Cold War Jets

SR-71A with Habu Pilot @ Mildenhall

In around the year 1988 my friend and I travelled to the back garden of someone in the village of Mildenhall to camp for the weekend. The purpose was to spend the weekend at the Mildenhall airshow, which I had been to before but was important for a few reasons:

  • Aircraft
  • Military aircraft
  • Military might
  • Blackbird
  • More planes

When you are a plane nut then airshows are where you get your kicks. I can’t help what I like and planes have troubled me all my life. It’s possibly due to growing up underneath the flight path of Stansted Airport in Essex. It could be because of my dad who was involved in the industry when I was young or it could just be that an aluminium tube filled with people and fuel doesn’t really have any business being six miles up off the ground.

Somehow Alan and I had found the number of someone who lived near a walk-in entrance to RAF Mildenhall [actually a USAF base] and we had booked to camp in her garden. Then, each day of the show we walked in. My memory of the charges is not great but I seem to think we got in for something like £5 each whereas a car for the day was £40. I suspect those prices are wrong given what prices were like in the 80s but I can’t remember. I do know it was dirt cheap to walk in to the show rather than drive.

SR-71A with Habu Pilot @ Mildenhall
SR-71A with Habu Pilot @ Mildenhall

There’s only a few things I can remember from the airshow. I sort of remember the Blackbird flying, it was a privilidge to see that. I also remember both AB and I watching a helicopter display, possibly an Apache, when it did a form of a wing-over or loop. Both, AB and I were amazed and clapped. There weren’t many who joined in the clapping, only those in the know.

Red Arrows Cross Over @ Mildenhall
Red Arrows Cross Over @ Mildenhall

The Red Arrows were there, of course, I I’m not sure if this was before or after I had been to Cyprus, porbably before and so I was still excited by them. The above photograph was beautifully timed by me.

My father must have found the original negatives of these photographs as he has scanned them inot his computer. I suspect there are some more picture lurking in a box somewhere and I’ll have to keep scanning his computer to see what I can find.

Here are some more photographs from those days. They aren’t very good but them photographs weren’t back in the 80s. I wasn’t great with a camera and with only 24 or 36 shots on a reel of film you were very limited in what you could take.

AB and I had a great time at the airshow. It was a really good experience and well worth the camping and entrance fees. I do feel it’s a bit of a shame that the number of airshows has decreased over the years, but these beasts were probably also a show of strength during the cold war. They were interesting times and maybe I should be glad we don’t currently need massive forces to prevent mutual destruction [it feels like it’s heading that was again though].

Addendum: I have had confirmation of aircraft types from a US source:

Trash Talking Firefly

Firefly is an awesome Sci Fi television series created by Joss Whedon. It’s funny, touching and full of great characters. Also, it’s made by nerds and so they put in little cookies here and there. One I spotted during the episode Trash was an SR-71 flying through the background while a shuttle was coming down to land.

Firefly Blackbird
Firefly Blackbird

What a wonderful thing.

Also in this episode Kayleigh has a model of Han Solo in carbonite next to her hammock in the engine bay.

My Favourite Birds

I have been lucky in my life to experience the company of two very gorgeous girls. I can remember seeing the Lockheed SR-71 fly at an airshow at USAF Mildenhall in the late 80s. The aircraft is just a wonderfully beautiful design and amazing technologically. It is a lovely aircraft.

Here’s the one on display at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford:

SR-71 Beautiful Blackbird

Here’s the one on display at the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles in Washington DC.


Here’s my other favourite bird, the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird. Named after the aircraft and I am proud to have owned one of these for about six years and covered around 70,000 miles on it.

Honda CBR100XX
Honda CBR100XX

Just so you know, this bike was FAST. Top speed by Honda was 186mph. I never went that fast, because the took the wing mirrors off to make that speed. I might have managed somewhere more like 71.53 metres per second.


If I could I would own another Honda Blackbird. I really like the matt black with gold wheels version they issued. It’s a shame that the ‘bird is no longer in production.

Duxford 2014

Yesterday I should have accompanied some students on a flying experience trip as part of the cadets at work. We were driven to the base and had our safety briefing before we were told that the unit had just been told to ground their aircraft because of a pre-flight check list issue. We had to leave! No flying.

So, the next best thing is to go and look at a load of gorgeous aircraft. Fortunately, the Imperial War Museum at Duxford was on the way home. It is seriously worth a visit. I love it. My one criticism would be that there are so many aircraft in the display hangers that a good look or photo angle is quite rare!

Here are my best shots:

Now, some of the planes here are not named, so if you know, drop me a line and I’ll change the details in the gallery above.