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Flightline: 23/TBD

TA-12 60-6927
TA-12 60-6927
Photo: Lockheed Photographer

Back to Dreamland/Groom Lake/Area 51, some time in the mid-1960s.

Under the CIA’s Project Oxcart, Lockheed’s Skunk Works produced eighteen A-12 aircraft. Two were converted into M-12 launch aircraft (more on them tomorrow!), three more into the YF-12s (Tuesday...) and one as a trainer.

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Illustration for article titled Flightline: 23/TBD
Photo: Lockheed Photographer
Illustration for article titled Flightline: 23/TBD
Photo: Lockheed Photographer
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Article 124, s/n 60-6927 (referred to variously as the A-12B and the TA-12) was modified on the production line, with a second cockpit added in the Q-bay (the M-12s and YF-12s were similarly modified).

Illustration for article titled Flightline: 23/TBD
Illustration: Lockheed A-12 Manual
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Taking off for the first time on January 7, 1963, the TA-12, nicknamed the “Titanium Goose”, quickly racked up an astounding 1076 flight hours, more than double those of her stablemates, though, since her J75 engines were never replaced by the J58s used by operational A-12s, 927 was limited to Mach 2. For that reason, she was never painted with the black “Iron Ball” paint, nor was she fitted with the black composite filets.

Article 124 taking off from Groom Lake
Article 124 taking off from Groom Lake
Photo: USAF Photographer
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The Goose holds the distinction of being one of two Oxcart/Blackbird aircraft in which Clarence “Kelly” Johnson was to have flown, the other being a YF-12.

Illustration for article titled Flightline: 23/TBD
Photo: Lockheed Photographer
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The A-12 program was canceled in 1966, though they did fly operational missions in 1967 and 1968. The Titanium Goose was the last Oxcart retired, but in the end she was flown to Palmdale and stored with the rest until 2001, when she was moved to the California Science Center (formerly the California Museum of Science and Industry) and placed on display:

Illustration for article titled Flightline: 23/TBD
Photo: Unknown Photographer
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The only Oxcart/Cygnus displayed in glorious unpainted titanium.
The only Oxcart/Cygnus displayed in glorious unpainted titanium.
Photo: Frank Martinez, Jr.

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