New Mission For The F-104 Starfighter

An F-104 Starfighter jet lands at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Tuesday after completing the maiden flight of a device known as Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology, or DART, which is being used to sample African dust in Florida’s atmosphere for potential pathogens of humans, plants and animals. The DART is the red, cylindrical device shown attached to the jet. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones.
An F-104 Starfighter jet lands at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Tuesday after completing the maiden flight of a device known as Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology, or DART, which is being used to sample African dust in Florida’s atmosphere for potential pathogens of humans, plants and animals. The DART is the red, cylindrical device shown attached to the jet. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones.
An F-104 Starfighter jet lands at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Tuesday after completing the maiden flight of a device known as Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology, or DART, which is being used to sample African dust in Florida’s atmosphere for potential pathogens of humans, plants and animals. The DART is the red, cylindrical device shown attached to the jet. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones.

Florida based Starfighters Aerospace has been know for years to make hundred of thousand F-104 Starfighter fans around the world happy for keeping this beautiful jet in the air. Many aviation enthusiast had witness the “The Missile With a Man In It” flying in American air shows for years. Recently the company has worked hard to move  away from the air show circuit in order to focus on offering its services to the  commercial space flight context. In fact Starfighters Aerospace is now able to provide services to a broad range of clients that go from  University projects/experiments to complex Engineering R&D scenarios or DoD supporting missions. A University of Florida researcher is exploring whether the latest plant, animal or human health threats will come from the sky.

Accordingly to IFAS NEWS (The University Of Florda News website) using the first ever high-altitude sampling device designed to collect microorganisms from the upper atmosphere, Andrew Schuerger, an aerobiologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will examine the massive dust clouds that roll into Florida from Africa each year. The maiden flight of the device, known as Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology or DART, was flown on an F-104 Starfighter jet Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

Starfighters Inc, based in Clearwater, Florida, began as a private venture to restore and fly three former Canadair CF-104 Starfighters at air shows across the United States and Canada. Initially their CF-104s consisted of a two-seat CF-104D Serial#:104632 (registered as N104RB), and two single-seat CF-104s Serial#s: 104850 (registered as N104RD) and 104759 (registered as N104RN). The aircraft were originally operated with the Royal Canadian Air Force and all later served with the Royal Norwegian Air Force before being imported into the U.S. in the early 1990s.In recent years the company has cut back on air show appearances as they have transitioned to using their aircraft for government and private contract work, providing high-performance photo chase planes on flight tests, simulating enemy aircraft in military defense exercises, and modelling ballistic missiles for detection system evaluation.

In summer 2011 the company acquired five additional aircraft. Three are two-seat TF-104G and the other two are F-104S versions built by Fiat for the Italian Air Force in the late 1970s. ( Source Wikepedia).

Initial test flight of Dr. Andrew Schuerger's Dart technology at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones
Initial test flight of Dr. Andrew Schuerger’s Dart technology at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

Accordingly to IFAS NEWS Schuerger said that There’s a tremendous amount of African dust that comes into the U.S. each year, approximately 50 million metric tons annually, and very little is known about the microbial diversity in that dust, in general, but also in particular whether they’re plant, animal or human pathogens.Previous dust collection devices were deployed on tops of tall buildings or towers, but never able to fly through several layers of dust, as does the DART device —strapped under the F-104’s wing. “Once we understand the time and spatial distribution of the microbes in the dust, we can begin to model health risk for agricultural crops, forests, estuaries, animals, and human populations in cities,” he said.

Pulling data from the DART device. UF/IFAS.hoto by Tyler Jones
Pulling data from the DART device. UF/IFAS.hoto by Tyler Jones

The DART device is cylindrical, about 7 feet long, and has a series of scoops in its nosecone that are controlled by a scientist sitting in the jet’s co-pilot seat. The scientist can switch the scoop doors open or closed at designated times to collect air samples on separate filters inside the wing-mounted system.

Tuesday’s flight tested the DART device’s collection mechanisms and took samples at 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 feet and at two different air speeds. A full sampling program is slated to begin in 2014 when the dust storms normally hit Florida in July, August and September.

PierCarlo was Training Supervisor and Aerobatic Instructor at the “Frecce Tricolori” Italian National Aerobatic Team where he flew all right positions of the 10 ship formation for 7+ years.
PierCarlo was Training Supervisor and Aerobatic Instructor at the “Frecce Tricolori” Italian National Aerobatic Team where he flew all right positions of the 10 ship formation for 7+ years.

PierCarlo “Capone” Ciacchi, a former Italian Air Force F-104 and Frecce Tricolori pilot now Head of Business Development said: ” Our vision of a multiplatform company capable of offering a wide variety of services in order to assist and support all developers of the commercial space flight context is becoming a reality.” – ” This cooperation with the Univeristy Of Florida proves that the F-104 Starfighter after 61 years from its first flight it still is  a great platform and that our company can provide invaluable support to companies and universities. “

Piercarlo met President Rick Svetkoff ( Starfighter Aerospace founder) more than 10 years ago in Italy while on “alert” in an italian AB on his F-104.
They developed an excellent working and personal relationship that kept them in constant touch until 2012 when Piercarlo joined Starfighters Aerospace with the task of contributing in the business development of the Company seeking new challenges and enterprises in the Aerospace R&D environment.

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