1976.
Incredibly, that record still stands after all these years, too.
Between its unique, stealthy look, unforgettably cool nickname, and repeatedly undeniable performance, it's no surprise the Blackbird remains one of the most beloved, respected, and awe-inspiring pieces of aircraft ever produced and flown.
And so long as its iconic records like the 1974 fastest flight across the Atlantic continue to stand unchallenged, that simply won't change.