The F-104 Starfighter is the "original" lightweight fighter, developed by the Lockheed "Skunk Works" back in the early 1950's. Though little used by the United States Air Force it served states side, in Germany, Spain, and in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, when 104's were in the air the North Vietnam Air Force decided not to fly that day. In other countries, the Starfighter were in production and used in even more countries, such as: Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Taiwan, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Jordan, Pakistan, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Japan. Only one country now is flying the 104 and that is Italy, which will be flying theirs past the year 2000. Not bad for an aircraft designed in the 50's.
Up until a few years ago, the 104, continued to serve NASA as both a chase plane and as a test bed for various projects. In addition the USAF also occasionally brought in a 104 to Edward AFB Test Pilot School to train their students on how to fly an aircraft that was unique. Also, they had brought in a 104 to their Top Gun school as a surprise aggressor.
In years past, the Starfighter or Zipper as the pilots and crew also call her, has received a bad name. The names it received was the "Aluminum Death Tube", "Widow Maker" and a few others. Largely, it received this name while it was used by Germany. But if you ask any pilot, they would not agree with these false labels. As long as you didn't fly it with a heavy hand or try to fly it out of it's envelope, you would be fine. A stupid mistake would result in you being bitten. Losses were heavy early on in any country receiving the 104, but so were losses in other newly received aircraft.
At this time, there are three flyable 104's being operated here in the U.S. by individuals. And only two more are being made ready for flight at this time, one of which is this aircraft.
Nowhere in Michigan were F-104's used at any of the bases by any branch of military service. But there is one being restored for flight by one ambitious individual. Originally looking for an F-86-D/-K/-L and none being found available, a deal was struck to get a Starfighter.
Currently undergoing restoration for flight it is being planned for operation in 2005. Being a 1950's aircraft does not mean it is a simple undertaking. The aircraft is being stripped down and then being built up again, this is done to "zero time" the airframe and to also ensure it's safety while flying. It will also be upgraded with newer avionics since the old ones are not compatible with the newer airspace system and would be doubtful if they would even be permitted in a flyable aircraft. It is intended to be as complete as it originally delivered from Lockheed, but with certain items made inoperable, such as weapon systems, radar and jetisonable stores. But if you look inside when we are done, you will see very little new equipment. The radio control heads will control not the old radios, but new ones contained within the removable radio packages.
As work progresses, this web site will be updated and let you follow what's being done in it's restoration. Photo's of the work being done and what has been done will be shown as they become available. It's not being "slapped together" so it's going to take time. The philosophy being taken if it's a parts that is questionable replace it, if it looks good to use, check it anyway, manuals there there to be used for a purpose and use them.
Check out the other pages that this is linked to to find out more.
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