HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah —

The Hill Aerospace Museum, with the help of volunteers from the 388th Fighter Wing, hosted 18 former Airmen who served in the SR-71 program.

The group of pilots, reconnaissance systems officers, and maintainers held a panel discussion, and conducted cockpit tours. A “Blackbird Banquet was also held in their honor. The retirees travelled from their homes around the country for the event.

Since the SR-71 was the most advanced aircraft of its time, it’s fitting that Airmen who currently support America’s most advanced multirole stealth fighter would also support the event.

“It feels good to do this for them after they did such an amazing thing for aviation,” said 2nd Lt. Khaimook Grosshuesch, 388th Maintenance Group executive officer and project officer for the three events. “We’re also doing this to give back to our community and show the 388th Fighter Wing is part of and supports Hill Air Force Base.”

The SR-71 was one of the most advanced aircraft ever employed. It was the only sustainable aircraft to fly at more than 3 times the speed of sound at altitudes up to 16 miles above the surface of the earth. Its primary mission was reconnaissance. Crews flew missions over Iran, Israel, Lebanon and Libya.

The aircraft holds the world airspeed record at nearly 2,200 miles per hours. The pilot was Maj. Gen. Eldon Joersz, then a captain at Beale Air Force Base, California. Joersz attended the event at the museum and sat in the aircrafts cockpit, talking warmly with aircraft enthusiasts and children alike.

Hill’s museum is home to one of the few remaining SR-71 Blackbirds.

“We have the only SR-71 C model. It was the last SR-71 to be manufactured. It’s the crowd favorite at the museum. It has a mystique about it. We’re excited to share the pilots’ and maintainers’ collective experiences with our patrons,” said museum director Aaron Clark.