Evolution is a curious process,while searching for wealth and advantages mistakes and weird combinations can happen. In aeronautics it happens too.
Our todays look is for one of those weird steps in evolution, those that one is not sure to hate or love instead. I`m talking about a huge jump in aerospace technology, maybe too huge, that first flown in 1954 and that calling it “Windowmaker” does not actually inspire safeness.
Small, incredibly fast and a great climber, the F104 Starfighter was a promising plane for the USAF and Lookheed exploited it all over the NATO. Based on a GE-J79 engine, the relation between the thrust and the weight was so good that the wings barely served to carry the fuel tanks, missiles and control tabs also it was the first plane on carrying the M61 Vulcan rotative cannon. They had a plane with exceptionable capabilities but that didn’t forgive the smallest mistake of its pilot.
But it was the Luftwaffe what had the biggest problems with this flying nail, and to be fair, the plane had not the entire fault and it was a vicious chain of events, such as trying to use the F104 as a fighter bomber, a role completely out of its porpoises on an unexperienced air force such as the German of the post-war, even after the advertises of Eric Hartmann, the most successful combat pilot of all times, the Luftwaffe became its main user.
After all, the Luftwaffe finally learned from its errors and General Johannes Steinhoffplaced all planes into ground until the problems of maintenance and training where fixed, resulting in a drastic descend of accidents and deaths. While the percentage of losses in Germany didn’t reach the 20% the Royal Canadian Air Force had near a 45% and, in the other hand, none for the Spanish one. This evidenced it was not fault of the plane such as the lack of preparation and training of the pilots and mainteinance crews. It was, maybe, too advanced for its times.
Talking about this plane is always synonym of danger, but with hundreds of deaths on its back, accidents and even corruption plots, the dark aura which covers the plane will never eclipse its amazing engineering and capabilities that turned it in a completely Starfighter.
What do you think about it? Is its bad fame deserved?