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“Titanium Goose” walkaround — Lockheed’s rare A-12 “Blackbird” 1st part

18 May 2011

“Titanium Goose” walkaround — Lockheed’s rare A-12 “Blackbird” 1st part

A rare perspective to see of an A-12 as well as the Titanium Goose’s two cockpits — photo by Joe May

Who doesn’t know of the Clarence “Kelly” Johnson’s incredibly prescient SR-71 “Blackbird” design which could go faster than Mach 3 and cruise higher than 80,000 feet (~24,000m). Too fast and too high for interception by fighter or missile — this was the Blackbird’s defense as it was flown on reconnaissance missions. But the SR-71 had an immediate ancestor, the A-12, and among the few A-12s (a baker’s dozen) is a rare one — one known as the “Titanium Goose” and it was a trainer with dual pilot cockpits.

The right hand side of the Titanium Goose showing the slightly stepped up instructor pilots cockpit — photo by Joe May

Ventral perspective of the Lockheed A-12 known as the Titanium Goose (note the seams in the fuselage construction) — photo by Joe May

It was the A-12 that pioneered the powerful hybrid (turbojet/ramjet) Pratt & Whitney J-58 engines, titanium construction, JP-7 fuel and stealth design features. They were the first to work at the high speed and high altitude regime that Blackbirds would come top call their own. A-12s have single cockpits, unlike the SR-71 which has two (one for the pilot and one for the reconnaissance systems officer), but one was modified so that an instructor pilot could train a pilot new to the A-12. She became know as the “Titanium Goose” and now is boldly displayed outside the California Science Center in Los Angeles in the Roy A. Anderson Blackbird Exhibit & Garden. She sits as if flight on pylons over a sort of arroyo (canyon) about even with the ground to the north and at the height of the neighboring parking garage — the visitor is so so near that one can closely inspect the seams, panel lines chines and engine nacelles.

Lockheeds A-12 Blackbird, Titanium Goose, at the Roy A. Anderson Park near the California Science Center — photo by Joe May

Much has been written about the Blackbirds and this post will not go into more detail but the design, though first flown in the 1960s, is still modern by almost any standard and well worth the study. “Blackbird” and “Titanium Goose” are unofficial, though commonly used, nicknames so these terms have been placed inside of quotes as opposed to being italicized.

The next post will complete the walkaround of this remarkable, and rare, aircraft.

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