When the SR-71 was retired in 1990, one Blackbird, #972, was flown from its birthplace at United States Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, to go on exhibit at what is now the Smithsonian Institution's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
On 6 March 1990, Lt. Col. Raymond E. Yeilding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida piloted SR-71 S/N 61-7972 on its final Senior Crown flight and its final blaze of glory, and in the process of making her final flight...#972 set four new speed records for the books:
Los Angeles, California, to Washington, D.C., distance 2,299.7 miles, average speed 2,144.8 miles per hour, and an elapsed time of 64 minutes 20 seconds.
West Coast to East Coast, distance 2,404 miles, average speed 2,124.5 miles per hour, and an elapsed time of 67 minutes 54 seconds.
Kansas City, Missouri, to Washington, D.C., distance 942 miles, average speed 2,176 miles per hour, and an elapsed time of 25 minutes 59 seconds.
St. Louis, Missouri, to Cincinnati, Ohio, distance 311.4 miles, average speed 2,189.9 miles per hour, and an elapsed time of 8 minutes 32 seconds.
These four speed records were accepted by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), the recognized body for aviation records in the United States. Additionally, Air & Space/Smithsonian reported that the Air Force clocked the SR-71 at one point in its flight reaching 2,242.48 miles per hour.
#972 touched down at Dulles after her final ceremonial flight. Her engines wound down and titanium surface cooled on the ramp at Washington-Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC. From there she would be quietly rolled into the Smithsonian Institution's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Aviation museum, where she remains to this day.