The Hansajet was an odd airframe and one of those examples of manufacturers trying innovative things out that didn’t really go anywhere. It had a slightly forward swept wing to improve efficiency but forward swept wings have largely failed to gain any traction. It was operated by the Luftwaffe and this example was an attendee at an Air Fete at Mildenhall, I am going to say in 1991 but that may be wrong. I saw it on approach and then again in the static display. Quite a neat looking jet I think. Anyone know if any still fly?
My friend, Ben, put some pictures on Facebook of a Jaguar being restored in Arizona that is being painted in the desert pink colors that were used during the first Gulf War. I worked a little on Jags in my days at BAe and have always thought it was a cool jet. It is nice to see one showing up in restoration over here. It triggered a discussion between a few of us about the colors that were used at that time.
In 1991, I went to Mildenhall for the, then annual, Air Fete. The Air Fete went away a while back and now it looks like Mildenhall itself will follow into the realms of “once upon a time”. However, there was a time when the Air Fete was possibly the premier military air show in the UK. For a while it was a regular feature of my year. (The weekend before my university finals started was I a) studying hard at college or b) at Mildenhall for the show? I was studying aeronautical engineering so surely it counted?)
This was the first big show after the end of the war in the gulf and a lot of the aircraft that were on display were pretty much unchanged. This included the desert colors that had been applied in a hurry along with mission markings and less official images that the crews had painted. One of the Tornados on display showed how quickly things had been done. They had painted the jet with the flight refueling probe still attached which, when removed, left a grey patch amongst the pink on the front fuselage.
Not everything was pink. The tankers that went over had already adopted a hemp color in the previous years so they were already quite well prepared. Also, a Chinook was on display that had a mottled finish that was supposedly the result of being used for special forces missions.
Needless to say, most of these colors were pretty quickly removed as the aircraft where cleaned up after their return and put through some deeper maintenance and the rapid war modifications either removed or upgraded to a clear condition. (Lots of mods were done under a “war only” approval. They were less likely to kill you then the opposition but hadn’t gone through the full clearance process. They weren’t approved for peacetime use until a more thorough evaluation had been done. Of course, we had a fair bit of testing experience to do the clearances with given how much they had flown in theater!)
If you ever want to find a way to lose a lot of time (this assumes you are an aviation guy), spend time on the Lockheed Martin in-house magazine’s website, Code One. Edited by Eric Hehs (with contributions including some by Jeff Rhodes), the magazine is full of great stories about Lockheed Martin products past and present. I should say I have met Eric and Jeff through ISAP and both are great guys so I am biased. When I am supposed to be doing something, Code One is the worst thing for me to look at since I can get lost in story after story. Recently they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the SR-71 and ran a piece about preserved Blackbirds. This got me wondering how many of them I have seen and photographed.
I will start by pointing out I saw them in service as well as preserved. Mildenhall was home of Detachment 4 of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing for many years. Blackbirds made an appearance at the Air Fetes that were held at Mildenhall in those days. I also saw a couple from outside the fence during normal operations.
It turns out that, while there are a lot of them around, I have seen quite a few. Some I have seen but not photographed which is a little frustrating. However, most of the ones I have seen have made it in to the collection. Here are a selection of shots. (These also include A12 and YF-12 airframes so not all SR-71s but I doubt you care about that.)