The last four crew members who flew aboard the famed triple-sonic Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird aircraft will be honored this Saturday evening, Aug. 15, by the Lancaster JetHawks baseball team during the team's annual Aerospace Appreciation Weekend at Clear Channel Stadium in Lancaster.
Retired NASA Dryden Flight Research Center research test pilots Eddie Schneider and Rogers Smith, along with flight-test engineers Bob Meyer and the late Marta Bohn-Meyer, will be feted at the game and during a pre-game video presentation. Schneider, Smith and Meyer will also be available to sign autographs at a NASA Dryden exhibit in the concourse area of the stadium during the game.
Schneider and Smith will be riding along in NASA F/A-18 and T-38 jets flown by Dryden research pilots Jim Smolka and Tim Williams during a low-level flyover immediately preceding the game. In addition, Maj. Gen. David Eichhorn, commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, will join Meyer in throwing the ceremonial first pitches before the game.
As part of the event, the JetHawks will give the first 1,500 fans in attendance a free replica SR-71, complete with a bobblehead pilot head emerging from the cockpit.
Two SR-71 Blackbird aircraft were flown by NASA Dryden for high-speed and high-altitude aeronautical research during the 1990s. The aircraft included an SR-71A and an SR-71B trainer version, both loaned to NASA by the U.S. Air Force. Center pilots also supported the temporary reactivation of two other SR-71As for the Air Force in the mid-1990s. The center had also flown two YF-12A prototypes and one SR-71 in the 1970s in a joint NASA/Air Force program aimed at learning more about the capabilities and limitations of high-speed, high-altitude flight.
NASA's SR-71A served as a research platform from 1992 until its final flight flown by Smith and Meyer on Oct. 9, 1999, the last flight by any SR-71. It remains on display at NASA Dryden today. NASA's SR-71B served as both a research platform and for crew training and pilot proficiency until its final flight in October 1997.
Developed for the Air Force as reconnaissance aircraft more than 45 years ago, SR-71s still hold records as the world's fastest and highest-flying production aircraft. The aircraft could fly more than 2,200 miles per hour – Mach 3+ or more than three times the speed of sound – and at altitudes of over 85,000 feet. This operating environment made the aircraft excellent platforms to carry out experiments in a variety of areas, including aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, thermal protection materials, high-speed and high-temperature instrumentation, atmospheric studies and sonic boom characterization.
Meyer has been employed as an aerospace and flight test engineer, project manager and in a variety of senior management roles during more than 34 years at NASA Dryden. He is currently program manager of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy at Dryden. Before her untimely death in the crash of her aerobatic aircraft in 2005, Marta Bohn-Meyer was employed for 26 years as an aeronautical research and operations engineer at NASA Dryden, and also served as the center's chief engineer, director of flight operations and director of safety and mission assurance.
Schneider served as a research test pilot at NASA Dryden from 1983 to 2000, best known for his work as project pilot for the F-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle over a nine-year span, becoming the first pilot in history to conduct multi-axis thrust vectored flight. Prior to his retirement from NASA, Smith was a research pilot at Dryden from 1982 to 2000, flying a variety of research aircraft and serving for several years as chief of the flight crew office.
Gates open at 5 p.m. for the evening's California League contest that pits the JetHawks against the Bakersfield Blaze, with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. For more information call 661-726-5400, or visit www.jethawks.com.
PHOTO EDITORS: A publication-quality photo of the last four crew members of the SR-71 Blackbird is available for downloading at: http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Photo/SR-71/HTML/EC96-43525-9.html
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