This post will cover the Boeing Sr-71 Blackbird, the fastest non-rocket-powered manned aircraft in the world and the highest flying in the world. This plane was so fast that it could actually outrace surface-to-air missiles. It is one of the few planes in the world which can go to Mach 3.
The Blackbird had a very strong air-conditioning system because flying at speeds of Mach 3.2 heated the skin to 500 degrees Celsius. The system took heat from the cabin and injected it into the engines to provide extra energy.
A total of 32 aircraft were made, and they flew for quite a bit of time until the American Congress retired them saying that they were costing to much to maintain. Each aircraft cost 400 million dollars to maintain per year, and old planes had to be scavenged for parts as manufacturing had stopped. The Blackbird was finally retired in 1989. However, within four years, the USAF looked at the SR-71s again, debating whether or not to reactivate them due to their unmatched aerial reconnaissance. This met resistance though, by the Congress and new developers alike. By then, new unmanned aircraft were being developed which could take over the job of the SR-71 and in 1998, it was permanently retired. Old Blackbirds are now on display. (Below): A SR-71 on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Museum.