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Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter ejection seat.

Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter ejection seat.

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26 July 1958: U.S. Air Force test pilot Captain Iven Carl Kincheloe, Jr., took off from Edwards Air Force Base in Lockheed F-104A-15-LO Starfighter 56-0772, acting as a chase plane for another F-104A which was flown by a Lockheed test pilot, Lou Schalk. As the two supersonic interceptors began their climb out from the runway, a small control cable deep inside Kincheloe’s fighter failed, allowing the inlet guide vane of the F-104’s General Electric J79-GE-3 turbojet engine to close. With the suddenly decreased airflow the engine lost power and the airplane started to descend rapidly. Captain Kincheloe radioed, “Edwards, Mayday, Seven-Seventy-Two, bailing out.” The early F-104 Starfighters had a Stanley Aviation Corporation Type B ejection seat that was catapulted or dropped by gravity from the bottom of the cockpit. 56-0772 was equipped with an improved Stanley Type C ejection seat. With the Starfighter well below 2,000 feet (610 meters), Kincheloe apparently thought that he needed to roll the airplane inverted before ejecting. This was actually not necessary and delayed his escape. By the time he had separated from the seat and could open his parachute, he was below 500 feet (152 meters). The parachute did open, but too late. Iven Kincheloe was killed on impact. His airplane crashed into the desert floor just over 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) from the west end of Runway 22 and was totally destroyed. Today, a large crater scattered with fragments of Kincheloe’s F-104 is still clearly visible. Iven Kincheloe was just 30 years old.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the United States Air Force (USAF). The result of the USAF's Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program, the aircraft was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but also with ground attack, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence capabilities. The prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, built most of the F-22's airframe and weapons systems and conducted final assembly, while Boeing provided the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems. USAF officials consider the F-22 a critical component of the service's tactical air power. Its combination of stealth, aerodynamic performance, and situational awareness enable unprecedented air combat capabilities and originally planned to buy a total of 750 aircrafts, but in 2009, the program was cut to 187 operational production aircraft due to high costs, a lack of clear air-to-air missions due to delays in Russian and Chinese fighter programs, a ban on exports, and development of the more versatile F-35. The last F-22 was delivered in 2012.

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Robert Sullivan
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