Beale AF Base: Seeing an SR71 and other cool toys

Flying to San Francisco for a conference next week and will have a couple days at the end to kill. I’d love to see an SR71 on display but it seems the only one near SF is Beale AF Base. I can’t find specific info, is it just that plane on display or is it a full air museum? Can foreigners even go see it? I know some bases allow US citizens in but not foreigners (I’m UK / Australian).

Anywhere else Bay Area or even a few hours drive for someone that is into taking photos of interesting tech / hardware of all kinds (obviously I mean at public air museums and the like, just a hobby). Have already done the computer history museum on a past trip. Looks like I’ll have two days and will be coming from the south of the bay area and then heading back to SF at the end.

Try the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, CA. Not only an SR-71 (that’s close enough to the ropes that you might be able to touch it, not that you’re allowed to), but an RB-36 and a Vulcan. The B-36 is absolutely ginormous.

About two hours from Moscone Convention Center in SF.

Off topic…

I was coming home from work at Edwards AFB one afternoon. It was Autumn, I think, and it was getting dark early. Low, dark-grey clouds covered the sky. As I drove westbound on Ave. K in Lancaster, I saw an SR-71 flying northbound in the distance. It was low, because the ceiling was only a few thousand feet. The blue flam, with a bit of orange in it, was as long as the aircraft. The black plane with the blue-and-orange flame was striking scene against the grey clouds, into which it quickly disappeared.

That’s what I wanted. For some reason when I checked the list of SR71 locations I thought Atwater was much further from SF. Although I’ll be coming from Cupertino not Moscone, but that seems very doable.

Few more questions. Any restrictions on photography / video? Looks like it will be hard to get good angles with those ropes, you think I’d be able to get away with hopping over, taking a shot then ducking back? (Maybe not on the SR71 but on the less popular ones, it must be a huge spread out space). I promise not to touch !

Got any other recommendations for a geek hobby photographer? Would still have one day spare after doing this.

San Fran is pretty good for photos. There’s always the Golden Gate Bridge, and the parks on the other side have great nature views, with a few awesome shots back towards the city too. There’s also Alcatraz, the cliffs, the Battery. I’m not a picture person, but I had to whip out the camera(phone) while I was out there.

ETA: Pics of the Blackbird, for the love of all things holy, please. Pretty, pretty please.

I think “stepping over the ropes” at Castle would be frowned on by the staff…but, the docents & volunteers I’ve talked to are pretty cool and you might be able to talk them into letting you get a closer look. (If you had been here in at the end of May, you could’ve gone to open cockpit day, which is really neat.)

A couple of other aircraft-related museums in the area worth visiting if you have time–the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, and in the East Bay there is the Oakland Aviation Museum, The USS Hornet and the Alameda Naval Air Museum.

Thanks for that, not into taking photos of the standard tourist stuff, and I’ve seen that side of SF before. Sure I’ll post some links to photos when I get them, Canon 7D with some pretty decent lenses, not your iphone stuff :wink:

It’s a bit of a drive from SF to Travis Air Force Base’s Heritage museum, and it might be a tight squeeze as they ask for two weeks’ notice for non-US residents but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Please do post your pics, I hope you have a great visit here in the US.

Again thanks, and just to make clear, it’s not only air museums I am interested in, I’d probably rather do one day at Castle and then something different for the second day. Give me ideas for something thats not your typical tourist fare but which has good photo opportunities. And I don’t have the right gear to do amazing nature photography so although I do appreciate it, that’s not what I’m after.

One of my absolute favorite daytrips out of the South Bay–with lots of photo opportunities–is driving north on 280, cutting over to Hwy 1 at Pacifica, and cruising down the coast to Santa Cruz and then heading back on either 17 or Highway 9. Beautiful coastline, farms, redwood forests, beach and mountain towns, good places to eat…on a nice day it’s a fabulously scenic drive and generally not too much traffic if you get an early start.

I"ve posted this before, but anyone interested in the SR71 should check out these videos with SR71 pilot Col. Richard Graham. The first is a detailed tour of an SR71 simulator cockpit.

Unless greatly mistaken, I saw that Vulcan on one of its last flights to Castle. It broke down at Scott AFB Illinois for about a week. I was an aircraft mechanic on the flight line and got to see it close up. When it finally left, the crew came back around flew down the flight line at about 400 mph and about 500 feet off the ground. It was AMAZING to see and feel.

You and Johnny LA, stop making me jealous :frowning:

I would have touched the one sitting at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in 1995 but the guide said the wings are so sharp they can cut paper so it wasn’t safe. Got a great picture of her, though!
Then I saw the Blackbird in flight as I got off the expressway in Toronto over CN weekend the day Diana died. Couldn’t process how fast she moved, it seemed impossible to go from my windshield to my rearview in the time it took me to shift my glance.
That was a strange day overall.

I’ve seen a Blackbird twice. The first time was at March AFB in Riverside, CA. As I was driving down the freeway alongside the runway, I saw a SR71 shooting touch and gos. I pulled off the road (under a “No stopping or parking at any time.” sign) and watched. Several cars joined me, including 2 CHP cruisers. When the exercise was over, the pilot stood the bird on its tail and kicked in the afterburners. Zip! Straight up and out of sight. The chippies looked at everybody, casually mentioned that they were going back on duty in 2 minutes, and smiled.

The second time was on the flight line at Edwards AFB. It was 0-Dark-30 and I was waiting for a shuttle landing. As I wandered around, I saw a Blackbird parked next to a hanger. I looked around, and discretely tried to take a few pictures. An Air Policeman spotted me and shouted “Sir! Stop taking pictures!” He walked over, looked at my camera and said “You’ll get much better pictures from over there.” He saw my face and said “You forgot they’ve been declassified, didn’t you?” He smiled, I smiled, and I got some great shots. Met Penn Jillette waiting for that landing, too.

Before they fenced it in, I drove my car under the wing of that B-36 and took pictures of it there. That was about 2001 or 2002 or 2003. Now it’s all fenced in, bummer.

I highly recommend for anyone to take the tour of Edwards AFB. There is a long wait list. We got to touch an F-117 stealth fighter. Many cool things to see and do there.

Yeah sounds very interesting but not going to LA on this trip, maybe next time.

I saw a parked SR-71 at Beale circa 1971-ish. Junior High school trip for some kinda public day at Beale. I remember the two armed guards in front of it.

To the OP, the drive to Beale and back has virtually nothing of interest unless you count a big farm valley as interest. The entire Sacramento valley is pretty much the Butteend of nowhere. I grew up there and except for the old missile silos with rattlesnakes, you ain’t missing much.

Thanks for that looks like I’ll be going to Castle Air Museum at Atwater, not Beale. So it will be SF -> Cupertino for conference -> Atwater -> spare day -> SF

So suggestions on anything from atwater to SF would be good.

For those of us in the UK I’d highly recommend the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. Several hangers crammed with rarities and exotica and in relation to this thread there is the American Air Museum hanger. and sure enough there is a Blackbird at floor level that you can get right up and touch (though you aren’t really allowed to). An epic bird indeed. It’s daintier and not as fearsome up close as I expected.