By me All photos me too unless otherwise stated, copyrighted
While (strictly) military aircraft are not something I usually cover on this blog, after reviewing some of my photos from a recent trip to Italy, I’ve decided I could make a slight exception – just this once :D. Namely, back in mid-November I had the opportunity to visit Thiene Airfield (ICAO: LIDH) in Northern Italy, where four colleagues and myself were scheduled to take the standard “ICAO English Proficiency” test required for the issue of our CPL licenses. And while the doom, gloom and torrential rain forecast the day before had seemingly precluded any effective outside photography, I’d nevertheless packed my 10-pound camera bag in the hope that I may stumble onto something interesting nonetheless… 🙂
A quaint grass strip situated a few miles north of the historic city of Vicenza, Thiene did indeed have a party piece for me, one I’d homed in on even from the airfield’s access road: a beautifully preserved F-104 Starfighter, the first one I’ve ever seen in person! 🙂 Its air superiority gray blending in perfectly with the dull, low overcast, its fuselage gleaming in the rain, it had immediately grabbed my attention – and after a short round of international diplomacy, the very kind airfield staff had allowed me to get up close and whip out my anti-aircraft Canon :D.
Standing in front of MM6914, it is hard to appreciate and even imagine the impact the Starfighter’s shape had in when it had first flown in 1954. WW2 had ended just nine years ago, propliners were still plying the skies, and even the world’s major air forces still had piston-engine fighters in frontline service… and then, out of nowhere, this needle-sharp, razor-winged jet-propelled missile appears, thundering past at twice the speed of sound and altitudes three times higher than any civil aircraft could reach. In a world still inspired by Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it wasn’t really hard to see how the 104 got its name :).
And yet even today, 56 years after its maiden flight, the Starfighter’s stellar performance – pun intended 😀 – remains impressive. So impressive in fact that the type had – despite all its faults – remained in service until 2004, last flying with the inimitable Italian Air Force. One of these fascinating aircraft is our MM6914, whose full name drags out to Aeritalia F-104S ASA-M Starfighter – or in plain English, a license-built Italian-spec Starfighter that had received a weapons systems upgrade (the ASA-M bit) sometime during its service life :). The most capable of all the Starfighter marks, many of these aircraft had managed to evade the scrapman’s axe and are now adding their bit to the beautiful Italian landscape… 🙂