Osprey Publishing "SR-71 Blackbird" by Paul F. Crickmore - book review

SR-71 Blackbird

by Paul F. Crickmore,  by Osprey Publishing

   This title from Osprey publishing covers the entire history of the iconic US Air Force reconnaissance airplane - the SR-71 Blackbird. Written by Paul F. Crickmore, this small size book offers very interesting information about fascinating subject. The book comes with hard cover and 160 glazed, thick and colorful pages 

"Lockheed's SR-71 Blackbird is one of the most iconic and famous jets ever built. Assembled in secret at Lockheed's Skunkworks, the Blackbirs's vital statistics remain phenomenal decades later. It holds the airspeed record for manned jet aircraft, operated at an altitude other aircraft could barely touch and was a marvel of technical engineering.

  Drawing on recent declassified material, leading SR-71 expert Paul Crickmore reveals the technical and operational history of one of the most fascinating aircraft, accompanied by a range of fantastic illustrations, photographs and facts about the world's most secret spy plane."

   Reading those few lines on the back of the book few keywords popped immediately - Skunkworks and recently declassified. 


List of abbreviations - 6
Introduction - 8
Chronology - 11
A-12 Design and Manufacture - 16
A-12 Oxcart Operations - 40
Tagboard and Senior Bowl, tha M-21/D-21 - 60
Kedlock, the YF-12A - 66
Senior Crown - SR-71 - 80
Flying the SR-71 - 108
NASA Operations - 128
Surviving Aircraft Histories - 136
Appendices - 151
Index - 159

List of abbreviations

    The book starts with the list of abbreviations. This list is not only necessary to read the book but is also a valuable tool in the world of military aviation.


    In this part the author introduces the reader to the complex situation of the Cold War and the mood of the era. Here you can also get a closer look at the events that led to start of Project Rainbow.


    This section marks notable events throughout the lifespan of the aircraft, from August 1956, when project Rainbow begins in an attempt to render the U-2 "invisible to Soviet radar", trough February 29, 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson announces the existence of the "A-11"(A-12) program to October 9th 1999 when NASA's crew Roger Smith and Bob Meyer fly SR-71A 61-7980 on the type's final ever flight at the Edwards AFB Open Day.

A-12 Design and Manufacture

   In this chapter you can learn very interesting facts about the design and construction difficulties, problems and solutions. It is divided and makes in-depth overview on the following sections - Manufacture, Layout and Stealth, Engine, Fuel System, Air Inlet Control System (AICS), Internal Navigation System (INS), Cameras, ELINT, ECM and Crew Survival Systems  

A-12 Oxcart Operations

In this chapter we can reed about the flight and operational history of the A-12 Oxcart and includes the following sections - Loses, Vietnam and The Pueblo Affair. 

Tagboard and Senior Bowl, the M-21/D-21

    Following the loss of Power's U-2 and the US government's decision to discontinue maned flights over the Soviet Union, the Skunk Works received authorization to begin studies of the feasibility of producing a Mach 3 plus unpiloted platform, or drone, for the CIA on October 10, 1962.  This chapter tells the story of the M-21/D-21.

Kedlock, the YF-12A

In October 1962, the Air Force ordered three interceptor variants to replace the cancelled F-108A Rapier. The modified A-12, first designated the AF-12 and then the YF-12A, was designed and built under a project codenamed KEDLOCK. The aircraft’s mission was to intercept new Soviet supersonic bombers long before they reached the United States. It carried three air-to-air missiles and a second crewman who worked the fire control system. The Air Force initially envisioned a fleet of as many as 100, but only three were built and delivered during 1963-64. In this chapter you can read all about the development and the faith of the project.

Senior Crown - SR-71

   In this chapter we come to the SR-71,  In December 1962, the Air Force ordered six “reconnaissance/strike” aircraft for high-speed, high-altitude flights over hostile territory after a nuclear attack—hence its original designator RS. Compared to the A-12, the SR-71 was about six feet longer, weighed 15,000 pounds more fully loaded, had more prominent nose and body chines and a two-seat cockpit, and carried additional optical and radar imagery systems and ELINT sensors in interchangeable noses. With the added weight, the aircraft flew slower and lower than the A-12 or the YF-12A, but it carried more fuel and had a longer range. Here you will find several very interesting sections and events - Program Cancellation?, Flight Test, Attrition and Lessons, Operations, Yom Kippur, Detachment 4, North Korea and Program Termination.

Flying the SR-71

    In this chapter we can find out what does it take and what is it like to have the control over the SR-71.

NASA Operations

   This chapter goes trough what NASA used this aircraft for.

Surviving Aircraft Histories

Here you will find brief description and a picture of each surviving aircraft.


There are 4 appendixes - 1: Specifications, 2: Blackshield missions log, 3: Losses, 4: World speed and altitude records.



As a fan of this aircraft, for me this is a very valuable book. The quality of the print, the information inside, the rare pictures and beautiful profiles and cut offs make this book a great addition to any aircraft enthusiast library.

Best regards
Metodi Metodiev

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Is scale modelling stuff overpriced? Part I - compressors.

Is scale modelling stuff overpriced?

Part I - compressors 

   In first glance some items doesn't seem to be that expensive. A jar of my favorite Mr.Hobby paints is 1.99$ (without shipping) in LuckyModel. That's about the same as in my local hobby shop. You see 1.99$ is OK price to me but when you actually realize that this is 10ml container things get interesting. Convert that 1.99$ for 10ml to $ for liter... amazing isn't it... this paint cost  199 USD per liter (33.814 US fluid ounces), MRP costs about the same.  Ok, a jar of paint goes a long way so no one really cares. What about something else, something a bit more expensive?
      In this article I will compare several scale modeler targeting compressors with some general purpose oil-less compressors.
     The prices of the  Iwata and Sparmax units as well as the technical information about them comes from www.air-craft.net. The prices of the general purpose compressors is also from online stores. Prices does not include shipping costs.

So here are the contenders:
In the "scale modeler specific" (SMS for short) corner we have the: 

Sparmax TC-610H Plus 

Product info from the manufacturer: 
Updated model of the popular TC-610H airbrush compressor, featuring a new case design with top mounted pressure adjustment, pressure gauge & removable twin airbrush holders.
Just like the previous TC-610H, the TC-610H Plus is a powerful, quite & reliable oil free automatic single piston airbrush compressor fitted with a 2.5L air tank. 
The TC-610H Plus is automatic - when the air tank pressure falls below 40psi, the compressor runs to recharge the tank back to 60psi & then switches off - the compressor running to the demand of the air tank, rather than switching on/off every time the airbrush trigger is pressed.
The TC-610H Plus is enclosed in a sturdy steel case with carrying handle, case top mounted adjustable pressure regulator / moisture filter, output pressure gauge & two removable airbrush holders. The pressure regulator has 2 x 1/8" BSP-P air outlets (1 x blanking cover included) & is supplied with 1 x 3.0M braided air hose with 1/8" BSP-P fittings. 

Sparmax TC-620X 

Product info from the manufacturer: 
Powerful oil free automatic twin piston airbrush compressor with a 2.5L air tank, the TC-620X has ample power for any airbrushing task & with its 2.5L air tank provides smooth & consistent airflow.
Being automatic, when the TC-620X's air tank pressure falls below 40psi, the compressor runs to recharge the tank back to 60psi & then switches off - the compressor running to the demand of the air tank, rather than switching on/off every time the airbrush trigger is pressed.

The TC-620X is enclosed in a sturdy steel case with carrying handle & is fitted with top panel mounted adjustable pressure regulator / moisture filter, output pressure gauge, twin airbrush holders & air tank mounted pressure gauge. The pressure regulator has 2 x 1/8" BSP-P air outlets (1 x blanking cover included) & is supplied with 2 x 3.0M braided 1/8" BSP-P air hoses. 

Iwata Power Jet Lite

Product info from the manufacturer: 
Featuring a powerful twin-pump, 1/6 Hp motor, the Power Jet Lite compressor is equipped with a pressure regulator for precise adjustment of airflow. Built with Iwata's Smart Technology, it automatically shuts off when not in use. Economically priced, the Power Jet Lite doesn't have a tank reservoir, yet delivers ample power. Like all Iwata Studio Series compressors, the Power Jet Lite comes complete with an airhose and adapters so it can hook up to most brands of airbrush.
The Power Jet Lite is a zero maintenance oil-free twin piston compressor that features an adjustable pressure regulator with gauge & moisture filter, a protective steel case with carrying handle & integrated airbrush holder

Iwata Power Jet Pro 

Product info from the manufacturer:
Featuring a powerful, zero maintenance, oil-free twin piston 1/6HP motor, the Power Jet Pro compressor is equipped with twice the features of the Power Jet Lite, with two air pressure regulators for precise adjustment of airflow at two individual workstations. 
Built with Iwata's Smart Technology, it automatically shuts off when not in use. Everything is contained in the Power Jet Pro's protective steel case with integrated carrying handle.

The Power Jet Pro's 2L air tank effectively removes airflow pulsation, helps air cooling, which gives better moisture separation & can act as an air reserve for higher pressure spraying. 

In the "general purpose" (GP for short) corner we have the:

Black&Decker BD 55/6

Product info from the manufacturer:
Compact control panel
Lightweight and easy to carry thanks to the convenient handle
Maintenance free pump
Direct Driven Oilless Compressor

The suction cup feet ensure excellent stability

Black&Decker BD 195/24V

Product info from the manufacturer:
24-litre sleek vertical tank
Compact ON/OFF button
Versatile and easy to use, ideal for all hobby and semi-professional applications
External pump for better cooling
Direct Driven Oilless Compressor
Compact machine

Easy to handle thanks to the built-in metal handle

Stanley D 200/8/6

Stanley D 200/10/24V

To help you compare those compressors I have created a table where different parameters can be compared:

At this point this comparison is going to be based on numbers only. I do have a generic airbrushing compressor with DIY tank so I have a good Idea on how this type of compressors work and what are their drawbacks.

So lets start with the price. In general the Sparmax and Iwata are significantly more expensive than their general purpose counterparts with the BD 55/6 being the cheapest and Iwata being out of their minds. 

Tank capacity. The GPs win this round effortlessly. The Iwata Jet Lite doesn't even have a tank... for 330 USD. 

Flow. Having larger tanks, the GPs need the higher flow to fill them in timely manner. You may need a extra flow regulator in order to supply your airbrush correctly. 

Max. Pressure. GPs win again with 8 and 10 bar vs the 4.8 maximum of the Iwata Power Jet Pro.

Noise. Here things turn around and the SMS win and they win with quite a margin. Further more the noise levels of the Stenleys is quite desturbing. The Black & Decker 55/6 is more acceptable and I couldn't find info about the 195/24. 
     On the other hand the big capacity compressors give you the opportunity to spray with your airbrush for sufficient time with one fill thus in total silence (compressor is shut down).

Weight. Here we have some surprising results. The lightest is the TC-610H, then comes the Iwata Jet lite, which is strange as it doesn't have a tank. Next come the two 6 l. GP compressors, which is also surprising given the fact that they have bigger tanks that have to sustain bigger pressure. As expected, the two 24 l. ones are the heaviest of the pack .

Dimmensions. The SMS compressors are more compact, but the GPs are not that much bigger.

Connectivity. No, none of them can connect to your smart phone. Instead, with both Sparmaxes you can connect your airbrush using two 1/8'' connectors via 3 m, 1/8'' braided hose which comes with the compressor. Both Iwatas have 1/4'' male connectors. The Jet Pro comes with a hose with 1/8'' connector on the airbrush side.  
   The general purpose compressors come with 1/2'' quick release connectors so they need some extra hardware to fit the airbrush hose.
My conclusions. From my perspective as someone who is on the market for a new compressor, I am very tempted by the 24 l. Black & Decker. As I have the little extra space the bigger tank needs my only concern remain the noise level. Although I can surely use it in "silent" mode I still need to hear how loud is it wile working. Another positive about the general purpose compressors is that I can go to the store and buy it, not having to pay for shipping and wait for who knows how long.
   As far as the scale modelling oriented compressors, frankly I think that they are overpriced. Ok, you get airbrush holders on the case... come on, who on the face of this planet will put his airbrush on the case of working compressor?
    Even with the extra bit of hardware that you will need the GPs remain much better priced. 

Other options. Of course there are plenty of other options out there. The generic 1/5 hp compressors with tank are around 80 USD without shipping on ebay. My experience with this type, although without a tank, shows that they can generate a lot of heat, thus overheating easily.
  Also if you search for "silent compressor" on ebay you will find nicely looking 65 db, 10 l. 8 bar compressor from Latvia. It costs 146 USD without shipping and is made by AlfaTek (or at least that is what the sticker on the tank says).
This option seems legit and surely deserves attention.  

I hope that this article will help you to choose a compressor.
Best regards
Metodi Metodiev

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