That Time When Joe Jordan Made A Record Altitude Flight With F-104 Starfighter

That Time When Joe Jordan Made A Record Altitude Flight With F-104 Starfighter
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For several months the Air Force had been the proud owner of the world’s altitude record by fighter aircraft. This altitude record was set in May of 1958 by an F-104. But first the Russian Sukhoi T-4 “Valkyrie” and then the Navy’s F-4H sent the record of F-104 tumbling. The new record by the Navy was 98,560 feet. The Air Force wanted their record back but it was tough. Because no modern fighter jet at that time has ever been able to recapture its own record.

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter is an American single-engine, supersonic air superiority fighter. It was widely used as a fighter bomber during the Cold War. This great aircraft could reach to a maximum speed of 2,717 km/h.

Finally, the day has come for Air Force to shine again with a higher altitude record. It was December 14th of 1959. While the crew set the F-104 for the flight, air force and Lockheed experts and captain Joe Jordan met to plan this historic flight. Precise monitoring and measuring devices were set up in the nose of the F-104 which will tell the story of the success or the failure of this high-altitude flight.

Each part of this flight went under the watchful eyes of the officials of the National Aeronautics Association. Finally, both the F-104 and the pilot Joe Jordan are ready. All the effort of hundreds of people is now in the hands of one man, captain Joe Jordan. Captain Jordan was a good pick. He was an experimental test pilot with Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) and he has been in the F-104 test program since 1956.

captain Joe Jordan on F-104
Photo credits: US Air Force

Captain Jordan took off and he wastes no time hitting Mach 2.36, 1600 ground speed. On the way up he could also set another record for the world’s best time to climb record for 30,000 meters. He climbed 30,000 meters in just 15 minutes and 4.92 seconds. 3 radars and 6 high altitude theodolite cameras provided speed position information of the aircraft to the instrument room. He climbed to the maximum where no other man ever has and started climbing down. This whole flight from take-off to touch-down just took 21 minutes.

He could outperform the record of Russians by a mile and a half and the Navy’s record almost by a mile. The new high altitude record set by captain Joe Jordan from the F-104 was 103,395.5 feet.



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