On the evening of July 6, a small group of people gathered at the Comox Heritage Airpark to pay homage and wish farewell to its CF-104 Starfighter.
Among this crowd was retired Lt.-Col. Dan Dempsey, who piloted the aircraft in its glory days.
“The Starfighter was the fastest aircraft that ever served in the RCAF and Canadian Forces,” said Dempsey. “It was a Mach 2 airplane that would fly twice the speed of sound. This particular airplane happens to be one of the fastest starfighters that we ever flew. It has actually flown as a test flight up to Mach 2.4 (2960 km/h).”
Faster than the emblematic F-18 and the current F-35, this supersonic fighter jet was stationed in Cold Lake, Alta., before ending up at the Comox Heritage Airpark following its retirement.
Originally designed in 1954 by Lockheed’s legendary aeronautical engineer Kelly Johnson, most of the Canadian Starfighter fleet was manufactured in Montreal.
Added to the Canadian military inventory in 1962, the aircraft was first used for its reconnaissance and nuclear strike abilities.
“Fortunately, we never had to use it,” said Dempsey. “But the whole idea was to prevent and deter conflict by being ready. And we were ready. Canadians did very well with this airplane and were very highly respected in NATO.”
Flown by 15 countries, the aircraft rapidly became a favourite of many NATO member states in Europe.
A new beginning
After spending the last three decades sitting in Comox’s Heritage Airpark, the aircraft is now on its way to Victoria’s BC Aviation Museum.
“We’re going to strip the airplane right down to bare metal and then hopefully refinish it back in the original form that it flew in when it first came off the assembly line,” said Dempsey. “It’s been rendered unflyable, but it’s going to be a beautiful static airplane.”
Though Dempsey said that the renovation of the plane will take several months, the museum hopes the plane will be ready in time to be unveiled for RCAF’s 100th anniversary next year.