The world’s fastest ever production military aircraft will be celebrated at an out-of-this-world book launch at the Duxford Autumn Air Show on Sunday 5 October. Forty years after it first entered service with the US Air Force, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird still holds the record as the fastest military aircraft in regular service and frequently flew on the edge of space.

Author Colonel Rich Graham, who is travelling from the US for the launch, flew the spyplane for more than 4600 hours over a fifteen-year period and is the world authority on flying the SR-71. Although it is ten years since the aircraft was retired from service, the SR-71 remains one of the most impressive and enigmatic aircraft ever made. His book entitled Flying the SR-71 Blackbird is expected to be a big hit with the crowds at the air show. Visitors can also see Duxford’s own SR-71, the only one preserved outside the US.

“We are delighted to host the launch of Colonel Graham’s book” says Richard Ashton, Director of Imperial War Museum Duxford. “Like the Concorde on display at Duxford, the SR-71 Blackbird still looks futuristic and although it doesn’t fly any more, it is certainly one of our most popular exhibits. This is a rare opportunity for our visitors to meet someone who flew this incredible aircraft on the edge of space.”

The Blackbird has close ties with the East of England as the US Air Force operated the high performance spy-plane from RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, between 1976 and 1990 – it was the only Blackbird base in Europe and Colonel Graham flew Duxford’s SR-71 from Mildenhall on a number of occasions.

The aircraft was used by the US Air Force for almost three decades to gather intelligence around the world. Incredibly powerful cameras and electronic sensors could survey over 100,000 square miles an hour. Designed and built in the utmost secrecy, a total of only 32 SR-71 aircraft were made by Lockheed in the US. Travelling faster than a bullet and flying 15 miles above the earth¹s surface, the SR71 flew so high and fast that not a single one was shot down, as it was capable of simply accelerating to escape any attack, even by heat-seeking missiles.

Duxford’s Autumn Air Show is the UK’s last major air display of the year. World-famous French Air Force aerobatics team the Patrouille de France will be taking to the air as well as RAF fast jets, Royal Navy helicopters and classic aircraft including Spitfires, Mustangs and the Swordfish. The crowds will also be treated to a thrilling display from the Belgian Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighter.

The Duxford Autumn Air Show will take place on Sunday 5 October. Imperial War Museum Duxford is just south of Cambridge at Junction 10 of the M11. Gates will open at 8am and the flying will begin at 1.30pm. Admission will cost: Adults £24.95, Seniors (60 and over) £22.00 and £9.95 for Children and Concessions. Under 5s are free. Ample free parking is available. For further information, visit www.iwm.org.uk/duxford or telephone 01223 835000.

All flying subject to weather, serviceability and operational commitments.