sr- 71 blackbird
Model Airplane News: Why did you
choose the SR- 71 for a project?
Lance Campbell: To be honest, the moment I
decided to do it, I wasn’t expecting it. Quite a
while ago, I was really interested in doing a Ziroli
B- 25. I planned a trip to the Wright-Patterson
Air Force Museum [National Museum of the
United States Air Force] in Dayton, Ohio, to
gather documentation photos to start the
project. When I toured the museum, I first saw
the SR- 71 in person. As I looked at the SR- 71,
I was just struck with the notion that this was
too cool of an aircraft not to do—and to try to do
it justice as accurately as possible. There was
also an appeal to try to do something unique.
Even today, you can count on one hand the
people that have done a scratch-built SR- 71
and made it to the flying field with it.
How did you develop your plans?
I started with a rough set of plans but soon
realized that much of it was incorrect. I retained
around 10 percent of them. As I dug deeper for
reference materials, I made a few initial contacts
with people involved with the real program. I
developed a positive cycle in that, as the project
progressed, some in the full-size community
saw my sincere effort and started to provide
materials to help the project along. Then I’d
publish further progress on my build blog, and
follow-on materials would show up. By this
time, I had visited about six of the planes in
various museums and taken several thousand
photos as well.
This might be hard to believe, but the plane
was built with no plans. I had a rough outline
and core dimensions, but ultimately I needed
to carve nearly the entire thing to shape. Using
composite plugs and molds meant that the
first shape being made was a fully solid object
that needed to perfectly match the shape.
Internal formers and equipment placement
would come later and was not relevant at this
stage. That’s not to say that I didn’t scrutinize
every dimension and angle dozens of times
to cross-reference them against Lockheed
schematics and all the photos. When the shape
was as correct as I could possibly make it, I
used lasers to assist in laying out the hundreds
of panel lines and corrugations. This way, I
could properly place panel lines across compound curves.
With the plugs done, I cast fiberglass molds
over every part. This was my first time trying
any of this. Prior to this project, I had never
done any significant fiberglass work and
never made a mold at all, but I was always
curious to learn. When the prototype was laid
up in the molds, I could then start making the
traditional model formers to carry the model’s
components and provide the needed structure.
I couldn’t do this until this late state because I
had to take into account the thickness of the
skin of the airplane. So, in some ways, it was
like making the plane from the outside and
How long did it take to produce your
Initially, I thought this was [going to be] a four-
year project. Boy was that wrong! It took three
years to make the plugs (doing the panel lines
and corrugations was a year of that time). Then
I spent two more years to make the molds. Then
another two years to make the first prototype,
including all the internal former design work and
development. So it was seven years before the
Speaking of the prototype, I designed it from
Talk about scale! The pilot and
RSO (Range Safety Officer) are
wearing the proper David Clark
space suits. The front instrument
panel is detailed with every knob,
switch, and gauge.
With the hatch removed, you see just some of the equipment onboard the twin-turbine-powered Blackbird.
This photo shows the hot end of the Blackbird, with
its double-wall thrust tube and the LED ring that
simulates afterburner function.
Here’s one of the distinctive inlet spikes. It’s angled
slightly down and inward, just like the full-size