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all reviews Copyright © 1999-2017 Habu.Org
last modified January 17, 2017

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"American Spyplanes" (Mike Spick)

Fans of the U-2 will love this book, as two-thirds of it covers the Dragonlady (notice which airframe gets top billing on the cover).  While it doesn't go into great detail, the book is another good introduction to the world of the blackbird and the U-2, and scale modelers will appreciate the photos and details on the different airframe versions.

ISBN: 085045719X (out of print)


"Archangel: CIA's Supersonic A-12 Reconnaissance Aircraft" (David Robarge)

Published by the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence, this 55-page book is a brief but accurate summary of the history of the earliest blackbird variant. Now that the 40-year "statute of limitations" has expired on the A-12 program, we can expect to see more documents like this that go into greater detail than previously possible. Illustrated with photos and diagrams you probably haven't seen before, this is a well-written volume on the A-12, and how it was superseded by the SR-71.

"Copies of this book are available to requesters outside the US government from:
Government Printing Office (GPO)
Superintendent of Documents
P.O. Box 391954
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954
Phone: (202) 512-1800
E-mail: orders@gpo.gov"

ISBN: 978-1-929667-16-1


"Area 51 Black Jets" (Bill Yenne)

The first line of the dust jacket sums it up perfectly: "When most of us think of Area 51, we think of aliens, UFOs, and controversial government cover-ups.  It's easy to forget that Area 51 is a real place and that, since the mid-1950s, it has been the site of beyond-top-secret CIA and U.S. Air Force aircraft that have represented many of the most groundbreaking advancements in American military technology."  Yenne keeps to the facts and sheds light on the true purpose of the base at Groom Dry Lake, which is testing classified aircraft systems (including aircraft and radar systems obtained from other governments).  Lavishly illustrated with photos on every page, most in full color, and many that have not seen the light of day, this is a well-researched volume that is worth adding to your library.


ISBN: 978-0-7603-4426-2


"History of the Office of Special Activities (OSA) From Inception to 1969" (Helen Kleyla)

The full title is Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Directorate of Science & Technology (DST), History of the Office of Special Activities (OSA) From Inception to 1969 released on appeal by Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) (Final Release), 2016.  It is just that, a declassified document covering the early history of the Blackbird programs up until 1969.  There is literally a ton of information here; at 851 pages, it would probably take less time to go through the SR-71 Flight Manual.  If you have the time, you can review every Black Shield mission, the flight track, the target objectives, and in some cases even samples of imagery from those missions.

Downloadable as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file (all 59MB of it) here: http://www.governmentattic.org/21docs/CIAhistOSAincep-1969Final.pdf

ISBN: n/a


"Beale Air Force Base During the Cold War" (James B. Quest)

Similar in format to Images of America: Lockheed, James Quest presents a complete pictorial history of the base that has always been home to the U-2 and SR-71.  Working with the Beale History Office, he presents photos showing construction of the base, as well as day-to-day operations over the base's entire history.  All aircaft based their are covered, including the B-52 and KC-135.  Some of these photos you've seen before, but most will probably be new to you, and all are well-researched and captioned with plenty of details.  Definitely worth a look.


ISBN: 978-1-4671-3081-3



"Blackbird" (Lockheed Films, 1987)

aka "Blackbird - The Movie"

Thank god Lockheed and the USAF had the foresight to make this 40-minute film, so that our children will know what this plane looked like when it was alive. There are no actors (and no plot, but let's not go there); Lockheed made the entire film using the people who worked on the plane. See the crews suit up. See the airplane pre-flighted; watch it taxi and take off, rendesvous with the tanker, and land. The plot is tedious (although nothing like "Iron Eagle") but the photography and production are top-notch. If you've seen any of the several "Wings" videos on the Discovery channel, chances are the footage you saw was from this 1987 film.

Some editions also include "Letter to Kelly Johnson," a short but extremely moving open letter not so much to Kelly Johnson, but to all fans of blackbirds everywhere, from one of the cameramen (Devin Hawker) who worked on "Blackbird - The Movie."
cover: Blackbird Rising

"Blackbird Rising" (Donn Byrnes and Kenneth Hurley)

We have a winner. A brand new volume about the development and flight testing of the Blackbird, told by two gentlemen who were there and lived throught it. This is a true first-hand account, not an "as told to" book like some others. The foreword begins: "The legend has been planted that the magnificent SR-71 Blackbird sprang, Zeus-like, from the brain of Kelly Johnson and directly to operational status on the ramp at Beale. Not so! How do I know? Because I spent most of the time between those events not knowing." So writes Jeanne Hurley, the wife of one of the authors. From there on the book talks about the struggles to exceed the acheivable in aeronautics while maintaining secrecy, time tables, and budgets. By the end of the book, the reader is acutely aware of just how much effort by how many talented and dedicated people it took to turn the challenge of a Mach 3 vehicle into a success.

Donn Byrnes and the late Ken Hurley let their words, not pictures, tell the story. Outside of a plan-view drawing of the A-12, YF-12, SR-71A and B, and the XB-70, there is not a single photo or illustration in this 343-page volume. And to their credit, this book doesn't need them.

ISBN: 0967332702

cover: Black Magic

"Black Magic" (Michael O'Leary & Eric Schulzinger)

A beautiful coffee-table book written by two Lockheed photographers.  There's more text here than just photo captions, but to be honest the photos are so good that you might not even notice the printed word. For those of you not familiar with his work, Eric Shulzinger was a reknowned photographer even before he went to work for Lockheed; he is also responsible for the blue photo on the habu.org banner page.  He and O'Leary present some of the best photos that they have taken for Lockheed over the years.  Although out of print, it's a great book to have if you can find a copy.

ISBN: 0879383585 (out of print)

cover: CIA and the U-2 Program

"The CIA and the U-2 Program, 1954-1974" (published by the Center for the Study of Intelligence)

Like "The Oxcart Story" only this time with pictures, the CIA has declassified and released their history on the first 20 years of the U-2 program.  Keep in mind that "declassified" can mean the same as "censored the hell out of," and the number of names, dates, photos, and even entire pages that have been completed blacked out is sometimes laughable. However, what's here is well worth reading. Bound and printed copies are available thru the government printing office, but you can download the .pdf file and print your own copy by going to http://www.odci.gov/csi/books/U2/index.htm (link courtesy of John Stone, www.blackbirds.net).

cover: Combat Legend SR-71 Blackbird

"Combat Legend SR-71 Blackbird" (Paul Crickmore)

review pending

ISBN: 1840373822

cover: Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird

"The Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird: The Illustrated Profile of Every Aircraft, Crew, and Breakthrough of the World's Fastest Stealth Jet" (Richard Graham)

Wow.  It's hard to talk about this book without using any superlatives.  This is Col. Graham's fifth book on the blackbirds, and if you thought he covered everything in the first four you're in for a surprise.  Just like his previous book, this is a coffee-table book that you can read; and if you don't feel like reading you can just drool over it.  There are scores of photos that have never been published, and a complete visual walk-through of the SR-71 cockpit, this time with photos of every switch, panel, gauge, and readout.  No matter how many other books on the SR-71 you might already have, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up (it's also available for the Kindle here).

ISBN: 978-0760348499

cover: Dragon Lady Today

"Dragon Lady Today: The Continuing Story of the U-2 Spyplane" (Chris Pocock)

Written as a follow-on to 50 Years of the U-2, this 100-page book brings the reader up to date on what has been happening with the U-2 since 2005.  This book still stands on its own, and if you knew nothing about the U-2 prior to picking up this volume, you'd still have a good idea of how the first 50 years led to the most recent 10.  Visually, the book is loaded with hundreds of color photos, a large percentage of which were taken by the author.  Many of these have not been seen before, and if the one on the lower left corner of page 6 doesn't make you want to buy this book, then there's something wrong with you.

You can order the book directly from Pocock's web site: www.dragonladytoday.com

ISBN: 978-1500965464

cover: Father of the Mother Planes

"Father of the Mother Planes: The Story of USAF and NASA Test Pilot Lt. Col. Fitzhugh L. "Fitz" Fulton, Jr." (Fitz Fulton, edited by Mike Machat)

If you've never heard of Fitz Fulton, his autobiography will bring you up to speed. This 270-page book covers the flying career of a test pilot who flew 235 different types of aircraft, such as the SR-71, YF-12, XB-70, B-58, B-52 (all 8 production variants, plus the XB-52, YB-52, and NB-52A and B), B-47, B-36...did I mention the Concorde? About the only exotic craft he didn't fly were the X-1, X-2, X-15, and the space shuttle; but he did fly the NB-29, EB-50D, NB-52, and 747's carrying them!
These are Fulton's stories in his own words, with no false bravado. The only fault of this book is that there aren't enough of them; Fulton published the book on his own, and only 300 copies were printed. Copies are already starting to turn up on Ebay.

ISBN: N/A (self-published)

cover: 50 Years of the U-2

"50 Years of the U-2: The Complete Illustrated History of the Dragon Lady " (Chris Pocock)

review pending

ISBN: 978-0764323461

cover: Flying the SR-71

"Flying the SR-71: In the Cockpit On a Secret Operational Mission" (Richard Graham)

The third volume from Richard Graham on the SR-71. In his first book, Col. Graham gave us a "check ride" in the B-model trainer, walking us thru every knob, switch and dial in the cockpit, and when/how each one was used during a training flight. This volume goes one step further. This time we're not in the B-model on a training flight; we're in an A-model on an operational mission - or rather, everything that the crew would do on an operational mission. Even if you have his other two books, don't make the mistake of overlooking this one. There's new material that you don't want to miss.
See the publisher's synopsis here.

ISBN: 0760332398 (also available as an Amazon eBook)

cover: Rainbow to Gusto

"From RAINBOW to GUSTO: Stealth and the Design of the Lockheed Blackbird" (Paul A. Suhler)

This is one of the most enjoyable technical books on the blackbirds, specifically focusing on the history and development of stealth within the design. Suhler has done a substantial amount of legwork researching this volume, interviewing as many of the original participants as possible (some of whom passed on before the book was published). If you want an accurately documented (and footnoted) volume with a large number of first-person recollections, and nearly a hundred diagrams that have not been previously published, then look no further.

ISBN: 978-1-60086-712-5

cover: Habu and Dragonlady

"Habu and Dragonlady: Behind the Scenes" (Jerry F. Moncree)

If you're looking for a book about the blackbird itself, this isn't it.  Take another look at the title and you'll see the words "behind the scenes" -- and that's exactly what the book covers.  The blackbird's job was to reconnoiter, not to wow the enemy with its speed.  The pilot's job was to get the RSO in the back seat to the target area.  The RSO's job was to work the cameras and sensors to ensure a good take.  And it was Jerry Moncree's job to make sure that those systems had the necessary support.

Moncree's book reminds me of novels by Michael Crichton and James Mitchner, in that he has to lay down a lot of background information in order to tell his story.  The first 100 pages or so seem to take a while to get thru, but the pace really picks up after that.  All in all, another good first-hand account of the blackbird's world.

ISBN: 0970270402

cover: Images of America: Lockheed

"Images of America: Lockheed" (compiled by Martin W. Bowman)

A unique look at the history of Lockheed, from the earliest days of Lockheed (when it was the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company, run by the Loughead brothers) to just before the company became Lockheed-Martin.  After a 10-page introduction, the book becomes a photo essay, showcasing historic aircraft and historic names in aviation, including Lindbergh, Earhart, Vultee, and Doolittle.  For those seeking just blackbird photos, only the last 5 pages cover the more exotic Skunkworks creations, but as a historical overview of the entire Lockheed story, this is a great book to have.

ISBN: 0752415360



"Kelly: More Than My Share of It All" (Kelly Johnson with Maggie Smith)

Kelly's story, in his own words (as told to Maggie Smith).  The book was written after he retired from Lockheed, so his entire career is covered.  There is a lot of talk about the people that Kelly knew over the years, and as you can expect it reads like a who's who of aviation pioneers.  This is more of a memoir than an autobiography or a technical manual. Sadly, Kelly's health went into a decline shortly after completing this book in 1985.  He was alive and kicking when it was written, and we get a vivid insight into the psyche of the only man to win 2 Collier's Trophies (the aeronautical equivalent of the Nobel Prize).

ISBN: 0874744911
(also available as an Amazon eBook)


"Kelly's Way" (Flight Test Historical Foundation, 1992)

A beautifully produced documentary on the career of Kelly Johnson. Almost the entire 58-minute video is narrated, with an occasional film or audio clip of Johnson speaking. The two things that make this video so good are its down-to-earth, no-exaggeration-necessary telling of the facts as they occured, and its top-notch historical video, most of it in color and not the same shots you always see on the Learning/Discovery/History Channel. The producers worked with Lockheed's Skunkworks to get first-generation prints to transfer to video, and the quality shows through.
cover:  Lockheed A-12

"Lockheed A-12: The CIA's Blackbird and other variants (Paul Crickmore)

review pending


ISBN: 9781472801135

cover: Lockheed Blackbird: Beyond the Secret Missions

"Lockheed Blackbird: Beyond the Secret Missions" (Paul F. Crickmore)

The title isn't the only thing that's been rewritten for Crickmore's third edition of Lockheed SR-71: The Secret Missions Exposed.  While the second edition added the Det-1 flight records and information about the NASA program and temporary USAF re-activation, this third edition is more of a rewrite than an update.  Not only have more photos been added, but the YF-12 has moved from the appendix up to its proper place with its own chapter in the blackbird history.  It's still one of the definitive volumes on the subject, and is a must-have for any true blackbird enthusiast.

ISBN: 1841766941

cover: Lockheed Blackbird: Beyond the Secret Missions - Revised Edition

"Lockheed Blackbird: Beyond the Secret Missions (Revised Edition)" (Paul F. Crickmore)

Based on the number of times his name appears on this page, you might wonder what yet another volume from Paul Crickmore might contain that his previous works do not.  The answer is, quite a bit.  Calling this a revised edition is an understatement; this incarnation of Secret Missions adds photos that you probably haven't seen before, from a variety of sources, and almost all of them in color.  The fact that a wealth of information on the A-12 has now been declassified, and that color printing doesn't cost much more than traditional black-and-white, sets the stage for a volume that spans nearly 500 pages - in fact the only thicker volumes on the blackbirds are the flight manuals!  Don't let having the older editions hold you back, this is a major rewrite and well worth scoring a copy.

ISBN: 9781472815231

cover: Lockheed Blackbird Family

"Lockheed Blackbird Family: A-12, YF-12, D-21/M21 & SR-71 Photo Scrapbook" (Tony Landis)

There are so many books on the blackbirds that finding anything that hasn't already been covered several times over becomes more and more difficult. Tony Landis has managed to clear that obstacle with his latest volume. Similar to his X-15 Photo Scrapbook co-authored with Dennis Jenkins, Landis shows rather than tells the 40-year history of the blackbirds. True, there are quite a few photos that blackbird fans will find familiar, but there are more than 100 images that have never been published until now. Each photo is captioned with details regarding dates, locations, tail numbers, and any other pertinent information. Well worth the cover price.

ISBN: 978-1-58007-151-2

cover: Lockheed Blackbirds

"Lockheed Blackbirds" (Anthony M. Thornborough & Peter E. Davies)

review pending

ISBN: 0879383402 (out of print)

cover: Lockheed Blackbirds

"Lockheed Blackbirds" (Tony Landis and Dennis Jenkins)

This is not just a second edition of Lockheed SR-71/YF-12 Blackbirds.  Landis and Jenkins have done a major rewrite, and included a wealth of new material.  Even if you have the earlier volume from the Warbird Tech series, you owe it to yourself to check out the newer version.

ISBN: 1580070868

cover: Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works

"Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works - The Official History" (Jay Miller)

If you want the complete history of the Skunk Works, this is the book to get.  Considered by many insiders to be the definitive history of the Skunkworks, Miller's book covers everything - from the XP-80 up to the F-22 - and doesn't skip over anything to get to the "good stuff."  There is a ton of good information here, and several hundred photos as well.  Written with the cooperation of dozens of Lockheed people, including the late Ben Rich, this book is a fitting tribute to a fine company who continually produce one amazing aircraft after another.

ISBN: 1857800370

cover: Lockheed's Blackworld Skunk Works

"Lockheed's Blackworld Skunk Works" (Paul F. Crickmore)

If you've read Crickmore's main work, SR-71: The Secret Missions Exposed, most of what's in this book will look familiar to you.  This time he also covers the U-2 and F-117.  He doesn't go into near as much detail as Jay Miller did in Skunkworks: The Official History, but doesn't try to write this off as the definitive work on the subject (and, to his credit, he lists the works of Miller and Chris Pocock in the introduction to his book as being great sources for further reading).  The work closes with a skeptical epilogue, pondering the questionable future of this aviation legacy known as the Skunkworks.

ISBN: 1841760595

cover: Lockheed Skunk Works

"Lockheed Skunk Works" (Steve Pace)

This book is now out of print, and it's not a great loss.  In all fairness, Pace includes photos of many of the test pilots and other people with the Skunkworks programs over the years, but a lot of information is missing and some of it is simply not accurate, including the origin of the name "Skunk Works."  If you can find a copy second-hand, it's not a bad book to have, but it's hard to justify the $24.95 cover price (Miller's book is only $5 more).

ISBN: 0879386320 (out of print)

cover:  Lockheed SR-71 (A-12/YF-12/D-21)

"Lockheed SR-71 (A-12 / YF-12 / D-21)" (Jay Miller)


An earlier (1983) abridged version (only 20 pages) of the Aerofax-1 book listed below.

(out of print)

cover:  Lockheed SR-71 (A-12/YF-12/D-21)

"Lockheed SR-71 (A-12 / YF-12 / D-21)" (Jay Miller)


It's been out of print for some time, but it's listed as a source in several books and specifically in the Testors model kits, and as a result everyone wants a copy.  If you can find one, it's a good book to have, but Miller includes the same information in his Skunkworks Official History (see above), and much more information has become available on the blackbirds since this book was published in 1985.  It's hard to justify some of the prices this 40-page book has been known to fetch at online auctions, especially while Miller's other works are still in print.

ISBN: 0942548256 (out of print)

cover:  Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

"Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird" (Paul F Crickmore)


review pending

ISBN: 0850456533

cover:  Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

"Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird" (Paul Crickmore)


At exactly 64 pages including the table of contents and index, this book doesn't seem to carry much weight.  Somehow, Crickmore has managed to cram just about everything you need to know about the blackbirds in the narrow gap between the covers.  His previous volumes are still required reading, but if you need to get brought up to speed very quickly on what the SR-71 is, what did, and why it still has no peer in the aviation world a half century after its first flight, this book is for you.

ISBN: 9781472804921

cover:  Lockheed's SR-71 'Blackbird' Family (A-12, F-12, M-2
1, D-21, SR-71)

"Lockheed's SR-71 'Blackbird' Family (A-12, F-12, M-21, D-21, SR-71)" (Jim Goodall and Jay Miller)


Goodall and Miller have teamed up to resurrect the two Aerofax book listed above. If you took the best of those books, added in the chapters from Millers' Skunkworks Official History, and a large collection of photos as in Goodall's SR-71 Blackbird, you'd have something similar to this volume. Even so, there are a number of "new" historic photos from the Tony Landis Collection that make this book worthwhile.

ISBN: 1857801385

cover: Lockheed SR-71 Shop Manual

"Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird: Owners' Workshop Manual" (Steve Davies and Paul Crickmore)

No, it's not based on a complete teardown and rebuild, but it really is published by that Haynes Publishing, and it's more than just a cute cover. SR-71 Maintainer Mike Relja wrote Chapter 6, so you do get a hands-on decription of what was required to keep these planes flying. Also in keeping with the "Haynes manual" image are a multitude of drawings and diagrams from the Dash One. You'd probably get this one just for the novelty factor, but it's still a good book once you get beyond that.

ISBN: 9780857331564

cover: Lockheed SR-71 Operations in the Far East

"Lockheed SR-71 Operations in the Far East" (Paul F. Crickmore)

At first glance, this appears to be a scaled-down version of Crickmore's Secret Missions Exposed work. Closer inspection will reveal new facts and details that were classified when those books were written, but that can now be told. Also of particular interest to tailspotters and scale modelers are the dozen or so color plates showing early A-12 and M/D-21 markings, along with quite a few notable examples of unique tail art over the blackbird's career.

ISBN: 1846033195 (also available as an Amazon eBook)

cover: Lockheed SR-71 - The Mach 3 Blackbird

"Lockheed SR-71:  The Mach 3 Blackbird" (Paul F. Crickmore)

Primarily a photo essay, this book provides an excellent visual record of the entire Det 4 way of life.  In addition to the outstanding photos of the SR-71, the author profiles the support crews, refuelling squadrons and even the armed guards who protect this national treasure.  Most of the photos were taken at Mildenhall RAF during the late 1980s.  If you spent a few days with the Blackbird program, this book gives a very good example of everything you might see.  Very few written words, but the pictures speak volumes.

ISBN: 1855327120



"Lockheed SR-71:  The Secret Missions Exposed" (Paul F. Crickmore)

While there are many outstanding books on the blackbirds, this one ranks among the top three. Exhaustively researched, this book probably contains more detailed information about the aircraft than most people could want to know. Until the SENIOR CROWN and OXCART programs are completely declassified, this will probably remain the most complete single source of information on the blackbird. Contains hundreds of historic photos, not just of hardware but of flight crews and other people involved in The Program. If you want a listing of every flight crew and every check ride, it's here.

ISBN: 1855326817


"Lockheed SR-71/YF-12 Blackbirds" (Dennis R. Jenkins)

Jenkins does a good job of writing a book that fills in the gaps between some of the other blackbird literature out there. It's not a definitive source on the subject but doesn't claim to be. One thing Jenkins does better than anyone before him is to show the evolution of the Archangel from the A-1 (what Ben Rich called a "300-foot-long wide-body dog") to what we have come to know as the A-12. Also contains interesting diagrams from the original crew manuals.

ISBN: 0933424752
cover: Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady

"Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady" (Dennis Jenkins)

Another great book from Jenkins.  As usual, his coverage is thorough, accurate, and not a re-hashing of the same stories you keep hearing over and over.  Scale modelers will appreciate the photos showing details of the planes from various time periods throughtout the U-2's long and distinguished career, which is still far from over.

ISBN: 1580070094

cover: MayDay

"May Day" (Michael R. Beschloss)

review pending

ISBN: 0060155655 (out of print)



"Me and U-2: My Affair With Dragon Lady (Glenn Chapman)


This book is a must-have for any self-respecting U-2 enthusiast. The author is not a pilot but a retired Tech Sergeant responsible for the cameras carried by the U-2. His book is a true memoir, written in his speaking voice and recalling stories and events from his own firsthand experience. The book is divided into 3 sections; the first starts with the history of reconnaisance and ends with the downing of Gary Powers on May 1, 1960. Part 2 is where the author's first hand account begins; Chapman was in the first group of men selected to crew the U-2 when the U.S. Air Force first got their own birds, and was working on the Dragon Lady during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you're not old enough to remember those days, you owe it to yourself to read it; the details are chilling. Part 3 relates various war stories and anecdotes, again from Chapman's first-hand telling.
For more information on this title, including how to get autographed copy directly from the author, click here.

ISBN: 0967020204


"MiG Pilot: The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko" (John Barron)

Outside of a few passing mentions of the SR-71 in the later chapters, there is nothing about the blackbirds in this book.  That's not the point.  The point is that in order to tell the story of the blackbird, you must also tell the story of the U-2 (its predecessor and now successor) and the MiG-25 (its adversary).  Barron wrote this book based on Belenko's notes, and Belenko himself (who spoke no English when he defected) endorses this book in a 1996 interview in Full Context.

The book is not so much about how he defected, but more on the man's life and why he defected.  At times the author gets a little overzeoulous in his denouncing the Soviet communist system (perhaps unaware that his own government can be capable of similar acts of stupidity), but he does a good job of setting the record straight on what did and didn't happen on and after September 6, 1976.  Read this book and you'll understand what was probably the big inspiration behind Tom Clancey 's The Hunt for Red October.

ISBN: 0070038503 (out of print)
cover: Milestones of Flight

"Milestones of Flight" (Van Der Lindon/Spencer/Paone)

A beautiful volume produced by the Smithsonian, it covers all of the aircraft on display both at the downtown Air and Space Museum, and the Udvar-Hazy Center.  Once you've finished drooling over the studio-quality photos of 972 (taken after hours so there's nothing to see but the airplane itself), you can wonder at the achievements of some of the other aircraft on display at the two museums (such as the Spirit of St. Louis, the Concorde, the X-15...the things that made you go to the museum in the first place.  Yes, it's a coffee table book, but it's a good one.

ISBN: 9780760350270

cover: Mission to Chara

"Mission to Chara" (Lynn Boughey)

It's billed as a Tom Clancey-style book about the blackbird, and that it is.  Oddly enough, Boughey is at his best when the narrative doesn't involve the SR-71.  While some of the technical aspects of the actual "mission" (flying a NASA SR-71 into Russia to extract a deep-cover operative) are almost ludicrous, this is still a work of fiction and as such, the author should be able to use a little artistic license.  Boughey is well-travelled and the few liberties he takes with the blackbird are more than made up for by his first-hand descriptions of locations from Edwards AFB to Washington DC to Moscow and points between.  If you want a factual account of flying the blackbirds, read SR-71 Revealed by Rich Graham; if you want a fun, well-written, Clancey-esque story of suspense and intrigue, then give this book a try.

ISBN: 0942323327

cover: Operation Overflight

"Operation Overflight" (Francis Gary Powers with Curt Gentry)

review pending

ASIN: 030830451 (out of print)

cover: Oxcart Convoy

"Oxcart Convoy: How They Got To Area 51" (Frank Murray)

Written by LtCol Frank Murray (Mach 3+ checkride #33), this book outlines what it took to "secretly" move the A-12s from Burbank to The Ranch.  It's a short work, full of recently declassified photos.  Do yourself a favor and pick up this first-hand account of the blackbird's overland route, it's a treasure from a time long gone that we will never see the likes of again.

ISBN: 9781494961091

cover: Projects of Skunkworks

"The Projects of Skunkworks: 75 Years of Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development Programs" (Steve Pace)

This latest work from Steve Pace is a beautiful coffee table book.  It's lovely to look at, so long as you don't look too closely.  There is a lot of contradictory information (page 118 shows two photos of 940's first flight, yet the aiframe is black in one photo and two-tone in the other); there is some information that is just inaccurate (the A-12's overland journey from Burbank to Area 51 took 3 days, but this book says they made the journey in one night); and even the index is full of items that are not on the pages listed.  A good many of the projects mentioned in the title are either future projects, or historic ones that never amounted to a prototype.  A nice book to have laying out, but not the best reference volume.

ISBN: 9780760350324



"Salute to Kelly Johnson" (Lockheed Films)
This film was made by Lockheed films as a tribute to the former head of the Skunk Works when he retired in January 1975.  There are interviews with Kelly, as well as many of the people he worked with on projects ranging from the XP-80 to the YF-12 and SR-71.  The film also includes footage of these aircraft, including Kelly's ride in 927.


"Skunkworks" (Ben R. Rich and Leo Janos)

Ben tells the story (through Leo Janos) of Lockheed's Advanced Development Projects as only he could.  The focus of the story is stealth; from the F-117A that most people are familiar with, to the older SR-71 and U-2 projects, and to some other "black" projects such as the Sea Shadow.  While Kelly Johnson's book is more about people, Ben also talks about the hardware.  He also likes talking about the Skunkworks philosophy, looking for answers even when no one's asking the questions (the origin of the Sea Shadow being a perfect example).  Well worth reading.

ISBN: 0316743003
(also available as an Amazon eBook)


"Sky Spies: Three Decades of Airborne Reconnaissance" (Anthony Thornborough)

review pending

ISBN: 1854091476


"Sled Driver" (Brian Shul)

It looks like a coffee-table book and maybe it is, but there's some good reading between the two oversize covers.  Shul took almost every photograph himself, and they are as good as any aviation photos out there.  Without going into technical details, Shul gives a good outline of what it's like to fly the airplane; not necessarily how it handles high angles of attack or how hard it is to execute a missed approach, but more what the airplane took from him and what it gave back.  Not the cheapest book out there, but definitely worth having.

ISBN: 0929823087 (out of print)


"Sled Driver - Centennial of Flight Limited Edition" (Brian Shul)

Author and SR-71 pilot Brian Shul is taking orders for a limited edition rework of his now-out-of-print first SR-71 volume, Sled Driver.  For more details, visit his web site at sleddriver.com.


"The Smell of Kerosene: A Test Pilot's Odyssey" (Donald L. Mallick with Peter Merlin)

Don Mallick is one of those rare individuals who have flown at Mach 3 in more than one type of aircraft (he flew the XB-70 in addition to the YF-12 and SR-71). This is his firsthand account of how someone from a small town in Pennsylvania ends up test flying 125 different aircraft, including the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle. The printed version is well worth the cover price; the eBook is an absolute steal at $0.99.

ISBN: 1481990179 (also available as an Amazon eBook)


"Spyplane" (David Donald)

If it's flown since 1910, and has been used for aerial reconnaissance, you can bet it's in here.  One of the better pre-1990 recce bird books, Donald covers just about every version of every plane used as an eye in the sky, including German and Soviet planes.  While not the fattest book on the subject, it is still a great general reference on "the secret world of aerial intelligence-gathering."

ISBN: 0879382589 (out of print)


"SR-71 Blackbird" (Paul Crickmore)

While the cover is similar to Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, they are different books.  This half-size hardcover 160-page book was deliberately produced as a pocket-size museum souvenier, yet doubles as a printed docent if you bought it when you arrived instead of when you're ready to leave.  Short and sweet, it still contains all the important history and facts about your favorite airplane.  An added bonus are the photos of all 30 surviving blackbirds as they are currently displayed.

ISBN: 9781472813152


"SR-71 Blackbird" (James Goodall)

You wouldn't believe how many photos can be fit into 82 pages.  Unique among all books on the blackbirds is the author's coverage of the M/D-21 TAGBOARD program, which is thorough enough to include photos of the launch control panels of the B-52 used to launch D-21s in SENIOR BOWL after TAGBOARD was cancelled, as well as the additional controls and instrumentation in the "Big Tail" (959) cockpits.  After being out of print for several years, the publisher has re-issued this title as of September 2000.

ISBN: 0897473388


"SR-71 Blackbird in Action" (Lou Drendel)

Don't call this a kid's book. It's only 50 pages but it's packed with photos and information. If some of that info is sketchy, keep in mind that Drendel published this book in 1982 (and the OXCART and TAGBOARD programs didn't officially exist until 1981). Although the Squadron "In Action" series of books are written with the modeler in mind, there is some good substance here, and for the price you can't go wrong with this book.


"SR-71 Blackbird: Lockheed's Mach 3 Hot Shot" (Paul Crickmore)

review pending


ISBN: 0850457947


"SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales and Legends" (Rich Graham)

As an SR-71 author, Rich Graham's score is now 2-0.  In his first book, SR-71 Revealed, he did most of the talking; this time out he's more of a moderator, introducing 19 other "speakers" and offering background info where appropriate.  If you're tired of the same old how-high, how-fast blackbird fare, then get yourself a copy of this book and enjoy.  Sure, the blackbirds were amazing pieces of hardware, but it was people who built them, and people who made them what they were.  Here you have those same blackbird people telling their own stories in their own words --- it just doesn't get any better than this. Click here for more details.



ISBN: 0760311420


"SR-71 Blackbird - The Secret Vigil"

Originally an episode of "Wings" on the Discovery channel, this 45-minute film from Aviation Week Video is a good overview of the SR-71 program.  Includes video interviews with SR-71 crews (both current and "old school"), Pentagon and 9th SRW officials, Lockheed people (including both the late Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich), but most notably Viktor Belenko, former Soviet pilot who defected to the US by flying his Mig-25 Foxbat to a base in Japan.  His recollections of the blackbird as seen from the other side steal the show.  Most of the flying footage is stock from the National Archives and from Lockheed's 1987 film "Blackbird" (see above).

This title is now available on DVD (available here among other places).



"SR-71 Flight Test Memories"

Subtitled "In-Flight Home Video of the World's Fastest Airplane Up Close and Personal," that's exactly what this video is.  These are home movies of 955 and 972, taken by LtCol Bill "Flaps" Flanagan at Site 42 in Palmdale during 1984 and 1985.  The video was shot with a home VHS camera, so if you're expecting a professionally-shot film like Lockheed's "Blackbird", then you'll be disappointed.  You'll also be missing the point.  These are home movies, which gives them an air of reality and authenticity that no staged production ever could.  Given that the fleet is permanently grounded, any video of these aircraft while they were still flown should be cherished. Available at www.afftcmuseum.org.


"SR-71: From SAC to NASA - Secrets Revealed" (CAV Video Productions)

Essentially this is the same video as "Blackbird" (see top of page).  The producers of this video have sandwiched that video between some original video of NASA's LASRE program experiments.  The LASRE footage is decent, but can't compare to Devin Hawker's "Letter to Kelly Johnson."



"SR-71 Inside Lockheed's Blackbird" (Michael O'Leary and Eric Schulzinger)

Published in 1991, this 128-page work by Lockheed's O'Leary and Schulzinger contains the same type of stunning photography as their previous work, Black Magic.  The tone this time is much more bitter, as the Air Force had just retired the fleet and NASA had not yet begun flying the blackbirds.  Looking back, O'Leary did a fantastic job at capturing the mood of blackbird crews and fans during the darkest days of 1990.  Not knowing what future awaited the fleet, these two did an admirable job of photographing her last days before her first retirement, and also documented how they set up the now-famous 11 blackbird group portrait, knowing that this was their last chance to see that many blackbirds together at one time.

ISBN: 0879385413 (out of print)


"SR-71 Najszybszy Samolot Swiata" (Tomasz Hypki)

Without a doubt this is the definitive work on the SR-71 - at least in the Polish language. The quality of the print and paper is moderate at best. In all fairness, though, the author has done his research; he includes several dozen photos, some of which have not appeared in other publications. Also, this is the first book I've seen that has photos of all 3 crews from the speed record runs of July 1976.

ISBN: 838621709X


"SR-71 Pilot's Manual" (James Goodall)

OUT OF PRINT. Here it is, 1,058 pages straight from the SR-71A-1. Motorbooks managed to get one pressing of exactly 1500 copies out the door before all hell broke loose. Don't expect them to ever do a reprint, either. There is a story behind the publication of this book that I won't go into, but rest assured there were a few unamused faces out there when this book was released, even though Goodall went through official channels to get permission from the Air Force prior to publishing it.

The book itself is a photocopy-quality printing of the actual Dash 1. The $100 cover price seems kind of steep, but is still cheaper than having a Dash 1 photocopied. THIS BOOK DOES NOT INCLUDE ANY INFO ABOUT THE CAMERAS, RECON GEAR, OR ANY OTHER CLASSIFIED SYSTEM. However, if you want to know how much fuel it takes to do a missed approach, it's in here.  Good luck finding a copy; it took me eight years to find mine.  Those of you who don't mind a 100 Mb download can get a version in Adobe PDF format by clicking here or here.

ISBN: 0879386584 (out of print)


"SR-71 Flight Manual"

You've heard about it, the rumors are true, the SR-71 Pilot's manual has finally been reprinted.

This will be the same as the one printed by Motorbooks 9 years previously, although with a different cover (the airframe in the photo is 962 if anyone's curious) and with some 40 pages that were still classified at the time of the Motorbooks pressing.

Click here for a limited-time discount offer from the publisher.

ISBN: 1931641765


"SR-71 Flight Manual: The Official Pilot's Handbook Declassified and Expanded with Commentary"

For anyone who missed the first two publications, the flight manual has been printed once again.  If you're looking for the missing pages from Chapter 4, keep looking; this edition has the same version of the manual as the Motorbooks edition.  What this version brings to the table are: 1) a 40-page full-color foreword by Rich Graham; and 2) a list price of less than half of the first edition when adjusted for inflation - and that's not taking discount prices into consideration.

If you're upset that this version still isn't "complete," just keep in mind that the missing pages are part of the reconnaissance gear (which have nothing to do with "flying" the plane), and that some of the systems are still in use by the U-2 and are still classified.

ISBN: 9780760351741


"SR-71 Revealed:  The Inside Story" (Richard H. Graham)

Buy this book.  Written by a retired blackbird pilot who went on to head the entire Program, this is THE book to get if you want to learn about the blackbird. If you had a son who was accepted into the Program, wrote you every week and told you everything that was going on, you would have something like this book (assuming that your boy didn't land in the stockade for treason, of course). It's all here... technical info, war stories, anecdotes, everything you were looking for.  Col. Graham donates all proceeds from his book to the J.T. Vida Memorial fund.  You can get it from your local bookstore, but you can order an autographed copy directly from the author.  Click here for more info.

ISBN: 0760301220


"SR-71 The Blackbird Q&A" (Terry Pappas)

Straight and to the point.  SR-71 pilot Terry Pappas presents 124 questions that he frequently gets asked about his association with the Blackbird Program.  Every question is referenced in the table of contents, making it easy to find the answer to your pet question.  These are good questions, too.  Could the RSO fly the SR-71 if the pilot were incapacitated? What's the most difficult experience you had while air refueling? Pappas has also included quite a few color photos of the blackbird, many of which are from his private collection and previously unpublished.

If you are a docent at a museum with a blackbird, you need to have this book in your back pocket.  You can order the book directly from the author at http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Pappas/e/B00DKK71WM.

ISBN: 9780985349806


"SR-71: The Complete Illustrated History of The Blackbird" (Richard H. Graham)

"A coffee-table book on the blackbird that you can actually read!" - David Allison, www.habu.org

BUY THIS BOOK. The fourth book from Col. Graham, and they just keep getting better. He's thrown down a gauntlet with that title, and every page delivers on the promise. There are books out there with lots of pretty pictures, and there are books on the blackbird full of information and interesting stories. This one has all of the above.
As with his previous books, Rich has solicited contributions from other members of the Blackbird program. For those of you who have never heard his firsthand account of the loss of 952, Rich has devoted seven pages to Bill Weaver's story in his own words.

ISBN: 9780760343272 (also available as an Amazon eBook)


"Superbases 5: Mildenhall" (David Davies and Mike Vines)

This book makes an excellent companion to Paul Crickmore's "Lockheed SR-71: The Mach 3 Blackbird." While Crickmore's book focuses on primarily on the SR-71 and its support crews and aircraft, Davies and Vines cover the entire airbase. Scale modelers will love this book for the full-color photos of the SR-71, T-38, KC-135Q, C-130, C-141, and C-5A, many with excellent close-up details.

ISBN: 0850458943 (out of print)


"Supersonics (Just Jets - All Audio)" - produced by Aircraft Records

The producers of this audio CD spent a day at Edwards Air Force Base recording the sounds of various aircraft, including the A-10, F-117A, C-5, F-15, F-16, and of course the SR-71.  Extra emphasis is made on the blackbird, as there are recordings of the engine start, taxi/takeoff, and sonic booms.  A 20-minute interview with NASA pilot Rogers Smith concludes the CD. The recordings themselves are high quality, but without visual clues it sounds more or less like a day at the airport.  This CD would make a good souvenier after attending an airshow. Available at the Discovery Channel Store.

ISBN: 9900810082


"Trial of American U-2 Spy Pilot"


Published by the American Communist Party in September 1960, this 106-page booklet contains the entire transcript in English of Gary Powers' trial by the Soviet Union.  Considered a rare find by U-2 enthusiasts, this booklet is unique in the way it offers the reader a glimpse of the Soviet view of the whole incident, with very little in the way of editorials. For more background on the event, visit Gary Powers Jr.'s web site at http://www.coldwar.org.

(out of print)


"The U-2 Affair" (David Wise and Thomas B. Ross)


review pending

(out of print)


"U-2 Flight Manual"


Not to worry, this isn't the manual for the U-2S model being flown by the Air Force today. This manual covers the declassifed systems of the U-2C and F models.

Click here for a limited-time discount offer from the publisher.

ISBN: 193164165X


"U-2 Spyplane In Action" (Larry Davis, with Don Green and Perry Manley)

Just like all the other books in the Squadron/Signal series of ...In Action and ...Walkaround titles, U-2 Spyplane In Action is a great introduction to what has been the highest-flying single-engine aircraft since it was first introduced almost 50 years ago.  While the target audience for these books are scale modelers, other Dragonlady fans will appreciate this book, and its low cover price.

ISBN: 0897472020 (out of print)


"The Untouchables" (Brian Shul with Walt Watson) 

If you already read Sled Driver, then you've seen many of the photos in this book. Both Sled Driver and The Untouchables are oversized coffee-table books; the big difference between the two volumes is that The Untouchables includes memoirs from more than a dozen people from all parts of the blackbird program, including Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney tech reps, crew chiefs, and more. Walt Watson, who was Shul's RSO, also makes major contributions, describing a mission he and Shul flew over Lybia, adding the back-seater's impression to Shul's own narritive. Shul's books are printed on thick glossy paper and as a result aren't cheap; if you can only afford one, buy this one.

ISBN: 0929823125


"U Oughta" (Bill Gornik)

Bill Gornik was one of the early crew chiefs in the SR-71 program. If you've never had the opportunity to have him keep you up all night telling stories of the early days of the program, this book will make up for that. An amazing firsthand account of what it was like to grow up during the Great Depression, and serve in the US Air Force during a bygone era. Gornik is the first to admit that you could never do things today the way they did them then, but here is a firsthand account of what that was like. Loaded with color photos and letters, it's like having your own copy of his scrapbook.



"U.S. Sky Spies" (Michael O'Leary)



Published in 1986, prior to the author's teaming up with Eric Schulzinger, this book shows the evolution of domestic reconnaissance aircraft thru photos and captions.  While the book doesn't go into as much detail as his later works, it's still a good read.

ISBN: 0713716924 (out of print)


"U.S. Spyplanes" (Erik Simonsen)


Like the title implies, Simonsen's book covers more than just the U-2 and SR-71, but the blackbirds are definitely the focus here. Aside from a one-page introduction, the rest of the book is all photos and captions. Contains many outstanding photos taken by the author, as well as many vintage USAF and Lockheed photos. Modelers will appreciate the focus on details of specific airframes and from specific points in blackbird history.

ISBN: 0853686262 (out of print)


"Velocity: Speed With Direction" (Aloysius G. Casey and Patrick A. Casey)


Casey and Casey have written the biography of Jerry O'Malley, a legend in the blackbird community who among other things flew the first operational reconnaissance mission in an SR-71. Published by the Air University Press, you can order a copy or download the entire book in PDF format (at no charge) at this link: http://aupress.maxwell.af.mil/bookinfo.asp?bid=89.

ISBN: 978-1-58566-169-5


"Wings" (Mark Meyer)

If you're looking for the best coffee-table book on the blackbirds, it's a toss-up between this book and Black Magic by O'Leary and Schulzinger.  That says a lot when you consider that Wings isn't even a blackbird-specific book; Meyer includes stunning photos of every aircraft flown by the US Air Force when the book was published in 1984.  Each aircraft is covered in detail, and Meyer's photography holds its own against Eric Schulzinger's and that's saying something.  As an added bonus, there is a long preface by Gen. Chuck Yeager about the early days of the flight test program at Edwards, and Meyer has also included anonymous quotes from crews of all the aircraft featured.  Sadly out of print, it's well worth the time spent looking for a copy.

ISBN: 093473805X  (out of print)
cover: Wingspan: From J-3 to Mach 3

"Wingspan - From J-3 To Mach 3" (George André)

review pending

ISBN: 9780979311628



"Wonderful World of Flying, vol.6 no.23" - produced by Aviation Media

From the long line of well-produced and highly respected videos in this series, you'd expect a good treatment of the SR-71.  You won't be disappointed.  For 15 minutes, Capt. Barry Schiff takes the viewer on a walk-around of 971, pointing out the unique aspects of the plane.  Unlike so many documentaries out there, Schiff gets all of his facts straight and doesn't embellish or exaggerate anything.  He also does a very good job of simulating a check ride in the B-model, and to his credit he confesses to the ruse well before the end of the segment.  Also includes beautiful shots of the B-model being pre-flighted (complete with cycling the inlet spikes in and out!!), engine start, takeoff, some nice in-flight footage, and a beautiful landing sequence showing complete chute deployment and release.  Well done.

Available from Aviation Media (http://www.wwof.com)


"YF-12 Flight Manual"


Just in case you couldn't get enough of the SR-71 Pilot's Manual, here's the manual for her older sister, the YF-12.

ISBN: 1931641633


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