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QF-104 Starfighter Drone Ejection Seat Spurs


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#1 Nic

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Posted 14 February 2016 - 04:10 PM

I thought I'd share a recent addition to my collection. These are ejection seat spurs worn on the boots of F-104 Starfighter pilots. These spurs were attached to the ejection seat by a wire cord.  When the pilot had to bail out, the cord that connected the spurs to the seat retracted and pulled the pilots legs in.  This prevented the pilot from injuring his legs during the ejection. 

 

What I found interesting about these were that they came from a pilot who "flew" with the 3205th Drone Squadron in the mid-1960's. Although the drone Starfighters were unmanned during missions, some of the pilots still wore their spurs as a status symbol. These have been chromed to add even more flair.

They were pretty rusty when I got them, but with a little Coca-Cola, aluminum foil, 0000 steel wool and some elbow grease, they came out pretty nice. Overall, I'm really happy to be the new caretaker of them. 

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#2 Nic

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Posted 14 February 2016 - 04:11 PM

A few more photos.

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#3 Nic

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Posted 14 February 2016 - 04:13 PM

Last of the photos showing some buckle details. 

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#4 MWalsh

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Posted 15 February 2016 - 04:33 AM

Pretty cool. I have always read about Spurs on some seats but had never actually researched them or looked them up, and didn't know what they looked like. Thanks for the info and for posting about them.

#5 tarbridge

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Posted 15 February 2016 - 04:39 AM

Thanks for the post...interesting and a something learned.

#6 hink441

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Posted 15 February 2016 - 08:51 AM

That is neat item. I really like these.

Are you saying the USAF pilots would wear these when they were not in the cockpit?

Chris

#7 Jpage

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Posted 15 February 2016 - 08:54 AM

Doesn't get much cooler than that....



#8 Nic

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Posted 15 February 2016 - 09:36 AM

That is neat item. I really like these.

Are you saying the USAF pilots would wear these when they were not in the cockpit?

Chris

 

Yes.  Here is a reference to the practice:

 

"Along with flying bright orange aircraft, the pilots of the 3205th wore Air Defense Command (ADC) issue high-visible orange flight suits when the rest of the Air Force was wearing the standard green. Adding to their special status above normal F-104 drivers, some of the young and cocky newcomers to the program, would continue to wear their heal spurs as they swaggered across the ramp. Apparently this practice was considered taboo within the rest of the F-104 community, but a blind eye was cast for this group, due to the nature of their trade."

 

I've also attached a photo showing how they were worn. 

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  • spursa.jpg


#9 hink441

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Posted 15 February 2016 - 12:06 PM

Very interesting!! Thanks for posting!!!

Chris

#10 Longbranch

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Posted 16 February 2016 - 02:38 PM

Very cool and obscure item! If I hadn't read this thread, I would have never known what these are if I came across a set somewhere. Thanks for posting them!



#11 Grant S.

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Posted 17 February 2016 - 04:35 AM

I'm unclear as to why a drone needs a pilot. Also unclear as to why a drone pilot would deem himself special, as it seems to be a step below a combat pilot. Did other ejection seats have spurs or were they unique to the F-104 because the seat "ejected" through the bottom of the plane?



#12 Longbranch

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Posted 17 February 2016 - 06:45 PM

The drones were not always shot down, which helped to conserve the aircraft for further drone use. Consequently, it was necessary to be able to land the craft, something that would have required a pilot to do via radio control. These things were often used for Mach 1+ target use, so the pilots would have needed some skill to fly these things via radio control. Also, from what I've read a lot of the pilots WERE combat experienced, and at the time, being a drone pilot in this unit was not seen as a "step down".



#13 Nic

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Posted 17 February 2016 - 08:42 PM

Just to piggyback on the comments by Longbranch, I found this reference while researching the QF-104 program:

 

"Chuck Dildine returned from SEA in December 1966, after his tour at Udorn AFB with the 435th TFS (479TFW) flying the F-104C. In January 1967 Chuck arrived at Eglin AFB and was as­signed to the "drone branch" of the Test Operations of the Armament Development and Test Center (ADTC), Eglin AFB. The "drone branch" had a Commander and roughly 12 to 15 operations pilots. Three of them were combat returnees from SEA. Two flew F-100 Super Sabre's and "Chuck" flew F-104C. By 1969 three of "drone" pilots had over 1000hrs each of F-104 time. The other pilots were younger and had much less 104 time, anywhere from just checking out to several hundred hours.

 

All of them (including "Chuck") were also current in the T-33. The individual time in the T-bird also varied from low time to 1900hrs. The T-33's called DT-33's (Director T-33) were used to control the QF-104 from launch to the firing range and then to return the QF back to the landing airfield area. A typical mission required 8 pilots from launch to recovery. Five of these were flying and three of them were doing ground jobs, i.e. launching the drone - controlling the QF on the range - and then landing it after the mission."

 

It is my understanding that the SR-71 and F-106 also used spurs, although they varied a bit in design from the F-104.


Edited by Nic, 17 February 2016 - 08:43 PM.


#14 Grant S.

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Posted 18 February 2016 - 04:13 AM

OK it makes sense now. I was thinking the pilot was actually in the cockpit, not piloting via remote control. Which I imagine must have been pretty difficult considering how hard the F-104 was to fly in the first place. Fun fact: former California Representative "B-1" Bob Dornan was an F-104 pilot and was actually in a movie called "The Starfighters" pretty much as himself. Movie was awful.



#15 hink441

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Posted 18 February 2016 - 05:24 AM

I had some limited experience with the QF-4 Drone Phantoms in the US Navy in the mid 1980s. The "drone" pilots would typically fly in the QF-4 cross-country from Point Mugu to NAS Roosevelt Roads for a fleet exercise. After landing, the ejection seat was removed and the radio control receiver was installed. The drone then flew pilotless or NOLO (no live operator) for a series of intercepts on different ships at sea. Hopefully the drone did not get damaged and was able to fly for the complete fleet exercise. Sometimes this was not the case. If the drone survived the exercise, the drone pilot would fly the Phantom back to Point Mugu and be ready for the next fleet exercise.

At that time in the US Navy, being a QF-4 drone pilot was not a glamorous job, and was not seen as being a good career choice for Aviators. The drone pilots at that time were usually high time F-4 pilots who were typically late in their career, and for whatever reason, did not screen for command. Unfortunately these guys were qualified in an aircraft the Navy was doing away with. The pilots and the aircraft had a limited future. Later years in the QF-4 drone program, the Navy pilots were usually very experienced crusty reserve pilots.

Chris

#16 Randy

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Posted 01 March 2016 - 06:37 AM

Just to clarify: All USAF/contractor drone pilots get regular cockpit time in the aircraft to stay current. A general overview is there are aircraft certified for use as piloted, and when they reach a certain amount of airframe hours remaining they are then converted to unmanned status (seat removed, remote flight electronics added, self-destruct charges installed) and used in this way until they are shot down or otherwise grounded. At Tyndall these unmanned aircraft are on what is called "Death Row", awaiting their final missions. The USAF even used to have several pilot-certified ones painted up in older schemes and flown to airshows before the current budget cuts.

 

Randy



#17 phantomfixer

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Posted 01 March 2016 - 07:06 AM

Hey Randy, 

 

I was at Tyndall a year or so ago and stopped in to check out the old Phantoms...some were orange and some were still camoed up...was nice to see the old Phantoms again....

was my understanding that the orange  drones were still manned from time to time to act as ACMI birds, and then when required, they were used as target drones, and shot down....milking the resource is what I was told...either way...they were headed to a sad place....

the F4 had leg restraints, strapped that pulled the thighs and calves down and in, during ejection....

 

nice to see the spurs all cleaned up....



#18 Randy

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Posted 01 March 2016 - 08:47 AM

Yes, even the manned ones had the orange highlights. Only the airshow birds didn't. The F-4 is gone now at Tyndall, and the Det at Holloman is now done as well I believe. The QF-16 is now the drone of choice. Much more maneuverable, and since I worked both, much easier to maintain! Here's a shot of me in 1996 with the manned QF-106s at Tyndall TDY. The F-4s were just coming online then.

 

Randy

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#19 phantomfixer

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Posted 01 March 2016 - 11:04 AM

Way cool Randy  nice shot..agreed the F16s were much easier to maintain than the old Phantoms....



#20 viking73

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Posted 11 March 2016 - 04:15 AM

Hi Randy,

 

Very nice shot of you in front of QF-106A 59-0043 "HomeBoy".  While I'm glad this airframe still exists, I'm a bit sad it lost it's neat NJ ANG scheme and is now painted up as a 5th FIS bird in North Dakota...

 

Thanks for posting.

 

-Derek



#21 Randy

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 04:20 AM

I knew they kept it, but didn't know it was at Minot. Too bad, that commemorative paint scheme on that bird should have been saved. When I was on the ACC IG I did an inspection at Atlantic City (about 2005) and they had an F-106B model out by the gate IIRC. This one would have been much neater to display.

 

Randy



#22 Longbranch

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Posted 29 November 2016 - 02:28 PM

Found an interesting and related picture in a CNN story about the current use of U-2s in the GWOT. That story was brought up by another forum member in a discussion about the U2. 

 

The news story was published November 25, 2016 about a unit operating in "the Middle East". Notice the very similar chrome plated spurs that are still in use by pilots of the U-2:

(the story/photos were published by CNN, and the full story can be found at: http://www.cnn.com/2...tgen/index.html )

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  • u2dragonladyspurs.jpg

Edited by Longbranch, 29 November 2016 - 02:31 PM.



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