NASA F-104 legacy spans five decades

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles on the F-104, which marked the third anniversary of its final flight on February 3, 1997

By Roy Bryant, B-52 Project Manager

It was one of those days you read about in travel brochures. The temperature was in the high 80s, with a slight breeze and a deep blue sky accented by high, thin wisps of clouds ­ truly a "chamber of commerce" day in the land of the X-planes.

It was Monday, Aug. 27, 1956, at the NACA High-Speed Flight Station (HSFS) located at Edwards Air Force Base. Several employees anxiously watched as crew chief Dick Payne made sure that chief test pilot Joe Walker was properly strapped in the cockpit of the HSFS's newest research aircraft, the No. 7 F-104, SN 55-2961.

As Walker taxied the aircraft off the ramp onto the dry lakebed runway for take-off, anxiety began to build. Soon the canopy closed, the pilot moved the throttle forward and the aircraft responded to the thrust of its powerful state-of-the-art jet engine.

This first NACA flight lasted approximately 30 minutes, and it ushered in a legacy that would span portions of five decades, ending Feb. 3, 1994. It was the legacy of the "Starfighter."

The F-104 aircraft series designated "Starfighter" was a product of the Lockheed Burbank Skunk Works. It first flew in February 1954 and was the first jet aircraft capable of sustained Mach 2.0 speed in level flight. Previously only rocket planes had been flown at speeds this great and not for sustained periods of time. A General Electric J-79 engine powered the F-104 aircraft. The F-104 was developed for a primary Air Force mission. However, as history would show, it also would become perhaps the most versatile aircraft ever to grace the skies over the Mojave Desert and to reside in the hangars of the NACA/NASA unit at Edwards AFB.

From the first flight to the final farewell fly-by more than 37 years later, the F-104 served NACA/NASA faithfully in four major areas: basic research in the transonic and high supersonic regions; as an aerodynamic testbed facility to obtain data for projects/experiments quickly and at low cost; as an airborne simulator for the X-15 and lifting body programs; and in a support role as safety/photo chase or to maintain pilot proficiency in high-performance aircraft. On a few rare occasions, test vehicles were launched or dropped from one of the aircraft.

Eleven aircraft saw duty in the NACA/NASA F-104 fleet. Each provided valuable support in one or more of these areas. The results were significant contributions to the Center's and Agency's overall mission and goals. The Department of Defense and industry also reaped significant benefits from the data acquired by these aircraft. Important benefits were realized early in the Starfighter legacy when the Center's F-104-961 was the only instrumented F-104 aircraft remaining; the contractor and Air Force had lost all their instrumented F-104 aircraft in accidents.

An agreement was reached whereby the HSFS conducted a major test program to investigate inertia or roll coupling phenomena believed to be responsible for many aircraft losses. That investigation led to a mass of data turned over to the manufacturer and the Air Force and publication through NACA Research Memorandums.

A subsequent test program investigated the engine flame-out problem that plagued the early F-104 aircraft. The cause was determined to be asymmetrical airflow into the engine compartment from the inlet ducts. As a result, a vertical duct-splitter was installed at the engine face to balance the inlet airflow and thus alleviate the problem. Later this aircraft was outfitted with a jet reaction control system. This was done to augment an earlier program that used the X-1B rocket aircraft to give the pilots experience in flying these systems. This was important because the X-15 would have this type of control system for use at low dynamic pressures (high altitudes). During this program the Starfighter successfully performed zoom climbs to the 90,000-foot region. This work with reaction controls provided the first research experience for pilots controlling an airplane at dynamic pressures below 20 pounds per square foot where conventional controls lose their effectiveness.

The Air Force lent the NACA a second Starfighter, SN 56-734, in October 1957. There followed a major program to obtain boundary-layer-transition measurements in full-scale flight on this aircraft. To obtain the desired data, HSFS personnel installed pressure instrumentation and temperature gauges on the outside surface of the left-hand wing. The leading edge flaps were deactivated and a fiberglass glove installed to maintain the original contour and smooth surface of the wing.

A third Starfighter, SN 56-749, joined the HSFS fleet in April 1959. It was configured with a center-line launcher system. A most unusual program was flown on this aircraft. It was to obtain precise air density at various altitudes. Program pilot Milt Thompson described this endeavor as "not very successful, but interesting."

The program proposed to deploy a balloon stowed in the nose-cone of a rocket. It would be propelled up to perhaps a million feet and then the balloon would come out of the rocket nose-cone, inflate and then begin its descent. "We would then track the balloon with radar, measure its descent and from that compute air density," Thompson said. "We tried to impart as much energy into the rocket as possible before we launched it. We did in fact achieve altitudes of almost 700,000 feet. The basic maneuver was a real high-altitude loop (typical launch conditions M = 1.4 near 60,000 feet at the vertical flight condition). We were never able to track the balloons after the nose cone separated from the rocket, so we just don't know what happened to the balloons."

On Dec. 20, 1962, a shadow was cast over the brightness of the NASA Starfighter legacy. Upon completion of a routine range weather check prior to an X-15 mission, Thompson was practicing low lift/drag approaches in F-104-749. When he was configuring the aircraft for one of these approaches, only one of the flaps extended ­ leaving him with an asymmetric flap configuration. Initially he was able to control the roll caused by this configuration but subsequently the aircraft became uncontrollable. According to the a transcript of the flight Thompson's last radio transmission was "she's going Joe" (referring to Joe Vensel, chief of Flight Operations). There were some anxious moments until a message was received that Thompson had showed up at the Center with parachute in hand. The story goes that he safely ejected at about 20,000 feet altitude and landed not too far from a road. He hiked to the road and shortly a farmer came by in a truck and asked if he could give him a ride. Thompson took the offer, and the farmer brought him back to the Center.

In December of 1959, a two-seat Starfighter, F-104 SN 57-1303, became the fourth member of the NASA fleet. With the addition of this two-seater, another dimension was added to the Center's research capability: that of carrying instrumented individuals and/or experiments in the back cockpit with a safety pilot flying the aircraft from the front cockpit. As a result numerous bio-medical experiments were conducted, many of which were applicable to the space program and the medical community.

F-104 versatile aircraft for Dryden

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles on the F-104 aircraft.

By Roy Bryant, B-52 Project Manager

The fourth member of the NASA Starfighter fleet began its research missions as a carrier of biomedical experiments.

One such program was the development of instrumentation and a mini-recorder to monitor the pilot's physiological parameters (heart and respiration rates, oxygen consumption and pulse wave velocity). Recording the pulse wave velocity provided definition of the time delay in the pulse wave traveling from the heart to an extremity, in this case the little finger tip. These data allowed the researchers to measure and predict the pilot's workload. A spin-off from the biomedical experiments was a “spray-on electrode” used in obtaining in-flight electro-cardiograms that was developed by the staff along with an atomizer spray gun, used to attach the electrodes and capture the signal wire.

Another major spin-off of this program was the real-time ambulance electro-cardiogram capability currently in use by paramedics in major cities worldwide. Other programs included the development of an in-flight mass spectrometer to analyze the respiratory exhalation (each breath) and a liquid cooled garment which incorporated the use of a frozen backpack in the cooling process. The initial program using a Ground Command Guidance (GCG) system, which was the forerunner of the Remotely Augmented Vehicle (RAV) capability currently used at Dryden, also flew on this aircraft.

A rather unique program used to demonstrate the capability of the GCG system was the Focused Boom experiment. This experiment, affectionately known as “Big Boom,” required that a ground track profile (loaded in a ground-based computer) and certain pertinent parameters, uplinked to instruments in the front and aft cockpits, be flown so that the energy from the sonic boom generated would be focused on a specific area on the ground.

The F-104 aircraft was remotely deployed to Michael Army Airfield at Dugway, Utah, for this program and used the Ely, Nevada, radar-tracking site to support these flights. A milestone was achieved in the Starfighter legacy on October 14, 1970, with a total of six flights in a regular workday (first flight take-off time 8:45 a.m., flight six landing time 4 p.m.).

Kudos to crew chief Don Guilinger and his crew for keeping pilots Tom McMurtry and Hugh Jackson airborne. This was the second time within five weeks that the team had accomplished this feat. (Historical note: Flight test engineer Vic Horton and pilot Hugh Jackson worked with the people at China Lake to bring the GCG capability to the Center.)

The first four Starfighter all had been acquired through loan agreements between NACA/NASA and the Air Force. In 1963 NASA purchased three “personalized” F-104Ns (811, 812 and 813) from Lockheed. These aircraft were personalized in that non-mandatory systems, like the fire control system, were not installed and the compartments were tailored for NASA equipment.

Dryden research pilots used the aircraft to keep their flying skills finely tuned and to provide an extra set of eyes as safety chase for research missions. Furthermore, they used the aircraft as airborne simulators for the X-15 and lifting body programs, as well as to enhance the ability to obtain data on research flights by determining the most efficient sequence to fly the test points. When feasible, they even performed research missions. One example was participation in the National Sonic Boom Evaluation Program.

On June 8, 1966, once again a shadow, this time a very dark one, was cast over the brightness of the NASA Starfighter legacy. Upon completion of a safety chase flight in support of a XB-70 mission tragedy struck. The mission aircraft were aligning for a photo sequence prior to landing when the right-hand wing tip (in a folded down position) of the XB-70 and the top of the left-hand horizontal stabilizer of the F-104 (813) made contact. The tragic result was the loss of two pilots, NASA chief pilot Joe Walker (F-104) and Major Cross (XB-70 co-pilot), and two aircraft ­ the F-104 and the XB-70.

However, out of the darkness the brightness of the Starfighter legacy emerged once again as the two F-104s, tail numbers 811 and 812, continued to perform their roles for the next two decades.

As a result of the quest to fill the vacancy left in the NASA Starfighter fleet by the loss of F-104 No. 813, another Starfighter, serial number 56-0790, was acquired on loan from the Air Force in December 1966. However, it did not become available for duty until April 1968 because it was due for a major inspection, which had to be completed first. In addition to performing in a support role, this F-104 also made major contributions to research as a testbed aircraft. A significant research contribution was the acquisition of the baseline data used in the development of the Center's aircraft agility techniques program. In response to an informal request from the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), the initial flights to investigate the wake vortices of jumbo jet aircraft were flown with this F-104 probing the wake of a C-5 aircraft. The data obtained on these flights were used as the criteria to establish an interim minimum separation distance for aircraft trailing jumbo jet airplanes. (A major program to investigate various characteristics of wake vortices was later completed by NASA and the FAA.) Of special significance were accomplishments that reflected the performance of the aircraft maintenance and instrumentation crews (Nick Massimino/Bill McCarty and Al Grieshaber/Harvey Price respectively). During the period of April 10, 1969, through December 19, 1969, Dryden flew a total of 134 missions, including 90 flights for data on six different research projects. These flights were accomplished in 176 regularly scheduled work days, only 138 of which were available for flight because of down time to accomplish a Time Compliance Tech Order (TCTO) and to install an experiment. The bottom line: During this eight-month period there were no aircraft or instrumentation problems.

Even on a day when there were no research or support flights scheduled, Center pilots would find a reason to fly the Starfighter. Such was the day of April 11, a Friday in the year of 1975. The previous day it had rained and now, although cloudy, the sky was clearing. It was an ideal setting for an airborne photo mission. One young enterprising pilot, Gary Krier, recognized the “knock of opportunity” and seized the moment. Quickly he organized and obtained approval to fly the mission. By 8:30 a.m. you could look out at the DFRC staging ramp and see five blue-and-white Starfighter all in-line and ready for the mission at hand. At 9:15 a.m. the first Starfighter was airborne, followed in rapid order by the remaining four aircraft. The fifth Starfighter became airborne at 9:35 a.m.

During the mission the aircraft were flown in several different formations with the photographer in the T-38 photo chase busily photographing. It was a photographer's dream come true. The mission also included formation fly-bys to the delight of the Center's employees. The mission lasted just over an hour. Participants in this operation were: Fitz Fulton/Ray Young, flight-test engineer (F-104-819 [303]), formation leader, Bill Dana (F-104 [811]), Tom McMurtry (F-104 [812]), Einar Enevoldson (F-104-818 [961]), Gary Krier (F-104-820 [790]) and Don Mallick and photographer Bob Rhine in the T-38.

On a sunny July morning in 1975, the NASA Starfighter fleet took on an international flavor with the arrival of three West German F-104G's (two had been built by Lockheed [in West Germany] and one in Holland). A “NASA Blue flyby” at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, July 2, was the climax to a journey that began six days earlier (June 27, 1975) at Jever Air Base in West Germany for four of the Flight Research Center's elite test pilot cadre, Tom McMurtry (824), Bill Dana/Einar Enevoldson (825) and Gary Krier (826).

An appropriate ceremony was held on the NASA ramp where the pilots were duly honored for their achievement. With these newer versions of the F-104, replacement parts were more readily available, making these aircraft easier to support and keep flying. Thus the NASA Starfighter legacy continued into the 90s.

F-104's legacy shines in display at D.C. air museum

Editor's note: This is the third installment in a series of articles about Dryden's F-104 fleet.

By Roy Bryant, B-52 Project Manager

The arrival of the West German Starfighter in July 1975 increased Dryden's F-104 fleet to eight aircraft. However, having eight Starfighter for the pilots to fly was just too much of a good thing to last.

In 1975, the luster of the NASA Starfighter legacy was at one of its brightest points. On Nov. 18, F-104-818 (Air Force tail number 961), with chief pilot Don Mallick at the controls, flew to its place of honor at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It was a fitting honor bestowed on an airplane that had made so many significant contributions during its 19 years of research missions in the quest of data to further aircraft technology.

From the initial stability-and-control, handling-qualities evaluation and propulsion programs (research to obtain data on the basic F-104 airplane) to the last testbed experiment flown, this airplane provided invaluable aerodynamic data. In addition to the roll-coupling evaluation, interaction of non steady twin-inlet flow study, jet-reaction control program and many others, the airplane flew the Panel Flutter Flight-Test program to obtain in-flight data about the aerodynamic phenomena known as panel flutter. This program also compared that data accurately with the results of wind-tunnel studies.

Another program on the same aircraft obtained flight-test verification of wind-tunnel data on two configurations for reducing base drag (retarding forces). This "Two-Dimensional" Base Drag Reduction experiment also demonstrated devices for breaking down major vortices, thereby also reducing base drag.

In a separate program, the F-104 was used to study and develop the low-lift/low-drag landing technique used by pilots during the X-15 rocket research airplane and Lifting Body programs, thereby contributing tremendously to those two significant milestones. The F-104 even served as an airborne simulator of landing patterns and approaches for the pilots who flew the X-15 and the wingless vehicles.

In accomplishing its research-oriented mission, this F-104 devoted 59 percent of some 1,444 total flights to obtaining data for research programs. During its illustrious career, the aircraft had been flown at speeds greater than Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) and at altitudes above 85,000 feet.

Nineteen different NACA/NASA Center pilots flew this Starfighter during its flight career. The achievements of these pilots added even more luster to the already brilliant legacy of this Starfighter. Three of the pilots were astronauts and flew on Apollo space missions (one was Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon); seven flew the X-15 rocket airplane (one was Joe Walker, who holds the unofficial altitude record of 354,200 feet [more than 69 miles]); four flew the X-15 above the 50-mile altitude necessary to qualify as winged astronauts; and six flew one or more of the Lifting Body vehicles tested at Dryden.

Now enshrined at the National Air and Space Museum, the blue-and-white Starfighter with the yellow band on its vertical tail (showing NASA in bold black block letters) stands as a symbol, to all who view it, of the contributions Dryden has made to aviation technology.

Important research done on F-104-820

Editor's note: This is the fourth installment in a series of articles on Dryden's F-104 aircraft.

By Roy Bryant, B-52 Project Manager

The F-104-818 was enshrined in the National Air and Space Museum November 18, 1975, and the Flight Research Center's Starfighter fleet was reduced to seven.

For the next year and a half these F-104s would have the enviable task of continuing the NASA Starfighter legacy.

They did this in grand fashion, continually adding to the luster of the legacy. The three West German Starfighter now were well-established and carrying their share of the workload. This work would become increasingly important during the next decade - especially for F-104-826, as it would fly a number of important tests on the Thermal Protection System (TPS) in support of the Space Shuttle program. However, before continuing into the '80s and '90s another bright event in the history of the NACA/NASA Starfighter legacy should be addressed - the retirement of F-104-820 (Air Force tail number 790).

On June 1, 1977, this particular Starfighter, with Chief Pilot Don Mallick at the controls, flew its last mission and ended a career spanning more than nine years. This Starfighter could be described as having two distinct careers - the first as a research test airplane and the second as a support aircraft. As a support aircraft, it augmented the prime support of F-104s tail numbers 811 and 812 by performing similar tasks.

In its role as a research test aircraft, it gathered data for a number of experiments that made significant contributions to the aircraft community. From the initial Profile Optimization experiment (phase I) to the last instrumentation validation test, this aircraft provided invaluable aerodynamic data. The Profile Optimization experiment consisted of two phases in which state-of-the-art, strap down inertial systems would be flown aboard the aircraft. The computer was programmed to optimize a predetermined parameter and performed this operation in real time by providing the pilot with steering commands in the display system of the aircraft. Data gathered during this experiment advanced strap down inertial systems technology as applied to terrestrial vehicles. This experiment also provided operational experience with an airborne digital computer for its use as a research tool in the investigation of control, guidance and airborne simulation technology. In addition, this experiment yielded an especially interesting data point. For one test, a top speed of Mach 2.0 (twice the speed of sound) at 50,000 feet was the objective; however, the aircraft flew three different “optimum” profiles to obtain that end point. One profile was computer generated, a second was the more or less standard profile used by the military and the third was one Project Pilot Einar Enevoldson developed to reach the 50,000-foot altitude.

A second major experiment flown on this airplane obtained data for the development of the Center's aircraft agility techniques. These data permitted an evaluation of the effects of certain parameters (buffet, wing rock, high “g' forces [forces of gravity], etc.) on the piloting precision of a closed-loop tracking task. These data were obtained by using a “target” aircraft to fly a predetermined profile while being tracked by the test aircraft, F-104-820. Other experiments included validation of instrumentation and data sensors that would be flown on other test aircraft such as the YF-12 and the F-8 Supercritical Wing aircraft. During its initial career as both a research and support aircraft, this F-104 devoted 57 percent of some 308 flights to obtaining data for research programs.

F-104s served dual purpose at DFRC

Editor's note: The is the fifth installment in a series of articles on Dryden's fleet of F-104 aircraft.

By Roy Bryant B-52, Project Manager

Dryden's F-104-820 logged 1,022 total flights, and the second phase of its career was solely as a support aircraft.

In its second career this airplane provided support for such research programs as the YF-12, the basic F-15 tests, the F-111 TACT and the Lifting Bodies. Like other F-104 aircraft, it served as an airborne simulator of landing patterns and approaches for the wingless lifting-body vehicles. Ten different pilots (nine from NASA and one from the Air Force) flew this aircraft during its illustrious career. These included a Center director and Apollo astronaut, Dave Scott; an X-15 pilot, Bill Dana, who made the last X-15 flight over 300,000 feet as well as the last flight in the X-15 program; three lifting-body pilots, John Manke, Bruce Peterson and Dana; and two YF-12 pilots, Fitz Fulton and Don Mallick. On May 2, 1975, this Starfighter stepped out of its conventional roles of research and support to perform a special civic duty. In a farewell tribute of honor to longtime Center research pilot John B. (Jack) McKay, Dryden research pilot Tom McMurtry made a fly-by over the cemetery during the memorial service.

The crowning event in this Starfighter's career occurred in April 1985 when it was enshrined in the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to stand as a symbol of the contributions the Flight Research Center has made to aviation technology.

Less than a year after the retirement of F-104-820, Dryden's oldest Starfighter ­ F-104-819 (Air Force tail number 303), acquired in 1959 ­ followed down the same pathway. At 6:30 a.m. on Friday, April 21, 1978, research pilot John Manke and flight test engineer Ray Young took this F-104 on its final mission, a one-hour crew training flight. Under the skillful direction of Dr. William "Bill" Winter , this aircraft had provided data that made a significant impact in the field of biomedical research. Many of the research flights with this F-104 were to acquire flight data on a number of biomedical experiments. Data attained by this aircraft also played a vital role in establishing the Ground Command Guidance system as a valuable flight test tool to be used by the Center. Two other areas in which this aircraft made important contributions were the development of the low lift/drag approach and landing patterns used by the X-15 and lifting-body vehicles as well as the testing of a ballute system. (A ballute is a cross between a balloon and a parachute.) This aircraft was a major player in the early work, including night flights, done to develop and "standardize" the low lift/drag approach and landing technique used so successfully in numerous programs flown at Dryden.

The "prime" ballute experiment involved obtaining data to evaluate a towed high-speed decelerator through a Mach number range from 0.7 to approximately 2.0 (7/10 to twice the speed of sound) and a system that could be used to increase the drag of an asymmetrical vehicle. The ballute was a semi-spherical shaped device, four feet in diameter, similar to a small balloon that self-inflated with the air picked up by the small air scoops located around its circumference when deployed. It was installed in the drag-chute compartment of the airplane and deployed in a manner similar to that of a standard drag chute. Up until these tests, the state-of-the-art research on ballutes was limited to wind-tunnel studies and rocket-flight tests of ballutes behind symmetrical bodies. The F-104 presented a test platform by which the study of the ballute system could be expanded.

During its career of more than 18 years, this Starfighter flew some 1,731 flights. A major portion of those flights were devoted to obtaining research data. At least 19 different pilots (16 from Dryden, two from Ames and one from the Air Force) flew this aircraft during its career. These included Apollo astronauts and X-15, lifting-body, XB-70 and YF-12 pilots.

As with F-104-820 the crowning event in this Starfighter's career occurred more than five years after its active career when in June 1983 it was put on permanent display at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, Calif. It stands as a testimonial to the contributions the Flight Research Center has made to advance aviation and other fields of technology.

 F-104 used in Pilot Training

During 1968, pilots were becoming very dependent on the ground-based simulator for developing flight procedures and becoming as familiar as possible with the flight characteristics of the lifting bodies. Actual flight experience in the lifting bodies could not be relied upon to provide adequate pilot training because the typical flights were short-five to six minutes for glides, 10 to 15 minutes for rocket flights-and weeks or even months separated flights. Furthermore, for the lifting-body pilots, the first launch off the B-52 hooks was like being thrown into deep water for the first time: you either swim or sink.

In 1957-58, a young research pilot at the Flight Research Center by the name of Neil Armstrong-who, as a NASA astronaut, would later become the first human being to walk on the moon-had conducted a series of flights tests on the NASA F-104 designed to simulate lifting-body flight experience. The technique involved landing an F-104 "dirty," with power off and with flaps, landing gear, and speed brakes extended. The pilots found it exciting to fly the F-104 this way, but they had to be careful to avoid losing control of the aircraft. The pilots' choice for preparing for lifting-body flight as well as for flying chase on lifting-body flights was clearly the F-104, a reliable aircraft that had the pilots' full confidence.

The F-104 provided excellent training experience for pilots as preparation for lifting-body flights. The aircraft's high-speed landing gear and large-speed brakes could be used to duplicate lifting-body lift-to-drag characteristics. The aspect ratio of the F-104 was only about 2.46 with a low-speed, clean configuration at a maximum lift-to-drag ratio of approximately 5.7. With the engine at idle, gear and flaps down, and modulation of speed brakes, the lift-to-drag ratio could be made to simulate each of the lifting-body configurations. In this sort of power approach at 170 knots, the lift-to-drag ratio was approximately 2.9. Thus, the lift-to-drag-ratio envelope of the F-104 essentially blanketed the lift-to-drag-ratio values of all of the lifting bodies.

Chasing lifting bodies in the F-104, however, was not totally without risk, as experienced by NASA pilot Tom McMurtry. Chasing one lifting-body flight, McMurtry inadvertently entered an uncontrolled spin. This was serious because the F-104 was not known as an aircraft that could successfully recover from a spin.

The incident occurred at 35,000 feet and 210 knots airspeed with gear down, flaps at takeoff, speed brakes out, and power at idle while McMurtry was maneuvering to join up with the lifting body. Maneuvering into position, McMurtry rolled to 45 degrees of bank and sensed the aircraft starting to slice to the right while in heavy buffet with the nose pitched up. The F-104 went into a spin. One of the other chase pilots, Gary Krier, saw what was happening and radioed McMurtry, calling for full forward stick and full forward trim. The F-104 was in a flat uncontrolled spin directly over the Edwards maintenance and modification hangar, rotating to the right at about 40 to 50 degrees per second.

The aircraft made four or five full turns before McMurtry stopped the rotation by holding full left rudder, neutral aileron, and stick and pitch trim at full nose-down. Recovery from the spin seemed very abrupt, completed at approximately 180 knots and 18,000 feet. The engine did not flame out, and the only configuration change made during the spin was the retraction of the speed brakes. McMurtry held the nose down until the F-104 reached 300 knots and then pulled out at slightly over 4G, the bottom of the pull-out occurring at 15,000 feet.

After the lifting body landed successfully, McMurtry joined the other chase aircraft in the traditional fly-by. Later, during the post-flight debriefing, discussion of the lifting-body mission seemed almost trivial in comparison with McMurtry's description of his experience in the F-104.

F-104 legacy spans five decades
F-104 versatile aircraft for Dryden
F-104's legacy shines in display at D.C. air museum
Important research done on F-104-820
F-104s served dual purpose at DFRC

compiled by: Hubert Peitzmeier