958 in the hangar at Beale AFB.  In this photo she sports a unique interpretation of the habu on her tail; also note how the exhaust fairings (sometimes called "turkey feathers") are at maximum aperature. -Lockheed Martin photo

958 was the first "regular" (neither test vehicle nor trainer) blackbird delivered to the Air Force.  She left the assembly line on July 22, 1965, and made her first flight with pilot Bill Weaver and RSO George Andre on December 15 of that year (Lockheed Skunk Works, Jay Miller; p. 200).

On Tuesday and Wednesday, July 27 & 28, 1976, 958 and 963 bettered 3 speed and altitude records previously set by a YF-12A, #60-6936 (two of these had since been bested by a modified MiG-25 Foxbat).  The records set by the SR-71 have never been eclipsed.

Date RecordCrewAirframe
28 July 1976World absolute and class record for speed over a 15/25 km straight course:
2,193.167 mph
Capt. Eldon Joersz and Maj. George Morgan61-7958
28 July 1976World absolute and class record for sustained altitude (horizontal flight):
85,069 ft
Capt. Robert Helt and Maj. Larry Elliot61-7963
27 July 1976World absolute and class record for speed (1,000 km closed circuit):
2,092.29 mph
Capt. Pat Blesdoe and Maj. John Fuller61-7958

Source: Lockheed Martin press release, Sept. 1991

The six crews of the record-setting flights (L-R): John Fuller, Pat Bledsoe, George Morgan, Eldon Joersz, Larry Elliot, and Robert Helt - USAF photo via Robert Helt
The original plan was to use 958 for all three flights in one day. Because of mechanical issues and delays due to weather, two different airframes were used on two consecutive days to set all three records. The full story and photos from the event can be found at these links:

958 in flight during the record-setting flights in 1976. The white cross is used as a reference to pinpoint the aircraft's location from the ground. -Lockheed photo via Tony Landis


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