NAMPA -- The newest addition to the Warhawk Air Museum slowly floated through the air Friday morning during a unique delivery process described as slinging.
Suspended 30 feet above the ground by a crane, a well-preserved F-104A Starfighter was being carefully unloaded from a flat-bed semitrailer.
The historic, 1950's-era aircraft was once the most advanced fighter jet in the United States. It's previous home had been an estate in Ontario, Oregon. Even before that, the jet had been used for training in Taiwan and Jordan after being sold by the U.S. government.
The delivery crew, museum staff, and members of the media watched Friday as the historic jet made its final landing here in southwest Idaho. It was a stark contrast to the aircraft's history as a supersonic fighter once capable of flying twice the speed of sound.
John-Curtiss Paul is the Warhawk Museum's director of aviation. Paul's level of excitement during the arrival of the jet could be described as supersonic too.
We acquired the Starfighter because it is one of the most significant United States' aircraft designed and developed during the Cold War era, Paul said. It's a Lockheed design, single seat, supersonic fighter interceptor. It's capable of exceeding mach 2 in level flight.
Asked if watching the historic aircraft dangle at the end of crane made him nervous, Paul said the museum is familiar with the process called slinging.
We've slung a few airplanes, so I've seen that quite a bit -- but it's always good to see equipment like that that works, Paul said. It's pretty cool. It's unusual to say the least!
The entire slinging process took about 20 minutes. It went off without a hitch, Paul said. We're thrilled.
Staff at the Warhawk Museum now plan to repaint the Starfighter with its original USAF markings. The aircraft will go on display immediately. Paul says the Cold War-era fighter will nicely compliment the museum's Russian MIG-21 fighter already on display.
The museum's location is 201 Municipal Way in Nampa. The hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- This F-104A (serial 56-778) was built in 1958 and assigned to the first unit in the USAF to have the Starfighter, the 83 Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Hamilton Air Force Base in Northern California.
- In 1960 it was sent to Taiwan as part of the Military Assistance Program.
- The Taiwanese received newer Starfighters in 1966, and after an overhaul in the United States, the aircraft was sent to Jordan in 1969 again as part of the Military Assistance Program.
- The aircraft was taken out of service in 1977 and returned to the US in 1990 by a private company.
- It went through several aircraft dealers until Merle Maine bought it in 1995. It was acquired by the Warhawk Air Museum in April of 2013.
- There are only 4 Starfighters still flying anywhere in the world, 3 in Florida, one in Arizona, though there are another 3-4 being returned to flight status.
- There are no F-104As flying anywhere in the world at this time.