Century Series Wannabe
North American F-107A
- By Stephan Wilkinson
- Air & Space magazine, July 2010
(Page 2 of 2)
Problems at a refueling stop en route resulted in Good becoming separated from his lead, and after following highways as far as St. Louis, he ended up in the dark, atop an undercast. He had already discovered that the airplane had no cockpit or instrument lights, since it was never intended to fly at night. Nor had Good intended to fly at night, so he hadn’t bothered to pack a flashlight—just a Zippo lighter that he occasionally flicked to check the instruments. He guessed at a heading from St. Louis toward Dayton, and eventually Wright-Pat radar picked him up and vectored him down through the clouds and onto final.
Gear down, landing lights on…oh wait, no landing lights either. Good set down with one hand on the stick and the other on his Zippo so he could monitor the approach speed.
After three F-107As were built, the development contract was canceled in favor of the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, which went on to do yeoman service in Vietnam (see "Thuds, the Ridge, and 100 Missions North," Feb./Mar. 2009). But at the time the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force made that decision, the F-105 had flown for barely nine hours and had already exhibited, in the words of Air Force test pilot Mel Apt, "more deficiencies than are normally encountered in other aircraft at a similar stage of development." The F-105 had an internal bomb bay, however, which Tactical Air Command loved—it wasn’t sort of a bomber, it was a bomber—and the Air Force wanted to find work for slumping Republic, while North American already had the F-100 and follow-on F-86 programs to keep it busy.
With one F-107A safely ensconced in the Air Force museum, the other two served in the late 1950s with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later NASA). Today only one remains, at the Pima Air and Space Museum, in Tucson, Arizona.
Stephan Wilkinson is an aviation and military history writer, homebuilt-airplane assembler, and Porsche restorer. When he has nothing else to do, he builds model aircraft.