Become One Of The Last Starfighters By Buying This Pristine Mach Two Capable F-104
Offered in flyable condition, the Cold War-era CF-104D fighter would be the ultimate toy for the world’s biggest and wealthiest speed freak.
For the warbird enthusiast looking for something that offers that little bit extra, the brokers at Platinum Fighter Sales might just have a solution. At $850,000 it isn't exactly cheap, but it's also amazingly inexpensive considering the performance it offers. This F-104 Starfighter is a true Mach 2-capable machine that can climb at nearly 50,000 feet per minute, and it looks like it’s achieving its maximum speed when it’s sitting still on the ground. The aircraft for sale also has a storied career behind it, and a very reasonable 2,500 flight hours ‘on the clock.’ This, the fastest of privately available antiques, truly represents a unique opportunity for the biggest speed freak among us, and having the chance to own one, in an airworthy condition, is a rarity indeed.
Billed as a “Mach Two, Supersonic Jet Fighter” in the Platinum Fighter Sales’ inventory, the two-seat CF-104D features an eye-catching (although strictly ahistorical) silver paint job and an interior that the broker describes as being “restored to stock military configuration — excellent condition.”
A piece of Cold War history like this jet coming onto the market is not a frequent occurrence anyway, but what really sets serial number 104633 apart is the fact that, given the training, maintenance support, and not inconsiderable budget, you could be flying it yourself, getting to grips with its legendary performance and highly demanding handling characteristics. In fact, if your heart is really set on flying Kelly Johnson’s needle-nosed fighter, there might not be a better example available anywhere in the world.
As well as the very reasonable total flight hours (considering it was built back in 1962), the Starfighter has added only 400 hours to that total since a thorough restoration by Unlimited Aircraft, of Chino, California, a specialist in high-performance warbirds from Western and Eastern blocs. The single J79-GE-7 turbojet engine — that will not only propel you through the sound barrier, but provide the aircraft’s legendary howling note — has accumulated 1,200 flight hours since its last major overhaul and two spare turbojets are included in the overall package.
Although the Starfighter was last flown in November 2008, it’s been maintained in flyable storage since then and its avionics have been updated to include modern navigation and communications gear from Collins. You’ll still be able to get that original frontline feel, though, should you wish, since the original radar is still installed.
As for the jet’s history, 104633 was completed by Canadair for the Royal Canadian Air Force, which used these two-seat models exclusively as trainers. It was delivered in May 1962 and saw more than a decade of service with a test unit at Cold Lake, Alberta, before being sold to another NATO Starfighter operator, Norway, in July 1973. With the Royal Norwegian Air Force, the jet saw another decade or so of use, until being put into storage in December 1982, as the Norwegians replaced their F-104s with F-16s.
In 1984 the aircraft was sold to Combat Jets Aircraft Museum at Chino, then transferred to Houston, Texas, and was returned to airworthiness with the U.S. civil registration N104JR. It finally returned to the air at Mojave, California, in 1986, with NASA pilot Ed Schneider at the controls.
The CF-104D returns to the air for its first post-overhaul flight by Ed Schneider at Mojave Airport on November 11, 1986:
By the early 1990s, N104JR had been transferred to the Experimental Aircraft Association, or EAA, at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, flying demonstrations before being sold again, to Fuel Fresh Inc., in 1996. The plane made the move to the fighter jet mecca of Mesa, Arizona, where it remains to this day, now registered as just N104.
Despite its technical credentials, the practicalities of actually flying a potent jet like this are not straightforward. However, N104 currently enjoys FAA registration in the Experimental Exhibition category, meaning it can be operated in the United States under an ‘on condition’ maintenance regime. Essentially, this means parts only have to be replaced when they are deemed no longer airworthy, instead of at predetermined intervals of operation. That is a major bonus for a vintage machine like this and, as Platinum Fighter Sales, points out, this kind of permission “is impossible to obtain today.”
An F-104 could hardly be further removed from a general aviation runaround and even compared to a World War II fighter, its maintenance and fuel demands are extravagant. That helps explain why this particular example has only been in the air for around 200 hours in the last 22 years. Based on today's fuel prices, it costs roughly just over $4,000 to filler her up, and that's without drop tanks. That entire fuel quantity can be burned by its J79 engine at full power in a matter of minutes.
However, if you can afford to run the jet on a regular basis, Fuel Fresh Inc. will supply a comprehensive spares package that includes all you need for some pretty extensive use, including “approximately 150 main gear tires” and “a couple dozen nose gear tires.” You’ll also get spare drag chutes, various control surfaces, canopy and windscreen glass, brakes, tip tanks, and even valves for the boundary layer control system.
Clearly, operating a plane in the class of the Starfighter is not for the faint-hearted — or those without deep pockets. Here’s hoping that the jet finds a new home soon and that we might get to see its iconic shape back in the air again before too long.
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org