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F-104 Starfighters Active In Florida


Once a common sight in European skies, the F-104 Starfighter has been out of military service for well over a decade. The last major user was the Italian Air Force, and indeed the author’s last sighting of an active F-104 was an Italian example at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford in 2003.

It may not be widely known, but the only fleet of privately owned 104s is based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Starfighters Aerospace offer their Starfighters for use in a variety of test and research roles. According to the FAA register, eight F-104s are registered to Starfighters Inc./RLB Aviation Inc., though it’s unlikely all eight are airworthy at any one time.

Recently Aviation Week photographer Nigel Howarth was fortunate to capture one on a test flight over Cape Canaveral. This particular aircraft, N992SF, is a former Italian Air Force TF-104 two-seater, and the author had noted it in its former service, at the 1995 RIAT. There are a few other flyable F-104s around the world, which occasionally turn up at airshows and wow the crowds. There is something classic about these 1950s vintage fighters which still look good 60 years on. Long may they continue flying!


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