Major Joe Rogers prepares to board the Museums F-106A, S/N
56-0459, before their next flight during "Operation Firewall"
December of this year marks the 50th anniversary of
McChord Museums F-106's brush with history. In 1959 F-106A S/N
56-0459 was selected as the primary aircraft in the Air Forces
attempt at the Worlds Absolute Speed Record. The aircraft flew
all flights in the project - except for the last, a flight
that ultimately became the record setting flight.
decade of the 50’s, considerable advances in jet turbine
engine power and efficiency led to history's largest increase
in aircraft speed. These advances led to the escalation of the
worldwide competition to design and build the World’s fastest
production airplane, the winner of this competition would own
aviation’s Absolute Speed Record.
Not to be out
done, the U.S. Air Force used its newest and fastest jet
fighters in attempts to capture the speed record for America.
These record setting flights were to be flown in a program
code-named Operation Firewall. Historic fighters such as the
McDonnell F-101A VooDoo (in 1957) and the Lockheed F-104A
Starfighter (in 1958) achieved record speeds in their flights
in this program.
In 1959, USAF
planned to use their newest and most advanced weapons
attempts to break some of the Worlds most sought after
aviation records. Attempts at a speed record (with the F-106),
a close – course speed record (with the Republic F-105B
Thunderchief), and a Helicopter altitude record (with the
Kaman HH-43A Huskie) were all to be flown in the early weeks
of December of that year. These aeronautical achievements were
to be highlighted at the annual Wright (Brothers) Memorial
Dinner in Washington D.C. on December 16.
USAF Officials believed that their new interceptor, the F-106
Delta Dart, possessed the performance necessary to surpass the
record speed of the F-104. A pilot to fly this mission was
nearly an unanimous decision, program officials called upon
Major Joe Rogers who at the time was overseeing the
integration of the F-106 into active service at Air Defense
Command Headquarters, Ent AFB, CO. Major Rogers, a combat
seasoned Fighter Pilot, had been deeply involved with the
early development of the F-106 and F-102 Delta Dagger with
many flight test hours in both programs.
F-106 for Firewall flights was almost as easy, program
officials dipped into the
F-106 test fleet and selected S/N
56-0459, which was considered by most F-106 Test pilots to be
the “Hot Jet”, in other words, the Delta Dart that had flown
the fastest with the best handling qualities, a perfect
combination for this record attempt. Although the standard
engine found in production F-106 Interceptors (Pratt & Whitney
J75-P17 turbojet) possessed all of the power needed for this
attempt, officials made plans to install a “gold plate” engine
(a standard engine modified to produce 9% extra thrust) inside
–0459 for all Operation Firewall flights.
all aviation record attempts are established by The Fédération
Aéronautique Internationale (FAI); a Paris based International
Aviation organization founded in 1905. During the Firewall
project the FAI was represented in the United States by the
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), forerunner
to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
planning stages of Operation Firewall, the United States lost
its two-year possession of the World Speed Record on October
31, 1959 to a jet fighter from the Soviet Union. Pilot Georgii
Mossolov flew Mikoyan Design Bureau's Ye-6T/1 (a prototype of
the MiG-21 Fishbed), to an unofficial speed of 1483.83 mph,
breaking the record of the F-104A. Per FAI a new record must
exceed the old by 1%; the new goal for the F-106 was to reach
a speed of 1497.83 or greater. At the time many thought the
Soviets successfully raised the bar, it was later discovered
that the Ye-6T/1 flew its record setting speed with the
assistance of a 6,615 lb thrust rocket engine, violating the
measuring instruments were installed in area within Edwards
AFB, CA. to create the boundaries of the course, basically an
“electronic tube” that measured 10 miles long, 2 miles wide,
and 328 feet in height. The F-106 must fly two passes through
the “electronic tube” or "trap", with the second pass flying
in the opposite direction from the first. The two flights are
required to diminish any chances that the aircraft speed could
be affected by favorable or unfavorable wind conditions. While
making these flights no part of the aircraft can touch edges
of the "trap". The final figure is derived from the average
speed from the two passes.