Last Fight of an F-106NASA Retires F-106B 57-2516
NASA N816NA and N616NA
F-106B 57-2516, NASA NF-106B N616NA and N816NA:
During the 30 years of service at NASA, the F-106B (NASA 616/816)
served as the test vehicle for a series of important Air Force and
NASA research projects. The aircraft was utilized for:
Research and development testing for the U.S. Air Force, Research in support of the U.S. Supersonic Transport Program
of the 1970's at NASA Glenn, Research in the Storm Hazards Program and the Vortex Flap Program at NASA Langley.
It was used in NASA projects in several different NASA centers and under
2 different NASA identification numbers during its career. As NF-106B N616NA (616) it was assigned to the
Lewis Research Center, Cleveland OH from 1966-1979. When the Lewis research programs were terminated the aircraft,
being a high performance aircraft, was assigned to the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB, CA
in 1979. The tail number was renumbered to N816NA (816) although the aircraft didn't spend
any actual time at Dryden. Instead it was loaned out to projects at theLangley Research Center, Hampton VA. and although the Langley Center uses
the number '5' for its aircraft, since the aircraft was actualy assigned to Dryden it retained
it's N816NA tail number, never getting a 516 number. In 30-plus years of service
F-106B 57-2516 as NASA 616/816 flew in support of U.S. Air Force research and development testing 9 years,
assisted research on the U.S. supersonic transport program of the 1970s at NASA's Lewis Research Center
for 13 years and conducted storm hazards and vortex flap programs at Langley
for 12 years. The second seat of this B model allowed flight test engineers to ride along, operating test equipment and making observations.
Donald G. James
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
May 13, 1991
H. Keith Henry Langley Resesrch Center, Hampton, Va.
HISTORIC NASA AIRCRAFT RETIRES TO STAR IN NEW MUSEUM
It's been blasted by more than 700 lightning strikes, simulated a supersonic transport and tested a wing design for future fighters. Now "NASA 816" -- a specially modified Convair F-106B -- has retired after more than 3 decades of flight research. NASA 816 made its last flight on April 30. It was the last known piloted Convair F-106 still flying.
In a May 17 ceremony at Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., NASA 816 will be symbolically transferred to the new 110,000 square-foot Virginia Air & Space Center, Hampton. The aircraft will move to its new home this summer and go on display with other civilian and military aircraft in time for the center's grand opening in the spring of 1992.
In 30-plus years of service, NASA 816 flew in support of U.S. Air Force research and development testing (9 years), assisted research on the U.S. supersonic transport program of the 1970s at NASA's Lewis Research Center, Cleveland (13 years) and conducted storm hazards and vortex flap programs at Langley (12 years).
The F-106 design has special significance for Langley Research Center. Dr. Richard Whitcomb, a distinguished Langley retiree, played a key role in developing the "area ruled" fuselage used on the Convair F-106 and its predecessor, the F-102A. The Coke-bottle-like shape was a revolutionary advance in aircraft design that made supersonic speed in level flight practical. An F-106 set a world speed record of 1,525 mph in 1959 and still holds the record as the fastest single-engine turbojet-powered airplane. NASA 816 is a two-seat F-106B. The second seat allowed flight test engineers to ride along, operating test equipment and making observations.
For the Air Force, the aircraft tested new modifications before the modifications were incorporated in the F-106 fighter fleet. It served at Edwards, McClellan, Tyndall and Holloman Air Force Bases, Geiger Field, Spokane, Wash. and Convair/General Dynamics, Fort Worth.
The F-106B was a one-of-a-kind workhorse at Lewis. Under its left wing, it carried an extra engine to study how the propulsion system interacts with the highly-swept wing of a supersonic airplane. Under its right wing was a comparison engine. In more than 300 flights from 1966 to 1979, researchers collected valuable information that contributed to the understanding of supersonic aerodynamics and engine noise.
At Langley, NASA 816 was "lightning hardened" and purposely flown into thunderstorms to be struck by lightning. The storm hazards program learned much about the fundamental nature of in- flight lightning that will benefit designers of future aircraft.
Today's aircraft are relatively immune to the effects of lightning. But future aircraft may be more susceptible as a result of increased use of nonconductive composite materials in their structure. They also may have more lightning-sensitive electronic control and display systems.
For its next series of flights, NASA 816's wings were reshaped for best aerodynamic performance at times when a supersonic airplane must fly at subsonic speeds. These times can be critical for a military airplane in aerial combat or for a supersonic transport attempting an efficient, relatively quiet takeoff. The NASA-developed modification, a thin downward pointing flap added to the wing leading edge, greatly reduced drag and proved the "vortex flap" idea.
NASA 816 was manufactured in 1958 by the Convair Division of General Dynamics. In all, 277 F-106A and 63 F-106B "Delta Dart" airplanes were built at a cost of about $5 million each. Each F-106 was powered by a single Pratt and Whitney J75-P-17 turbojet engine. Developed as a Mach-2 interceptor, its mission was to intercept unidentified aircraft as they entered U.S. airspace. The F-106 served with the USAF Command, Tactical Air Command and the Air National Guard.
The Air Force has retired the F-106, once called the "ultimate interceptor," from active squadron service after a long and distinguished career dating from the late 1950s. Remaining aircraft fly as drone targets during air-to-air missile training for the current generation of fighter aircraft.
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NF-106B NASA N816NA Retirement Ceremony, 17 May 1991 [NASA Langley film #6543]br> This video includes remarks by program directors Joseph Chambers, Richard Whitcomb, Fred Wilcox, and Norman Crabill.
N816NA Retirement Ceremony Program
NF-106B NASA N816NA Retirement Booklet
Retirement Announcement Letter (pdf file)