New York to London in Less Than Two Hours
If flying from New York (USA) to London (UK) in less than two hours sounds like science fiction, continue reading. On September 1, 1974 Major James V. Sullivan, 37 (pilot) and Noel F. Widdifield, 33 (reconnaissance systems officer) set a world speed record of 2,000 miles per hour (3218 kilometers per hour) flying the Blackbird SR-71 jet air plane. It took them exactly 1 hour, 54 minutes and 56.4 seconds to complete this cross-Atlantic journey. To date this record has not been broken with another jet plane.
The Blackbird SR-71 air plane is a military, spy plane capable of speeds in excess of Mach 3. It was the first true Stealth (radar evading) aircraft, with a body made of a mixture of titanium and plastic. While flying at top speeds the outside of the Blackbird gets really hot, up to 900 deg F (480 deg C) due to air friction. Its outside is painted black to more efficiently dissipate this heat. It was designed to fly at approximately 80,000 feet (24.3 km), where air is thinner and where pilots can actually see the curvature of the Earth. In spite of this high flying altitude and speed, Blackbirds could take a sharp photograph of a golf ball on the surface of the Earth. Truly amazing!
There were only about 40 of these planes ever made, and most of them are now grounded. Only 2 or 3 of them are still used by NASA for research. At the time they were made, in the 1970s, their price tag was a mere $33 million. Even today, the only faster plane than the Blackbird SR-71 is the X-15; however this plane is rocket powered. NASA has a brand new plane, the X-43, which is a combination of a rocket and jet-propelled craft that is designed to fly at Mach 7; however, its first test flight failed last year.
About the Author
Anton Skorucak, MS
Anton Skorucak is a founder and publisher of ScienceIQ.com. Anton Skorucak has a Master of Science (MS) degree in physics from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California and a B.Sc. in physics with a minor in material science from the McMaster University, Canada. He is the president and creator of PhysLink.com, a comprehensive physics and astronomy online education, research and reference web site.