SR-71 Blackbird, what's that red outline on it's back?

See here.

I’m pretty sure that’s just a model, but I think it’s accurate.

What’s that outline for?


Here’s the real thing. The model is missing the red outline around the in-air refueling port.

WAG-it helps the pilot of the flying fuel tank line up the hose.

Boy, was I wrong.

Am I seeing correctly that there’s some kind of notation on the inside of the line?

It looks fuzzy, but it seems more pronounced (like letters or numbers) than a standard dashed line would be.

Whoa! Good find! Never woulda guessed that.

Looks like a chart for model makers. It says “no step”.

Ah, thank you!

That makes sense in terms of your above revelation.

Am I the only one that’s a little bit disappointed that the cool red stripe is just a “NO STEP NO STEP NO STEP NO STEP NO STEP NO STEP NO STEP NO STEP” sign? Must be why they left off the words for the museum plane.

I’ll take a purposfull “no step” stripe over pointless racing stripes.

On a Blackbird? That thing should have racing stripes ON TOP of it’s racing stripes.

Your picture doesn’t have the ribbing in that area that mine does. Maybe the area was strengthened.

Yeah, but it’s needed. Last time I was walking on a Blackbird I put my foot through the wing. Embarrassing.

As you already found out, that was a bad guess.

But there are indeed markings painted in front of boom-type refueling ports to help the boom operator calibrate his eyes. See or for a pretty good look at the various markings. They’re painted the same size on every USAF aircraft to give the boomer a consistent target regardless of the size of the receiver aircraft and the location of the port.

I’m actually surprised to see the aiming stripes aren’t painted on your SR-71 photo. That *may *be an artifact of it being the two-seater and there isn’t the usual flat space just ahead of the receiving port. Any way they tried to “pour” the symbology over the curved surface would introduce distortion.

I also bet that SR- refuelers were a dedicated fleet of tankers with a dedicated batch of boom operators. Who were highly experienced, hand-picked for skill, and would only have to contend with one type and shape of receiver for their entire assignment to the SR- refueling unit. So the lack of markings may not have mattered as much.

As I recall, paint was very difficult/expensive for the Blackbird. It flew so fast, the skin got real hot, and standard paints burned off in the first few minutes of flight 9possibly damaging the plane).

Note that if you zoom in on the picture of it in flight, you can see wavy-looking spots on the plane. I’ve read that the skin of the SR-71 got so hot in flight (from friction with the air) that the metal skin actually distorted (like bacon on a griddle). That’s why it had to be made of titanium. Presumably it went back to the original shape when it cooled. (Or did the mechanics have to redo it after a few flights?) Interesting to actually see it.

That SR71 is in the SAC museum not far from here. This is my daughter standing in front of that plane. It was the start point for a 10k she ran last spring.

:confused: There is no cause for disappointment.

Your point about distortion is interesting, particularly about the training/skill of the boom operator in recognizing the iconic (spatialized) graphic. If all ports are the same spatial configuration this question doesn’t apply except in the extreme case of bizarre fuselages, one which the SR-71 would come close.

One of the “distortions” that the operator, like all of us in life, is the relative size vis-a-vis him with distance and angle [think amorphous writing on roadways], but I’m wondering about the following:

Are the icons consistent/fixed size among themselves across all aircraft, or are they resized to have as consistent a match as possible, optically for the boom operator, to match the configuration of the port design?

JHBoom was a refueling boom operator on KC-10s. I’ll ping him.

I had thought all USAF were painted the exact same and had written that into my post. While looking for example photos I found the F-16 markings I thought were universal were different on at least some other aircraft including the E-3 I linked to. So I changed my post to match.

Let’s see what the real expert says.

You can see the fuel weeping everywhere while the plane is still cool enough to have gaps in its panels.