A fascinating restoration project is coming together in Norway at the moment, which should see a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter take to the skies later this year.
This two seat Starfighter is actually a Canadair-built CF-104D that served in the Canadian Armed Forces since its delivery in May 1962. It flew with the test squadron from Cold Lake, Alberta for many years, but she passed on to the Norwegian Air Force on May 23rd, 1973 when the Canadians disposed of a portion of their fleet. It arrived in Norway on June 14th, 1973 and received the RNAF serial “4637″, and served with 334 Squadron at Bodø. The Norwegians retired the old Starfighter on April 1st, 1983, when it went in storage at Sola Air Force Base. A few month later it returned to Bodø where Air Force trainees used it for ground handling instruction until the early 1990s.
When the aircraft went on display within the Bodø Air Museum, a group of well connected individuals decided to see if they could get it flying again. The aircraft was in great shape, and with a little persuasion, the museum put the aircraft back under control of 331 Squadron at Bodø. This was a strategic and logistical decision to get more professional support within the Air Force for the project. The aircraft’s official support group, “Friends of the Starfighter”, formed at Bodø on January 16th, 2003. Interestingly, Rick Svetkoff and Tom Delashaw were in Bodo to celebrate this “start” of the ‘637 project. These men are part of Starfighters Aerospace on Merritt Island in Florida, which currently operates a small fleet of Starfighters commercially.
“Friends of the Starfighter” is receiving a lot of help acquiring missing parts, especially from the Italians whose Air Force was the last to operate the type. In September 2007 the team made good progress with a first succesfull run of the J-79 engine. The summer of 2008 saw the first runway taxy-trials. In November 2011 the aircraft received its official civil registration as LN-STF. The team hopes to fly the Starfighter for the first time before the end of 2014.
Interview with Helge Andreassen, project manager:
“We are in the final stages of completing the audio/interphone modifications. This has been a little nigtmare for us due to several reasons. Anyway, things are looking better and hopefully the work will be completed [soon]. Our discussions with CAA-N [Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority] is also holding us back. Personally, I’m not at all impressed by the way things has been handled from their side. CAA-N is located here in Bodø which saves us travel expences, but that is about the only positive aspect in my opinion. The engine run performed recently was only done in order to turn the engine, and activate the flight controls. What remains to be done is the final testing of communication, transponder, the LOX system and a full weight and balance check. Then we need the permit to conduct two/three test flights.
At the moment, the main runway here in Bodø is undergoing surface renovation, causing reduced length for operations, civil as well as military traffic. The F-16s are using the parallell taxiway, but I’m not convinced that we will be, or are interested in, using the taxiway for testflights. The runway work is scheduled to be compleeted in September… Anyway, LN-STF is technically in excellent shape. When CAA-N understand and accepts this, we will be ready.”