NASA Research Pilot Milt Thompson with a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, Dec 20th 1962

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3 responses

  1. Interesting photo!!! Thanks for posting.
    Harry Prins
    (International F-104 Society, chairman)

    May 31, 2012 at 6:33 pm

  2. cyclic206

    On 20 December 1962, NASA Research Pilot Milton O. Thompson flew Lockheed F-104A-10-LO Starfighter 56-749 on a weather check flight in advance on an X-15 flight. After flying the X-15’s planned route, he returned to Edwards AFB and began practicing X-15 profile approaches with the F-104 in a high-drag configuration. After on approach as Thompson was climbing back to altitude, the F-104 began uncommanded rolls to the left. He had to use full right aileron and right rudder along with increasing speed to try and maintain control. Finally he could no longer control the airplane and at 0.9 Mach, he ejected. The Starfighter crashed near the eastern edge of Rogers Dry Lake and was completely destroyed. Thompson survived with just a sore neck. Another X-15 pilot, Bill Dana, always a joker, remarked, “Roger 749, you’re cleared straight in.”

    I can’t see a serial number on the F-104 in the photograph, but if it was taken 20 December 1962, this is probably the last photo ever taken of 56-749.

    Milt Thompson wrote and excellent book on the X-15 program, At The Edge of Space, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992. After ending his test flying, he continued as the chief engineer at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. He died in 1993.

    August 25, 2013 at 10:53 pm

  3. cyclic206

    On further study, the reaction control thrusters on the F-104 identify this airplane as JF-104A 55-2961. It was later redesignated as NASA 818 with civil registration N818NA. It is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:34 am

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