How Canadian Pilot managed to reach 100110 feet with CF-104 Starfighter

How Canadian Pilot managed to reach 100110 feet with CF-104 Starfighter

On December 14, 1967, Bud White’s managed to reach 100,110 feet with RCAF CF-104 Starfighter and authenticate it. Interestingly, that record still stands today as a Canadian national altitude record

The F-104 set a number of records, such as

  • The world speed record of 1,404.19 mph (set by an F-104A on May 18, 1958)
  • The world altitude record of 103,395 feet (set by an F-104C on Dec. 14, 1959)

Moreover, the Starfighter was the first aircraft to hold simultaneous official world records for speed, altitude and time-to-climb.

Wing Commander R.A. (Bud) White who set the Canadian Aircraft Altitude Record with a CF-104 aircraft on Dec. 14, 1967 recalls: ‘On December 14, 1966, at our RCAF’s Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment in Ottawa, my USAF Exchange Test Pilot Jim Reed came to me with an exciting idea: beat the Russians and capture the Absolute Worlds Altitude Record and do it in Canada’s Centennial Year. Jim proposed we use our CF-104 12700 lighten and modify it; take advantage of the Jetstream; and improve the zoom profile.

Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 39,045 meters

How Canadian Pilot managed to reach 100110 feet with CF-104 Starfighter 1

As our studies progressed into 1967, Air Material Command and Orenda readied three uprated J79 engines for us; Lockheed helped with extended inlet nose cones; the National Research Council (NRC) National Aeronautical Establishment (NAE) began development of an extremely sensitive vane to measure the angle of attack (alpha)

A detailed jet stream survey was undertaken, and major changes were made in the electronics bay and pressurization system of 12700. We also had to design/develop lightweight alpha/beta vanes (with the NRC Flight Research Section) to go on our existing plastic nose cone & pitot boom. A major threat was the ‘flat spin mode’, but the Chief of the Defence Staff General Allard and Minister of Defence provided strong support, and the project moved into high gear by midsummer as a highly classified military project.

Physiological training and two Gemini full pressure suits were obtained through the Institute of Aviation Medicine and the USAF Surgeon General, when Ron Hayman and I flew down to Tyndall Air Force Base.

Later, we obtained valuable  Assistance flying the ‘zoom’ simulator at Edwards Air Force Base, and I was able to fly a number of F-104 ‘Zoom’ flights on their phototheodolite instrumented range.

We finally got airborne in October; quickly worked up the speed to Mach 2.3

while confirming engine performance and worked out a method to find the core of jet streams.

We created absolute silence when we briefed Transport Canada and explained how we planned to fly our ‘zooms’ through the Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal triangle with a ‘block’ airspace trough their most densely-traveled airspace in Canada.

But remarkably within days, dozens of air traffic controllers were vectoring hundreds of commercial flights around our zoom flights, without any explanation to the commercial carriers.

Authentication was a major problem with the FAI 1% accuracy requirement and with most of our flights above the cloud until the NRC Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment at nearby Shirley’s Bay came up with a concept to use their 30-foot microwave tracking dish. Eventually, we installed 4GHz ‘beacons’ and a switching arrangement in 12700, tracked them in azimuth and elevation with the 30-ft dish; tied their measurements to an atomic clock; and obtained distance from a 1GHz beacon and a modified IFF/SIF transponder in the aircraft. Unable to use phototheodolites, this turned out to be a World’s ‘first’ non-visual authentication before the FAI!

In all we flew 42 flights in 12700, 25 of them zooms, and twelve of those safely above 95,000 ft. But on these later flights our hoped-for benefit from the strong jet winds dropped off and i was running out of control authority going over the top.

There, stick nose-down pitching moments at low produce strong left yaw (due to gyroscopic coupling) and needed full right rudder. On December 14, 1967, when I managed to reach 100,110 feet and authenticate it

we wisely decided to call it a day. Interestingly, that record still stands today as a Canadian national altitude record.’


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