90 Second Climb - Zipper over Florida
Walt BJ, Zipper pilot, ret (Not by choice)
90 Second Climb - Zipper over Florida

by Walt BJ, Zipper pilot, 319 FIS Homestead, Florida

This is n-s-t (no shit true). Way back in 1967 ADC Col Dave Rippetoe gave us new engines (J-79-19) for our F-104A down at Homestead, Florida. Same engine as the F-4E but modified for single engine use. (No CSD, DC generator, dual ignition, nozzle locks).
Our old J-79-3Bs were cracking and leaking hot air so it was a very welcome change. Even more welcome was the added thrust. The modifications had been done to about half our birds when I was assigned to make a flight check on one of the new-engined birds. I forgt what was it I was supposed to check (40 years ago!) but it was something innocuous where simply taking off and landing safely with nothing falling off satisfied the check card.
It was a clear VFR south Florida summer day, runway temp about 85 Fahrenheid, bird in normal configuration - AIM9s, 20mm ammo, no tanks. Runway 05 was the active so I was headed out over Biscayne Bay. I'd done a couple max performance combat-type climbs figuring out how to use the added power tactically.
This time I decided to see how long it took climbing subsonic to get to 45000 feet. Takeoff was standard - about 2300 feet to 185 and rotate, gear up, level off, pickup .97 Mach and rotate to hold .97 Mach. The Zipper really went uphill; climb angle was maybe 50-60 degrees; I was too busy holding the Mach and watching the altimeter versus the second hand to notice much else. I saw I wasn't going to make 45.000 at 90 seconds holding .97 Mach so I rotated straight up into the vertical somewhere around 37.000 feet or so. I did in fact cross 45.000 right on 90 seconds - and then at about 49.000 she was all done. The yaw string pointed the other way as she slid backwards and then hammer-headed forward, a little left roll in the pitch-down due to engine gyro moment and I was going straight down towards Biscayne Bay. The engine had flamed out; due to duct stall, I believe, but the RPM hadn't decayed much and as soon as I hit the dual ignition switches she fired right up. The rest of the flight was just more fun.
I landed and signed off the check card and was met by our GE engine/gun Tech Rep, Bill Griscom. He was curious as to why the contrail stopped and then started back up again, only now going down. I just grinned and told him "Your engine quit; no big deal, they do that a lot!" (That was a lie; I only ever had one other flameout, due to another duct stall at Mach 2.0 and 50.000 feet due to a pitchup. That pitchup was caused by an inop APC system; like the book says, no burble supersonic up there). For what it's worth the F-104A with the Dash 19 engine lost its howl but could now accelerate from Mach .9 to Mach 2.0 in about 27 miles and one minute fortyfive seconds and burn only 1000 pounds of fuel doing that. It could also cruise at 73.000 at Mach 2.0 and 315 KIAS burning 100 pounds of fuel a minute. .97 Mach on the deck in Mil was pretty good, too. Not too bad a trade, we thought, all things considered.

Too bad nobody cloned Kelly Johnson. - Walt BJ.