Take the fastest and highest flying jet of the day, then strap a rocket engine to it. Most trainer aircraft are meant to be docile and forgiving. The NF-104A surely was not. It was a space trainer, meant to zoom climb to the edge of the atmosphere using mixed power, simultaneously burning its jet and rocket engines. Once at an altitude of more than 120,000 ft, it gave future Air Force astronauts an opportunity to emulate a spacecraft, using reaction control system thrusters in a near-vacuum environment.
Even today, it remains a simple fact: it’s easy to get yourself in trouble in a rocket plane. The first NF’s rocket engine exploded in flight. Chuck Yeager nearly met his end during the loss of NF ship three. NF-104A 56-0760 was the second of three ever built (pictured above). She remains the only surviving example from the program, mounted proudly in front of the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base. Her reaction control system was loaned to Darryl Greenamyer and installed on his F-104 which was lost on a civilian altitude record setting attempt. Thus, even the surviving NF had some of her parts destroyed in a crash. Thankfully, in all said incidences, no human being was lost.
The aircraft stands as a reminder to all who walk through the doors of the USAF Test Pilot School of the glorious trials, tribulations and sacrifices of all who have trod before them. These adventures epitomize the golden age of flight test and the pioneering spirit that flies over the High Desert of California.
Poor Tinker is not doing very well. That is to say, Tinker is not supposed to be doing very well, but does not seem to have received the memo. He has a big mass in his abdomen, and he’s losing weight. I’ve elected for palliative care, and am keeping him comfortable with pain meds from his vet. And he… is zooming around his tank, climbing his furniture, loping on his wheel, eating all the goodies I give him, and generally being more active than the lazy bums in the other tank. (I took that pic when I finally couldn’t put off a nail trim any longer, and put him through a quick nail trim. He was mad. Then he crawled onto his sock and passed out like that for like an hour. I was like, oh God, I’ve finished him. But no. He got up after an hour and started zooming around again.)
I was gone all day on Saturday and my mum agreed to medicate him for me. I told her to wear gloves. When I got home I asked her how it went and she said that when she picked him up, he bit her, jumped out of her hand, and ran for it. “He’s vicious! I always thought you were joking,” she said.
Anyway (while he runs on his wheel to my right), here is one of my favourite pics of him. He looks like one of the Mana Mana Muppets.
The Matterhorn is a classic example of a glacially carved peak in the Alps. This video takes a spectacular trip up the trail that climbers take, passing cairns, topping the clouds, and zooming in on the face of the mountain.
-headphone user warning, my mic did not appreciate the F22′s afterburner and there will be loud white noise at times.-
Here’s my own footage of the F22 display from the Friday only unfortunately. I tried to film the takeoff from directly below the zoom climb the next day but the flight was grounded for safety due to very low cloud base and poor visibility.
The two Raptors taxiing together at the start were filmed before the show officially began on the Friday. We were confused to not see them parked by the entrance like last year, only for the pair to roar over our heads in formation, full afterburner, an hour later while we were looking around the static displays. They then split, went into two rolling verticals, beat up the runway and landed before I got the footage. USAF pilots being total showoffs before the day had even begun…