SR-71 Engine

Why The Engine Picture?

My first job out of college was in the J-58 Engine Group at Pratt & Whitney. The J-58 (aka JT-11D) engine is used only for the SR-71 Blackbird ~ the fastest, highest-flying jet ever built. I subsequently spent several years doing computational aerodynamics on a Cray-YMP supercomputer at Lockheed. I`ve been a performance fiend from the beginning!

I scanned the picture from an 8.5 x 11 Pratt glossy at 3200 by 2369 px for W. Richard Stevens , the author of the best network and systems programming books ever written: Unix Network Programming, TCP/IP Illustrated, Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment, etc. Rich was also an ex-aerospace engineer and Blackbird fan with whom I corresponded regarding Unix and the SR-71. We even traded stuff: I gave him some out-of-circulation (unclassified) SR-71 papers, and he gave me autographed copies of a couple of his books.

An interesting coincidence is that an SR-71 operating out of NASA Dryden was used as a surrogate satellite in the development of the Iridium global phone system The angular velocity of a Blackbird at Mach 3 and 75,000 ft is as close as any aircraft can get to an Iridium Low Earth Orbit satellite at 465 miles, so a transponder on a Blackbird crossed the sky to test Iridium`s earth-based uplink servos. These servos keep at least one satellite in contact at all times by handing off bandwidth from one dish to another as the satellites cross overhead. Iridium was a MobileDyne client in 1998.

The Skunk Works and Agile Development

The SR-71 project was a legendary example of how a few highly talented engineers, unencumbered by bureaucracy, can quickly produce astonishing results. Under the leadership of Kelly Johnson, the Lockheed development team was christened 'the skunk works', after a Lil` Abner cartoon strip. The accomplishments of Kelly`s group were so far beyond those of conventional approaches that the phrase 'skunk works' is used today to describe small, focused, un-bureaucratic teams comprised of technical wizards. Of course, nowadays this is called 'Agile Development'.

Bigger versions of the J-58 picture:

798 x 471     1498 x 769