Talk About a "Little" Wing!!!!

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Southron

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This past weekend the family and I went over to the Air Force Museum at Warner Robbins AFB in Warner Robbins, Georgia.

If you haven't been or are planning on heading down from "Up Nawth" I-75 to Florida (or visa versa), by all means take the time to stop and visit the museum-it is definitely worth the trip!!!

Anyway, they have a lot of new (at least to me) displays including the "fastest" SR-71 Blackbird, a U-2, P-40, B-29, etc., on display.

Parked outside of the buildings on the lawn are several other aircraft including a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.

Although I have seen many pictures of F-104's this was the first time I had ever walked up to one and stood next to it.

The Starfighter is a small airplane and I can see how it got the nickname of "Missile With A Man In It."

The wings are "Little," matter of fact, on an offhand guess, I would think that the wing area or the Starfighter is about the same or maybe even less than the wing Area of a Piper Cherokee! One thing for sure, the Starfighter wing is a heck of a lot thinner.
 

Richard6

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When I was stationed in Germany, during an armed forces day celebration, a F104, piloted by a German air force officer, flew over the base as part of the show. The first pass was at a rather high speed and he pulled up to a vertical flight. A few minutes later he flew by in a very slow pass with the wheels down and with full flaps and at a rather high angle of attack. As he past the parade area he applied the after burner the pull out of the almost stall speed, but it did not gain altitude nor speed and he was stuck in forward plowing position.

Unfortunately for the pilot, he was unable to regain full control of the aircraft and after flogging it for about a mile, he deliberately dump the aircraft in an open field. He triggered his ejection seat, but apparently he was to low or at a bad angle for it to work properly, and he was found still in the seat but he did not survive.


 

Southron

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I read a report that said the F-104 "was not a forgiving airplane of pilot error." Yeah, I realize because of its small size it could only carry so much fuel, hence the short range...that it had a Final Approach Speed of 200 + MPH (which is a lot faster than the Final on my old Beechcraft Sierra) but with a modern, customized computerized flight control system, the F-104 might even be a "pussycat" to fly.
 

Nickathome

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We toured the Warner Robbins Airforce Museum last year when we vacationed at my sister in law's house. They live in Newnan Ga, and it took like 2 hours to drive there, but it was well worth it. We spent almost the whole day there. It was hot the day we went too, around 100 degrees, but we walked the outside area anyway. Some very cool displays...


I don't remember the designation of the one cargo plane we saw(C-124 maybe) but my God it was an enormous aircraft......
 

Georden

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The incredible thing about the f104 in my opinion is how advanced it was for it's time. It was designed when f-86s and mig 15s were high tech.
 

Vigilant1

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Yes, an amazing plane and designed in very short time by Kelly Johnson and the crew at the Lockheed "Skunkworks" in Calif. As you could tell from looking at it, it was designed to get maximum speed from the relatively small jet engines available at the time, so that meant minimum drag. The wing was just 4" thick, very sharp at the leading edge (with a protective cap put on to protect the ground crew) and had an area of 196 sq ft--about 1/3rd smaller than the F-16's wing. It was never designed to carry much or to turn--just go out and engage bombers or anything else using the AIM-9 heat seeking missile, the 20mm cannon or the Genie (atomic, unguided) missile (a real crowdpleaser!)-- It had no radar. When the Luftwaffe changed the mission of the airplane to all-weather fighter and added radar, heavier ordnance, etc, the plane became even more unforgiving, and it got quite a bad reputation for its accident rate.

Early models had a downward-firing ejection seat (due to fears the conventional upward-firing ones wouldn't clear the T-tail). Like the B-52's downward firing seats for some crew positions, this made sense for the aircraft's planned high-altitude mission. Later, when better rocket-powered seats came on the scene and the airplane increasingly was put into service at low altitude, upward firing seats were installed.

It was an amazing airplane and (in my opinion) the best looking airplane of the jet age--maybe ever.
 

Topaz

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Yes, an amazing plane and designed in very short time by Kelly Johnson and the crew at the Lockheed "Skunkworks" in Calif. As you could tell from looking at it, it was designed to get maximum speed from the relatively small jet engines available at the time, so that meant minimum drag. The wing was just 4" thick, very sharp at the leading edge (with a protective cap put on to protect the ground crew) and had an area of 196 sq ft--about 1/3rd smaller than the F-16's wing. It was never designed to carry much or to turn--just go out and engage bombers or anything else using the AIM-9 heat seeking missile, the 20mm cannon or the Genie (atomic, unguided) missile (a real crowdpleaser!)-- It had no radar. When the Luftwaffe changed the mission of the airplane to all-weather fighter and added radar, heavier ordnance, etc, the plane became even more unforgiving, and it got quite a bad reputation for its accident rate.

Early models had a downward-firing ejection seat (due to fears the conventional upward-firing ones wouldn't clear the T-tail). Like the B-52's downward firing seats for some crew positions, this made sense for the aircraft's planned high-altitude mission. Later, when better rocket-powered seats came on the scene and the airplane increasingly was put into service at low altitude, upward firing seats were installed.

It was an amazing airplane and (in my opinion) the best looking airplane of the jet age--maybe ever.
And also the basis for the U-2. Lockheed's original (and unsolicited) proposal for what would become the U-2 was an F-104 with long wings and no landing gear. The aircraft took off from a dolly and landed on reenforced belly skin.
 

PTAirco

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I loved the 104 as kid and built lots of models of it and I remember when one crashed near Bad Driburg in West Germany where I lived back then. Cut a huge swath though the trees on top of a hill. I don't think the pilot got out of that one. Seem to remember the Luftwaffe's 104s had downward firing ejection seats.

There is an F104 at the back lot at Chino's museum. First time I saw one that close I was amazed how small it really is and the wings! The leading edge is like an axe blade! Must have been a blast to fly. Until it bit you....
 

autoreply

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The wing was just 4" thick, very sharp at the leading edge (with a protective cap put on to protect the ground crew) and had an area of 196 sq ft--about 1/3rd smaller than the F-16's wing.
Actually, the projected wing area (not the wing extended into the fuselage area as if normally used in aeronautics), a single F16 wing has more area as both wings of an F104 combined. We settled this after a fairly intense debate by using simple tape measures.

I'm probably one of the youngest people in the western world to have witnessed an operational demo. Mightily impressive to see it fly.
 

Toobuilder

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We have a 104 outside our building and I will walk over and study it sometimes. As stated earlier, the wing leading edge is the most striking aerodynamic feature. It really is like an axe blade! I can only imagine the stall of that thing.
 

Dana

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We have a 104 outside our building and I will walk over and study it sometimes. As stated earlier, the wing leading edge is the most striking aerodynamic feature. It really is like an axe blade! I can only imagine the stall of that thing.
The key to a long '104 career is... you don't stall that thing!

-Dana

Duelling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are registered blood donors.
 

Dan Thomas

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I have read that it can't be deadsticked to a landing. It won't glide without power. Is that true?

Dan
 

autoreply

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I have read that it can't be deadsticked to a landing. It won't glide without power. Is that true?
If I put together what I know (or think I know) the theoretical answer is no, the practial one is yes.

*Without an engine, stall speed is very high (no blowing on the wing)
*Induced drag with some armament is very high.
*Gear max speeds are very low, gear disintegration speed isn't much higher.

Putting the numbers I can recall together I guess a no-power glide is possible with the gear extend (and at the brink of disintegrating), but then you lack the kinetic energy to round-out from that steep and very fast approach. Approaching faster with enough energy for a flare will rip the gear off. A belly landing might be possible... theoretically...

I can't find it right now, but there are some interesting stories online about the Norwegians doing high-altitude intercepts. During flame-out they can continue a fully controlled flight at supersonic speeds.
 

Vigilant1

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I can't recall if the plane could be landed without power. One factor would probably be whether the engine was turning--without "windmilling hydraulics" you'd definitely have no control and it would be time to get out.
I did come across a The "Dash-one" (USAF version of a POH) for the plane many years ago. It was interesting that the recommendation was to eject rather than attempt a heavyweight no-flap landing because the touchdown speed exceeded the speed ratings for the tires.

Without power, I can't imagine trying to land that beast. The ejection seats of the day were very primitive, and if anything went wrong during the final stages of the approach you would have no options.
 

Topaz

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I have read that it can't be deadsticked to a landing. It won't glide without power. Is that true?
Any airplane will glide when the engine is shut off. It's just a matter of "how fast". The F-104 and every other airplane has a minimum sink airspeed, and a best L/D airspeed, whether the engine is turning or not, just like the highest-level competition sailplane. In the case of the F-104, those speeds are probably pretty high. I'd love to see a polar for an F-104! :gig:

As to whether it can be deadsticked or not, the answer is "of course it can." Recall that the X-15 has a very similar configuration of wing size, shape, and loading as the F-104, and was deadsticked every single landing. Then there's the lifting bodies, that did the same with no wings. While the point made that the "windmilling" engine in an F-104 would add drag is valid, I have my doubts that those tiny intakes, even packed up with air, really could form that effective of a "drag brake". Want to deadstick an F-104? Set up your normal approach speeds, straight in if you can (the thing probably bleeds a lot of energy in a turn!), and flare and land just like normal. The big difference is that you can't go around, and you'd better judge your glideslope properly.

Every airplane is a glider. Most of them just aren't very good ones.

It was probably just USAF doctrine for F-104 pilots to punch out if the engines fail - in fact, it's probably the same for modern fighters, too, despite their lower wing loadings. That has more to do with pilot training than with the capabilities of the aircraft with the engine off. Most USAF pilots are not given glider training anymore. When the noisemaker goes silent, they don't have the training to set up a power-off approach, etc. It's safer just to punch them out of the aircraft.
 

Jay Kempf

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Any airplane will glide when the engine is shut off. It's just a matter of "how fast". The F-104 and every other airplane has a minimum sink airspeed, and a best L/D airspeed, whether the engine is turning or not. It's just that, in the case of the F-104, those speeds are probably very high.

As to whether it can be deadsticked or not, the answer is "of course it can." Recall that the X-15 has a very similar configuration of wing size, shape, and loading as the F-104, and was deadsticked every single landing. Then there's the lifting bodies, that do the same. While the point made that the "windmilling" engine in an F-104 would add drag is valid, I have my doubts that those tiny intakes, even packed up with air, really could form that effective of a "drag brake".

Every airplane is a glider. Most of them just aren't very good ones.

It was probably just USAF doctrine for F-104 pilots to punch out if the engines fail - in fact, it's probably the same for modern fighters, too, despite their lower wing loadings. That has more to do with pilot training than with the capabilities of the aircraft with the engine off. Most USAF pilots are not given glider training anymore. When the noisemaker goes silent, they don't have the training to set up a power-off approach, etc. It's safer just to punch them out of the aircraft.
Depending on the design and altitude when it turns into a glider it also looses lots of systems. If the plane isn't really operable because the powered systems are in the essential category then it doesn't really matter how good of a glider it is because you pretty much have no real control of it at that point. The F-104 was one of the most specialized jet aircraft ever built with one of the narrowest flight envelopes ever put in regular service. Not surprising that it had some less than straight forward, or normal operating procedures. Seems even the SR-71 was docile at slow speeds by comparison.
 

Topaz

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Depending on the design and altitude when it turns into a glider it also looses lots of systems. If the plane isn't really operable because the powered systems are in the essential category then it doesn't really matter how good of a glider it is because you pretty much have no real control of it at that point. The F-104 was one of the most specialized jet aircraft ever built with one of the narrowest flight envelopes ever put in regular service. Not surprising that it had some less than straight forward, or normal operating procedures. Seems even the SR-71 was docile at slow speeds by comparison.
All true. I'm just pointing out the aerodynamics of the situation. A lot of power pilots seem to have the idea that the wing somehow stops working when the engine goes quiet. That's wrong. And it doesn't matter how big the wing is, how heavily it's loaded, etc. The aerodynamics are exactly the same whether the prop/jet is turning or not. The rare exception would be aircraft such as the Harrier, F-35B, and Coanda-effect ships like the YC-14, where engine thrust actually supports the aircraft during some flight phase.

A power plane is just a glider with the towplane bolted to the nose. No more, no less.
 

Jay Kempf

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All true. I'm just pointing out the aerodynamics of the situation. A lot of power pilots seem to have the idea that the wing somehow stops working when the engine goes quiet. That's wrong. And it doesn't matter how big the wing is, how heavily it's loaded, etc. The aerodynamics are exactly the same whether the prop/jet is turning or not. The rare exception would be aircraft such as the Harrier, F-35B, and Coanda-effect ships like the YC-14, where engine thrust actually supports the aircraft during some flight phase.

A power plane is just a glider with the towplane bolted to the nose. No more, no less.
It's Airbus that scares me! How many redundant systems fail before it doesn't matter what decision the pilot makes and all those lives are at stake. At least the lone military pilot has a chute, training, and an eject lever as an option. When people find out that I have flown gliders I always get the same bias about small planes, "aren't you scared the engine will quit?" kinda crap. I am way more comfortable with no engine than with. Just another level of stuff to fail on a mission where you are dependent on it. In a glider you are not depending on the engine to get you farther than gliding distance to safety. Glider pilots have a whole different mentality about it. A power pilot would jump out of a perfectly good airplane just because the engine stopped. A glider pilot wouldn't jump out of a perfectly good airplane until he was completely out of options and altitude.

If an F-104 is pointed directly at the numbers on the runway at say just to pick a number 400 knots and 45 degrees angle and the flight controls are still working and he can get the gear down and operate the drag devices there is no reason why he couldn't flare and land it given enough runway. I think the airforce works more in probability of success in the vast sets of scenarios the pilot will encounter when writing ops. I think even that scenario is by comparison to all the other operating procedures the airforce writes, categorized as moderately low probability of survival of the pilot and possibly damage to things on the ground. What's worth more, the airframe or the training of the pilot and potentially ground casualties?
 
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