The final pieces of a unique squadron of supersonic fighters arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Jan. 19, where they will be reassembled and put to work with a private company aiming to use them for research and microgravity training.
The new planes were part of a group of five F-104 fighters bought by Starfighters Inc. from the Italian Air Force. The company already had four of the aircraft, but that wasn't enough for the company to pursue a number of different opportunities. With nine aircraft at his disposal, Starfighters owner Rick Svetkoff said there will always be aircraft available to fly missions for a variety of customers. As importantly, the company will have what it needs to fly two aircraft on a single mission, with one serving as a chase plane to photograph experiments.
"Now we're in a position where we can really start operations," Svetkoff said. "Before, we couldn't do a lot of things we wanted to do." Starfighters operates out of a hangar at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy under an agreement with Kennedy. Svetkoff's main goal is to fly research and development missions, ranging from experiments flown for universities to evaluating rocket and spacecraft components in high-stress environments including high-acceleration and microgravity.