Cover Caption: High in the sunlit silence. For nearly a decade Rick Svetkoff, owner of the Kennedy Space Center-based Starfighters Aerospace, has been utilizing his fleet of eight Lockheed F-104 Starfighters, with their unmatched speed and altitude capabilities, to push the envelope of Earth-bound science and space exploration.
Photo: Luigino Caliaro
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Svetkoff's Starfighters by Stephen Chapis and Luigino Caliaro
When Rick Svetkoff formed Starfighters, Inc. in 1995, it was simply an aerial demonstration team and realization of a childhood dream to fly an F-104 Starfighter. Today, the Starfighters Aerospace fleet has grown to near-squadron strength, and while they still make the occasional airshow appearance, these Canadair and Aeritalia-built Starfighters are now performing varied scientific research and government contract flights.
Inside the Swamp Ghost Recovery
by Kenneth Wallace Fields
It was my great fortune to be raised in the household of my hero, my father, the late Lt. Col. John Wallace Fields, of Shamrock, Texas. He was a graduate of what was then called Texas Technological College, now Texas Tech University. Dad was already a pilot in the 7th Bombardment Group (BG), when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The 7th BG had been ordered to the Philippines prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. My father was doing a fuel consumption check on a new Boeing B-17E on December 6, 1941, and was due to depart for Hickam Field on Oahu on December 7, en route to Codename "Plum," the Philippine Islands. Some of his squadron mates had picked up their Flying Fortresses earlier and actually arrived during the Pearl Harbor attack, completely unaware and unarmed.
Aviatrix Aspirations by Greg Morehead
Growing up in Ludington, Michigan, a small harbor town along the shores of Lake Michigan, affords children a parochial environment in which their unlimited dreams transcend the realities of life in a small Midwestern town. As an eight year old, Laurie Clark had an opportunity to take a ride in a Cessna with a local farmer. Her dad didn't think his shy little girl would want to go, but she insisted, "Dad, yes. I want to go!" The excitement of taking off from a bumpy field and seeing the world from a different perspective was life changing. Looking back on that particular day, and the formative years to follow, Laurie says that she knew she wanted to fly from that day going forward. She wanted to be a pilot. Laurie might have been shy, but she was quietly confident and persistent.
Fairchild Mystique by Stephen Chapis
The Fairchild PT-19 first took to the air on May 15, 1939. Shortly after going into mass production in 1941, there was concern about a shortage of 175-hp Ranger L-440 inline engines, so in 1942 Fairchild introduced the PT-23, which was identical to the PT-19 except it was powered by a 220-hp Continental R-670 radial. It is a little known fact that Fairchild Aircraft Corporation only built the XPT-23A prototype, 41-15172, and the first two production models, 42-2962 and 42-2963. All subsequent PT-23s were built under license in the U.S. by Aeronca Aircraft, Howard Aircraft Corporation, and St. Louis Aircraft Corporation, whose PT-LM-4 design lost out to the PT-19. It was also made abroad by Fleet Aircraft Corporation in Canada and Fabrica De Galeao in Brazil.
Britain's Glorious Gladiator
by Frank B. Mormillo
Britain's last single-seat biplane fighter, the Gloster Gladiator, was already obsolete by the start of World War II. Nevertheless, it was kept in frontline service during the first few years of the war by air forces still struggling to re-equip their fighter squadrons with more up-to-date monoplanes. Remarkably, the Gladiator actually managed to acquit itself well against great odds, and a surprising number of pilots became aces in the Gloster biplane. Some of the Gladiator's aerial victories were scored against other biplanes, such as the Italian C.R.42 Falco and Russian Polikarpov I-153 Chaika, which were also nearing the end of their operational lives; however, most of the Gladiator's other aerial victories were scored against more modern Axis monoplane fighters and bombers.