Last SR-71 Blackbird engine test in full afterburner at Edwards Air Force Base

“To experience a J58 in full burner close up and personal is hard to describe. Picture a gigantic blow torch, 40 inches in diameter, putting out a blue-yellow-orange flame over 50 feet long. Imagine standing 30 feet from this, feeling the vibration and heat. You wear both foam plugs and earmuffs. Your ears still ring afterward, because the sound is conducted through your body. The back half of the engine transforms from dull gray to bright orange, seemingly transparent. The flame has little three-dimensional diamond shaped shock patterns about every two feet. I lost count at 13. It is both frightening and beautiful, an amazing demonstration of perfectly controlled power. And to think – this was done with 1950s technology.”

The above text is part of an interesting article sent to use by The Aviationist’s reader Tim White about the Pratt & Whitney J-58 engines that powered the SR-71 Blackbird, that was published years ago on the P&W website to mark the last time one of such powerful engines was lit up at night at Edwards Air Force Base.

The test took place on Sept. 12, 2002 and it was also the opportunity for the P&W team to dispose the remaining stock of JP-7 jet fuel specially formulated for the Blackbird “to withstand both the very cold environment at 80,000 feet and the very hot environment of the engine nacelle.”

9/12/02 Edwards AFB

H/T to Tim White for the heads-up.

Image credit: P&W

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.