The world’s fastest jet was built in 1966 and the record for the world’s fastest flight still stands today. The Lockheed SR-71A-LO 61-7972 jet flew at a record time in 1974. It took the plane just 1hr 54min 56.4sec to travel to London, from New York. It is the fastest a jet has traveled in history and the record hasn’t been broken yet.
Majors James Sullivan and Noel Widdifield were responsible for this record. They flew the plane at a speed never experienced before and stay appreciated up to date. The more reason their efforts were lauded was their ability to achieve this feat under the harsh circumstances that existed in the airline.
The Jet’s Design
The speed planes fly is largely affected by the shapes and designs of the air vessel. But, that does not mean the best designs guarantee the fastest flights. There’s a lot that went into play for this jet to fly at the lightning speed it did. So, how was the jet designed to allow it to move at the high speed it traveled with? Here’s a breakdown.
The jet was installed with an axial-flow turbojet engine. The powerful engine is designed to withstand the high heat that accompanies a fast-moving plane. With an air inlet and turbine, the engine can sustain high-temperature production without heating up. This is made possible with the additional help of the compressor and combustion chamber.
In addition, this engine was too powerful and that allowed the jet to fly to the highest possible height it could. The thrust provided by the engine was unimaginable. But, the plane’s ability was significantly reduced moments before the record-breaking flight. Regardless, the jet was able to fly at the high speed never recorded before.
The Guidance system
The SR-71A-LO 61-7972 had an Astro-inertial guidance system (ANS) that played an important control role. The ANS system was previously used to accurately guide explosives to their destination without missing. The plane had the same system at its disposal and that helped correct any navigation challenges that would arise in the middle of a flight.
The ANS system was heavily relied on before and during flights. It played a critical role in controlling cameras and other recording devices on the jet. The journey from New York to London had to be well captured to prove it actually happened.
Besides, the ANS system played a critical role in guiding the jet through the journey. It is these little details that gave this plane the ability to move from the US to the UK at such lightning speed.
The plane crew wears masks as they leave the ground for the sky. Beyond 43,000 ft, normal masks become less effective. Their oxygen supply diminishes and that may affect the crew. That is why specialized masks are required.
The team piloting this high speed jet went to about 80,000 ft. above sea level. That’s quite some height and it required the special masks. Other than these masks, the crew pressurized suits. This was to help regulate temperatures during their rise and descend.
Additional oxygen was put into the plane just to ensure enough is in supply. As such, the team was to travel safely with enough air to breathe in. The extra high altitude was life-threatening and something had to be done to control that.
The airspace is a risky area, especially for jets. On that day when this fast plane was setting the record, there was a lot of hostility between rival countries. That is why measures had to be put in place to protect this plane and its crew.
Imaging and electronic intelligence systems were used to detect anything that threatened the plane’s existence. These among other installations were utilized to protect the plane from missiles and other attacks. That would ensure the plane lands in London safely.
The shape of the plane and its overall design also played a significant role in threat neutralization just in case there was any. A special material that minimizes emission and radiations was used. This meant the plane would fly unnoticed. In case there were any threats, that would be taken care of early enough before any tragedy occurred.
Stealth technology was used for this design. While it worked at that time, things would later change and soviet technology was said to be more advanced later on. Regardless, the world’s fastest jet achieved the feat with the then efficient stealth technology.
Impact of the World’s Fastest Jet
The record might have been set years ago, but the impact of the plane in our lives today stands. For instance, the US has had a significant dip in the number of pilots in the country. It is anticipated the number will go down significantly in the near future.
What that means is an unmet demand in the number of people flying outside and inside the superpower. A solution has been thought of and is partly advised by the success of the world’s fastest plane.
Bigger and faster planes are the way to go. The fastest plane traveled to London in just below 2hrs. Faster planes traveling at such velocity or even better will surely make more trips in a day ferrying an increased number of passengers.
According to a blog post on aircharterserviceusa.com, the US airforce will be short of close to 1000 pilots come 2022. These numbers are an estimate by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and indicate the increase in travel.
In the next two decades, travel numbers will spike by about 20%. This will increase the number of potential passengers each pilot will have to transport.
As such, the pilot number reduction that went down by 30% from 1987 will reduce further. Then, only a third of the pilots weren’t from the military. A huge percentage of the pilots flying airplanes were from the army. Today this has significantly reduced. Perhaps because of the reduced threat in the airspaces today, compared to then.
Meanwhile, the fastest jet in history continues to inspire and shape most decisions made in the aviation industry today. Its success has given aviation stakeholders multiple ideas to implement.