Taken on Jul. 9-11, 2019 the cool video in this post features a TF-104G belonging to Starfighters Aerospace flown by Piercarlo Ciacchi intercepting Gulfstream G650ER during World Record Flight “One More Orbit” from the Kennedy Space Center and back through the poles.
According to Starfighters’ website, the company operates the world’s only fleet of flight-ready F-104 supersonic aircraft. Based at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and operating under authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, these aircraft are available to government and commercial customers for a variety of missions.
“The F-104 is a remarkable aerial platform, capable of putting research projects into microgravity, high altitude, high speed, and high G environments. The jets can mimic the ascent, descent, and flight profiles of spaceflight vehicles and high-performance military aircraft, and — according to NASA estimates — can provide between 60-90 seconds of microgravity during parabolic maneuvers,” Starfighters website explains.
On Jul. 11, 2019, a Starfighters’ TF-104, intercepted a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER ultra-long-range business jet registration A7-GCD involved in “One More Orbit” the Round-the-World record-breaking flight over Palm Beach International Airport, and escorted it to the Kennedy Space Center to land at the end of the record flight.
The F-104 was piloted by Piercarlo Ciacchi, Director of Flight Operations at Starfighters and a friend of The Aviationist. “Piero” is a former Italian Air Force pilot who flew multiple fighter jet types, including the Lockheed F104, the F-16AF, and the MB.339A/PAN with the Frecce Tricolori aerobatic display team, where he served for +7 years. In 2003, this Author had the pleasure to fly in an MB.339A during an air-to-air photo-shooting of four F-104S/ASA-M jets, one of those was piloted by “Piero”.
On Jul. 11, he filmed the interception of the G650ER piloted by Action Aviation Chairman Hamish Harding and former International Space Station Commander Col. Terry Virts at the end of their record-breaking flight over the North and South poles and also the formation flight conducted on the following day as a celebration of the new world record (final flight time 46:40:22)
Starfighters’ fleet features some of the latest production F-104 jets, obtained from the Italian Air Force along with an inventory of spare parts and support equipment.
The Italian-made F-104S is the most capable model, able to achieve sustained speeds of MACH 2.2 in both level and climbing flight profiles and altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet.