[Video] Enjoy a guided tour into the cockpit of an SR-71 Blackbird

The following video will provide a tour of both the front cockpit and the RSO (Reconnaissance System Operator) of an SR-71 Blackbird simulator at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field, in Dallas, Texas.

What makes the documentary almost unique is the guide: Richard Graham, a former Blackbird pilot.

The simulator was used to train all the 86 pilots and navigators who flew the SR-71 fleet and had the very same cockpit layout of the actual operative planes.

You’ll discover how the laser of the PVD (Peripheral Visual Device) helped the pilots to maintain the orientation during night flying, when a red line painted another horizon inside the cockpit. And, you’ll learn that the back cockpit had only navigational instruments and no flight controls, meaning that in case the pilot in front seat had a heart attack, the RSO could only steer the plane towards a safe airspace, wait until the engines flamed out and then eject. On the other side, if the navigator had a heart attack, the pilot could still control the plane but not navigate it and this is the reason why both crew members had a dual responsibility to be healthy and in perfect shape, for their own life and the one of their companion.

This SR-71 model is available from AirModels. Click here to buy yours.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. I made this video with Richard Graham. I really appreciate you posting it for everyone to see. We used my go pro camera to film it. Rich said that they had tried this before, but couldn’t get the camera back enough to get a lot in frame. I told him that I had a camera that would work well and, well here it is for everyone to see. I hope you all like it. I also did a walk around of the J58 engine the SR-71 used with Richard Graham, and I have his entire interview on you tube as well. I will try to post the links shortly.

    • Thanks for posting this :)
      I could see you hesitate before operating certain dangerous controls even though you were sat in a museum, I guess old instincts die hard!

  2. for those interested, i could, as a tourist, climb aboard an sr71 at march AFB a few years back, during an open doors day, i won’t post the pics i’ve made because i look way too childishly happy on them.
    i guess it is still feasible for those of you living nearby :)

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