As our readers may be aware by now, one of WarbirdsNews’ favorite subject aircraft is the mighty Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. There are just a handful flying still and, at the moment, these are concentrated in Florida with Starfighters Aerospace at Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island. The company has several airworthy Starfighters, with additional examples under restoration to fly once more. In recent news, founding partner Rick Svetkoff has just flown his currency check with an FAA examiner. Over the weekend of 13th-15th March, they expect to fly one of their TF-104 two-seaters at the Valiant Air Command’s famous TICO Air Show in nearby Titusville, Florida. With respect to the former Italian Air Force Starfighters, the company is presently working with Martin Baker to have their ejector seats overhauled. The seats will likely be heading to the UK for recertification very soon. Starfighters Aerospace expects to receive some commercial test flight contracts for the F-104 fleet this summer, and one of the company’s well known pilots, Wolfgang Czaia has gained a permanent NASA pass for entry to the KSC facility due to the expected high work load for the F-104s in the coming months.
Interestingly, Wolfgang Czaia celebrated his 50th year of flying F-104s last November, which is an incredible feat by any standard. The former West German Luftwaffe pilot talked with WarbirdsNews founder, Moreno Aguiari recently about the good fortune his hard work has garnered, and shared with us a small piece he initially wrote for German Fighter Pilot’s Magazine:
“When I took off on November 17th, 1964 in Jever with Captain Camille Goossens on my first F-104 flight, I would not have dreamed that, after more than 50 years and almost 3 000 hours, I would still sit in the cockpit of the Starfighter. As test pilot and deputy chief pilot for Starfighters, Inc. I am fully aware of the privilege to still be able to fly this wonderful airplane. In our hangar at the Shuttle Landing Facility in Kennedy Space Center, which we share with NASA’s helicopter fleet, we presently have seven F-104s – among them three TF-104G’s and one F-104S of the Italian Air Force. We are using the airplanes to fly missions for NASA, scientific institutions, DoD and the aerospace industry. The 17 000ft long shuttle runway saves us brakes, drag chutes and tires, and we operate in the restricted areas around Cape Canaveral – an ideal situation for us. Still today, I enjoy every flight with the same enthusiasm as five decades ago, and don’t even think of hanging up my spurs in the foreseeable future.”