SR-71 Crew returns to the Air Zoo for an even bigger Spy-posium weekend – August 12-15th

It’s been called “the most impressive military jet ever built” and for some time, remained shrouded in secrecy. Designed with a slide rule, this master of aerial surveillance continues to amaze us more than 30 years after its official retirement. The same can be said of the outstanding individuals who worked with the program, in the air or on the ground. The Air Zoo’s SR-71 Spy-posium provides a gateway to share, discuss, investigate, and commemorate one of history’s most extraordinary aircraft and get to know those who made major contributions to the Blackbird program.

What was thought to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Air Zoo in 2019 has become an exciting reality once again with the return of the SR-71 Spy-posium. Air Zoo guests will have the opportunity to meet 20 SR-71 Blackbird pilots, reconnaissance officers, ground crew members, engineers and historians while viewing the rarely-open cockpits of the world’s only remaining SR-71B Blackbird #956. Attendees will also have the option to participate in panel discussions, one-on-one tours, gather autographs, selfies, souvenirs and more.

The Air Zoo, being the home of the U.S. Air Force’s only remaining SR-71B model trainer (#956) was honored to be a featured stop during their 2019 tour.  The initial SR-71 Spy-posium, which was held October 4-6, 2019, brought nearly 2,000 families and enthusiasts from our local area and around the country to the Air Zoo to celebrate the world’s fastest, and one of history’s most extraordinary aircraft, the Blackbird. Beginning Friday, August 12th at 9am, this outstanding group of SR-71 crew members who travel the country offering lectures, presentations and fundraising opportunities among the country’s top military and aviation museums will be onsite to kick-off the second ever SR-71 Spy-posium.

This year’s event will span four days and has dozens of opportunities to explore the aircraft and gain new perspectives and knowledge from the 20 featured guests.  Daily activities, which are included with general admission and free to Air Zoo Members, include open cockpits, exploration stations, aircraft tours and crew-led panel discussions. Friday and Monday will feature special educational opportunities for families and youth-based groups. All are encouraged to explore the huge selection of SR-71 Spy-posium themed merchandise in the Fly Buy Gift Shop.  Items include autographed posters of the 956, Blackbird collectibles, books, models, pint glasses, apparel, toys and the long-awaited return of One Well Brewing’s Blackbird Porter, crafted specifically for the Air Zoo’s 2019 and 2022 Spy-posiums.   

Those interested in a more intimate experience should purchase tickets to the exclusive Blackbird Affair on Saturday August 13th.  The event will run from 6-10pm and includes food, bar, breakout groups, aircraft tours and exciting opportunities to sit in one of the two cockpits for a personalized tour with an SR-71 pilot or reconnaissance officer.  Tickets are available now for purchase and range from $100-$250 each.  Tier I ticket holders ($250/each) will have a guaranteed cockpit seating and one-on-one tour. Tier I tickets are limited to 50 and sell out fast.  Tier II tickets ($100/each) include all the evening festivities as well as several chances to win a seat in one of the two cockpits through a series of raffle drawings. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the event for $20 each.

Schedule of Events
Friday 9am-5pm

It's Kids Day! Ask an Air Zoo team member for an activity sheet to complete for a special prize!

1pm | Join us in the event space by the Blackbird's nose. The mission - your child engineers their own paper plane. If it qualifies in round one, they may get to compete with an SR-71 crew member!

Saturday 9am-5pm

9-11am | Exploration Stations
10:30am-12pm | Breaking World Records: The SR-71's Need for Speed with Q&A, Panel Moderator: Al Joersz
12:30-1:30pm | 360 SR-71 A Model Cockpit Tour with Jerry Glasser & Doug Soifer
1-3pm | Exploration Stations
2-3:30pm | The SR-71 Experience Pod Discussions

Saturday 6-10pm - Blackbird Affair - Fundraising Event – limited tickets available

Join us for an intimate night with the pilots, trainers, RSOs and crew members who made history flying in or working on the world's fastest plane!  The night will include hearty appetizers, adult beverages, mingling, breakout sessions, aircraft tours with guest speakers and for some, a seat and private tour in one of the two Blackbird cockpits. TICKETS AVAILABLE

Sunday 10am-noon

Members Only Morning

Sunday noon-5pm

12-2pm | Exploration Stations
1-2:30pm | Stealth Legends and Legacies with Q&A, Panel Moderator: Tom Danielson
2-4pm | Exploration Stations
3-4pm | 360 SR-71 A Model Cockpit Tour with Jerry Glasser & Doug Soifer

Monday 9am-5pm

Educational & Group Tours - TBD
1-2:30pm | The SR-71 Experience, Stealth Legends and Legacies with Q&A, Panel Moderator: Stormy Boudreaux

The 2022 SR-71 Spy-posium has been generously underwritten by William Blair.  Supporting sponsors include: KalBlue Group, Esper Electric, Metro Toyota,  Edward Jones Investments Tom Schripsema, Financial Advisor, RAI Jets, S&T Landscape Services, Discover Kalamazoo and One Well Brewing.

About the SR-71

The Air Zoo is proud to steward and display the only SR-71B trainer in existence. The Blackbird continues to draw visitors from around the world since its arrival at the Air Zoo in 2003. Completed in the 1960s, this trainer logged almost 4,000 flight hours.

Developed out of Lockheed’s A-12 and YF-12A aircraft, the SR-71 provided 100,000 square miles of surveillance of Earth’s surface per hour from 80,000 feet. It was designed for immunity to all known/anticipated ground and air defenses. No one could stop it due to its supersonic speeds, extreme altitudes, radar-attenuating materials, and design.

Using international shell corporations, the CIA clandestinely procured titanium from the Soviet Union to build the SR-71. Due to heightened political tensions as a result of the U-2 incident, the SR-71 never flew over the Soviet Union. It still captured interior intelligence up to 350 miles electronically and 42 miles optically while flying along its national borders. The Skunk Works, a classified division of Lockheed out of Burbank, CA, built this most advanced, super-secret aircraft. Using a slide rule, Michigander Clarence Kelly Johnson designed the SR-71 to collect photographic intelligence. Sites of interest included missile and air bases.

When the SR-71 program closed in 1990, NASA jumped at the chance to borrow two SR-71A models and the Air Zoo’s model B trainer to study future supersonic and hypersonic aircraft and engines. That’s why you’ll find NASA painted on the tailfin.

About the Air Zoo

Located at 6151 Portage Rd., Portage, MI 49002, the Air Zoo is a Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace & science experience with over 100 rare air & space craft, inspiring interactive exhibits, indoor amusement park rides, full-motion flight simulators, hands-on science-based education programs, and more.  The Air Zoo is a not-for-profit organization and is open 360+ days per year. For hours, tickets, safety policies and procedures as well as temporarily altered experiences due to COVID-19, visit airzoo.org/plan-your-visit.

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Posted by Nikki Statler at 4:00 PM
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