Flyable Starfighter For Sale


A pristine example of one of the hottest rides of the Cold War is up for sale for what seems to be a bargain price and the bonus is that there’s room for two. An Arizona company is selling an airworthy Lockheed CF-104D fighter/interceptor for $850,000, about the same price as an SR22, and it comes with a barn and hangar full of spare parts including two engines, 150 main gear tires, brakes, control surfaces, canopies and parachutes. Platinum Fighter Sales is handling the sale and says the Mach 2 two-seat training version of the Starfighter has 2500 total hours and is in “excellent condition.”

The current owner of the plane, Fresh Fuel Inc., of Mesa, Arizona, bought it in 1996 and it last flew in 2008. It has been maintained in airworthy condition since. It is registered as an experimental exhibition aircraft and has a coveted “pre-moratorium” status that allows it to be flown “on condition” with a yearly inspection. That flexibility is not available anymore. The plane was one of 38 training aircraft built by Lockheed for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Operational CF-104s were built in Canada by Canadair. Canada sold it to Norway in 1973 and Norway retired it in 1982. It went through a series of civilian owners (including EAA in 1992) but has been in Mesa for 22 years.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. What a steal! Unfortunate it‘s about 2000$ for a fill-up that will last you for about an hour without reserves (and I wonder if you could fly it anywhere in Europe).

  2. From Wikipedia:

    The Starfighter eventually flew with fifteen air forces, but its poor safety record, especially in Luftwaffe service, brought it substantial criticism. The Germans lost 292 of 916 aircraft and 116 pilots from 1961 to 1989, its high accident rate earning it the nickname “the Widowmaker” from the German public.

    • I was stationed at Chaumont AFB, Chaumont, France from 1964 through 1966. One evening, just before dark, two German F-104s landed there due to a weather diversion. I happened to encounter one of the pilots that night at the O-Club bar and struck up a conversation with him (His English was quite good, having undergone training at Luke AFB in Arizona). Even back then, the F-104 had developed a bad reputation, especially when involved in Luftwaffe operations. The German pilot said that a major factor in the F-104 accident rate was that the German Air Force conscription was only for a period of 2 years, and that hardly allowed time for proper training, much less accumulation of meaningful experience for their aircraft mechanics/technicians. The pilot went on to state that many of the Luftwaffe F-104 accidents were due to maintenance deficiencies, not to mention frequent terrible weather conditions. Whether or not that German pilot’s account told the entire story … I don’t know, but that’s how it was related to me from “the horse’s mouth”, as it were.

      I had no personal experience with the F-104, but knew it to be a fairly complex (boundary layer control, J-79 engine etc.) aircraft for its time. On top of that, the post war Luftwaffe was not established until 1956, and I’m not sure that they had been able to accrue a cadre of experienced mechanics/technicians by the mid 1960s to mentor recently trained personnel.

  3. The CF-104 was designed as a high speed, high altitude interceptor, but Canada, and others, repurposed it as a close support aircraft, flying it in Europe with congested airspace, large numbers of granite clouds and poor weather.
    In the end, it wasn’t the aircraft that was the issue, it was how it was used. There was at least one incident where a four aircraft formation, in near zero visibility, at fairly high speed, impacted all in a row. All of the aircraft were flying perfectly, just aimed a bit wrong.
    I’m starting my own GoFundMe, but I need to also have someplace with CAVU weather and really flat spaces, and a waiver for MACH+ flight.
    Do you think that’s doable?

    • I was in Bodo, Norway in 1979 on the F-16 European Test & Evaluation Team. I saw very young Norwegian Air Force pilots flying F-104’s — their front line fighter being replaced — in weather I had a hard time driving in. Those pilots were good and the airplane tolerated that lousy weather, too.

  4. For about $25K, chip and bitcoin shortage prices, you can have a MSFS 2020 version (I am not a sim pilot but understand that at the high end sims can be pretty good).

    Close to ultimate hardware set up recently described here (3 65 inch monitors, etc, etc.)

    TF-104G aircraft module to be released later this month from this vendor SimSkunkWorks.

    No go fund me or insurance needed. Hourly flight costs probably about $0.50 electricity and $2 equipment maintenance reserve. Plus once set up additional aircraft usually less than $100 to buy.

  5. The Germans reportedly flew these aircraft at low altitude too often. This may be anecdotal since getting buzzed by one would be very memorable while seeing one miles high would likely be rare.

  6. I read the stall speed is 198.

    1.3 VSO is about 260.

    That must be a hell of a sight picture going over the 4 times faster than a GA airplane, with a tiny fraction of the forgiveness.

    • The 198 (I assume you meant mph and not knots) you cite, although a tad high, seems to be about right for approach speeds. I quote from the Wikipedia article on the F-104: “Landings were also performed at high speed: the downwind leg of the circuit was typically flown at approximately 210 knots (390 km/h; 240 mph) with flaps in landing configuration, with the long, flat final approach flown at around 175 knots (324 km/h; 201 mph) and touchdown at 155 to 160 knots (287 to 296 km/h; 178 to 184 mph). Extra fuel, crosswinds or gusts, external stores, and other considerations could add up to 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) to these speeds.” I’ve read and have been told by a couple of F-104 pilots that low speed characteristics were improved with the empty wing tip tanks in place. The tanks apparently reduced spanwise flow. It’s my understanding that the anhedral (reverse dihedral) of the F-104 wings also helped to reduce spanwise flow.

  7. Thanks for the clarification. I was just quoting numbers that I got off of the inter-web. And yes, miles per hour.

  8. The owner is a GA type pilot and flew it well for the period. Note, ex-William’s Air Force Base is where it is based, CAVU conditions most of the time, well funded spares heavy maintenance program throughout the ownership. Those serious with operating this type can do it, even regular guys… though I bet it’ll go to a company contracted by the government for operation by ex-military pilots.

  9. (Similar to “Stan Greenspan above”)

    GAANG TDY to Isfahan Turkey ~1993 for 15 days. Turkish AF flight of four flew into mountain during instrument on approach to base.

    Vary sad days, but feelings somewhat ameliorate when our F-15As flew missing man formation flight over the memorial service.

    Other than that, a really great TDY.

  10. Maybe you could rationalize it this way: Without tip or aux tanks, you probably couldn’t stay in the air long enough to get into really serious trouble. Right? Not intended to egg someone on.