Why has F 117 Nighthawk been retired

Whoever would dial the telephone number 274-1490 in Phoenix and listened to the answering machine, would hear the harsh reply: "We're not here, but if you leave a number, maybe we'll call you back!" So much for the friendly part of Ben McAvoy. If you wanted to talk with Ben about the Starfighter, you could be sure, you'd get a callback. All other things were not so important. His life was consumed by the F-104 Starfighter, whose 50th anniversary he only survived by a few weeks. As a real highlight, on March 13, 2004, Ben had the honor, on the 50th Anniversary of the F-104 Flight Test Reunion in the Lancaster Elks club in Palmdale, California, to speak on the highlights of the world-wide operations of the Starfighter. He gave stories of business, bureaucracy, admiration and technical problems of his love. An airplane of which over 2500 were built over the years and flown with love and enthusiasm. And Ben was there, from its beginning in Palmdale until 1981 as Lockheed's representative assigned with the German training program at Luke AFB.

In nearly thirty years as Lockheed technical advisor, Ben McAvoy helped service all models of the Starfighter and watched with attention. From the first airplanes of the A series, to the F-104C's in combat in Vietnam, to the F and G models of the Military Assistance Program (MAP) and to the 916 Starfighters for Luftwaffe and Marine, Ben was there.

Ben McAvoy was born in 1932 in Iowa, Kansas, a town in the middle west of the USA. After high school, He enlisted in the USAF. His goal was to become an aircraft mechanic on the legendary P-51 Mustang fighter. During his time in the Air Force, he became a technician on the F-86 and after four years of service he came to the decision: Jet Fighters! When Ben signed up with Lockheed in 1956, the secret Starfighter program was in its final stage of development. Lockheed's legendary airplane engineer, Kelly Johnson, had filtered out two basic demands for the future American air superiority fighter from the experiences of the pilots of the Korean War: Speed ​​and acceleration. When he presented the XF-104 to the first test pilot Tony LeVier in 1954, the experienced pilot only had one question: "Where are the wings?" However the test flights proved that Kelly Johnson had succeeded in developing an airplane, which could reach more than twice the speed of sound in horizontal flight, at altitudes of over 100,000 feet, and in less time than every other aircraft in the whole world. Ben had found his life's task. Technical support of the starfighter.

After his training in Palmdale, Ben's first assignment was as aircraft mechanic at Eglin AFB, Florida and Duluth, Minnesota. In 1958 he participated in the promotional tour of the new US fighter to several European countries including the World Exhibition in Brussels and took care of "his" Starfighter. As a result, Ben was promoted to Lockheed Field Representative for the Starfighter and assisted in the F-104 set-up in Spain and in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1961 Lockheed sent their Starfighter expert to Nörvenich AB, where the Luftwaffe was beginning its first training program with the new combat aircraft. Ben advised the mechanics about the refinements of the new starfighter and got, beside admiration, some critics as well, because of his superior system knowledge. The intelligent pilots appreciated it and were grateful when they had landed somewhere and after a telephone call with Ben in Nörvenich, the 104s were ready to fly again with just a few tricks. Every now and then Ben was also used as flying mechanic, in order to solve problems on the spot. He could hardly hide from the question: "What did you do with my airplane?" As a civilian worker Ben showed little shyness at ranks and military position. After a problem was solved, a lot of pilots were advised "to take better care better of Ben's airplane in the future".

1964 Ben returned to George AFB, Ca. In short order he was moved again with the F-104 C's to DaNang AB South Vietnam, in order to provide technical assistance for the first combat missions of the Starfighter. As he did in Nörvenich Germany, Ben became the central point of contact relating to the systems of the F-104. Throughout the employment of the Starfighter in Vietnam, it was occasionally evaluated critically, even though the numbers stated something else. Over 10,000 missions with a combat ready rate of over 80%. Acknowledged positively by the escorted combat aircraft and also by Forward Air Controllers, who needed the speed, the F104 supplied fighter-bomber fire support to the constantly changing fighting in air-to-surface employment. Although the Starfighter did not book a single air victory, it would fulfill its task of air superiority. The MiGs preferred, in order to avoid the starfighter, to stay out of its way. After the end of the initial employment of the F 104 in Vietnam, in 1966 the Starfighters were again sent to Southeast Asia. At the end of 1966 a squadron was sent to Udorn Thailand, and of course with Ben McAvoy as Lockheed Field Service Representative. With the experiences of the combat operations Ben returned in 1967 to the USA and became technical advisor for the F-104C and D in San Juan Puerto Rico. Then in 1969 his employer Lockheed put him in charge of maintenance activities of the German-American training program for the Starfighter at Luke AFB, Arizona.

With a short interruption, 1972-1973, when Ben supported the build up of the Greek Air Force in Athens, Ben was "Mr. Starfighter" for the program at Luke. Until 1981 he cared for the German F-104 G Starfighters at Luke as Lockheeds Tech Rep. For a total of 10 years he became part of the most successful binational training program, the German Air Force and the German Navy had ever accomplished. Whenever questions were asked about the Starfighter, from night bombing to Dart Tow, Ben was the first one to be asked. His knowledge of the airplane and its abilities brought not the question whether a certain profile was feasible, but how it had to be flown. Ben knew about the potential of "his" starfighter. But not only were the big decisions given to Ben, every now and then it paid off for changing military commanders to have a man on hand with Ben's expertise. Ben thought it was necessary after 10 years of flying operations at Luke, to remind the flyers by writing about the "Operating characteristics of the F / TF 104 / J-79 during high ambient temperatures". Would "T2 Reset" still be a secret? Ben became acquainted with the Germans, and therefore the respect grew. They were German airplanes, but somehow all were Ben's own children, for whom he felt fully responsible. Even after years of thundering start and engine whistles on the approach Ben had a reason to look into the sky, in order to follow his starfighter.

In 1981 Lockheed sent Ben back again to the Skunkworks in Palmdale Ca. His expertise was again needed for another secret project of the USAF, the F-117 Nighthawk fighter. Sadly Ben left his beloved Starfighter and contributed to the operational success of the F-117. In 1987 Ben McAvoy retired after 31 years with Lockheed. He could now devote himself totally again to his starfighter. As technical advisor, this time freelance, he gave his advice and actively helped to make old Starfighters airworthy again, and worked to keep the few flying ones still airworthy. In 1976 Ben helped Daryl Greenamyer successfully establish a new low-altitude flight speed record of 988 miles per hour with his privately built F-104. Ben also advised museums and helped owners of private star fighters on how to maintain their aircraft.

Of the 50 years of the F-104 Starfighter Ben McAvoy enjoyed 48 years. Therefore it was never a question for him to be a member of the Starfighter organization, the Cactus Starfighter Squadron. Although only in the rear seat, at least that's what is known, Ben collected sufficient flying hours, to take center stage after night flights and at the bar. Kelly Johnson, who conceived and designed the Starfighter in 1953, once said. "Ben McAvoy knows more about the F-104 Starfighter than I do." Well said.

Ben McAvoy passed away on May 14, 2004. On June 12, 2004 a funeral service was held in his house with friends, acquaintances and the Cactus Starfighter Squadron. His ashes were scattered into the wind on July 18, 2004 over Cold Lake, Canada.
From an F-104 Starfighter of course.

Anyone who dialed 274-1490 in Phoenix and found the answering machine could hear the harsh message: "We're not here, and if you leave a number, we might call back!" So much for the friendly part of Ben McAvoy. Anyone who wanted to talk to him about the Starfighter could be sure to get a call back. All the others weren't that important. His life was dedicated to the F-104, the starfighter, whose 50th anniversary he only survived by weeks. On March 13, 2004, on the occasion of the 50-year F-104 Flight Test Reunion at the Lancester Elks Club in Palmdale, California, Ben had the honorable task of presenting the highlights of the Starfighter's worldwide use. Stories of business, bureaucracy, admiration and technical problems of an aircraft of which over 2500 pieces have been built over the years and flown with love and enthusiasm. And Ben was there, from Palmdale to 1981 as Lockheed's husband in the German training program in Luke AFB.

In nearly thirty years as Lockheed's technical advisor, Ben McAvoy has seen and closely watched all starfighters. From the first A-series aircraft, to the F-104Cs in combat operations in Vietnam, to the F and G models of the Military Assistance Program (MAP) and the 916 star fighters for the German Air Force and Navy.

Ben McAvoy, born in 1932 in Iowa, Kansas, a small town in the American Midwest, signed up for service in the new USAF after leaving school. His goal: to be a mechanic on the legendary P-51 Mustang fighter. While still in the military he became a technician for the F-86 and after four years his decision was made: Jet Fighters! When Ben hired Lockheed in 1956, the secret starfighter program was just finishing its development phase. Lockheed's legendary aircraft engineer Kelly Johnson had filtered two basic demands for the future American air superiority fighter from the experiences of the pilots of the Korean War: speed and acceleration, and what he presented to the first test pilot Tony LeVier with the XF-104 in 1954 only elicited the question from the experienced pilot : "And where are the wings?" The test flights, however, confirmed that Kelly Johnson had succeeded in developing an aircraft that could reach more than twice the speed of sound in level flight, could advance to an altitude of over 100,000 feet, in less time than any other aircraft in the world . Ben had found his mission in life. Technical support for the starfighter.

After training in Palmdale, Ben was initially employed as a mechanic in Eglin AFB, Florida and Duluth, Minnesota. In 1958 he took part in the introductory tour of the new US fighter in several European countries and looked after "his" two starfighters at the world exhibition in Brussels. In the meantime, Ben had been promoted to Lockheed Field Representative for the Starfighter and accompanied the formation of units in Spain and the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1961, Lockheed sent its star fighter experts to Nörvenich, where the Air Force carried out its first training programs with the new fighter aircraft. Ben advised the control room and mechanics on the intricacies of the new miracle bird and, in addition to admirers, created a few critics among the pilots, whom he was vastly superior in terms of system knowledge. The clever ones appreciated that and were grateful when they had landed somewhere with their plane and a phone call with Ben in Nörvenich made the plane ready to fly again in a few simple steps. Sometimes Ben was also used as a flying mechanic to solve unknown problems on site. He could hardly hide the question: "What did you do with my plane?" As a civil employee, Ben showed little fear of rank and rank. And when the problem was resolved, some pilots were given the advice to "take better care of Ben's plane in the future".

In 1964 Ben returned to the USA, and after a short period of preparation he was transferred to DaNang, Vietnam, with an F-104 C squadron to provide technical support for the Starfighter's first combat missions. As in Nörvenich, Ben became the central control point when it came to the technology of the F-104. Although the use of the starfighters in the Vietnam War is sometimes viewed critically, the figures speak a different language. Over 10,000 missions with a clearness rate of over 80% brought recognition from the escorted combat aircraft and also the FACs, who needed the speed with which the F104 fighter-bombers, now fighting in air-to-ground operations, could bring fire support to the constantly changing front. Although the starfighters could not claim a single aerial victory, they fulfilled their mission with aerial superiority. The MiGs preferred to avoid the starfighters and avoided them. After the end of the first use of the F 104 in Vietnam in 1966, the starfighters were sent again to Southeast Asia. At the end of 1966 a squadron was relocated to Udorn, Thailand, and of course Ben McAvoy as Lockheed Field Service Representative. With experience in combat, Ben returned to the USA in 1967 and immediately became technical advisor for F104 C and D in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before his employer Lockheed took him to the front of the German-American training program for the Starfighter in Luke AFB in 1969, Arizona, ordered.

With a brief hiatus from 1972 - 1973 when Ben helped build the Greek Air Force in Athens, Ben was Mr. Starfighter for the program in Luke. Until 1981 he was Lockheed TechRep in charge of the German F-104 G Starfighter in Luke for 10 years and thus became part of the most successful binational training program that the Air Force and the German Air Force had carried out since the Bundeswehr was founded. Whenever questions about the use of the starfighters came up, from night bombing to dart tow, Ben became the first test station. His knowledge of the aircraft and its capabilities was not the answer whether a certain profile was feasible, but how it should be flown. Ben understood the potential of "his" starfighters if you only did it right. But it wasn't just the big decisions that passed over his desk. Sometimes it just paid off that the changing military had a permanent expert at their disposal who, after 10 years of flight operations in Luke, once again considered it necessary to write down the "Operating characteristics of F / TF 104 / J-79 during" the planes periods of high ambient temperatures ". As if T2 reset was a secret. Ben got to know the Germans, and in return the recognition grew. Of course they were German planes, but somehow they were all Ben's children, for whom he felt fully responsible. Even after years, the thundering take-off or the whistle of the engines on the approach was always a reason for Ben to look up at the sky to chase his starfighters.

In 1981 Lockheed sent Ben back to the Skunkworks in Palmdale. His expertise was needed for another secret USAF project, the later F-117 Nighthawk fighter. With a heavy heart, Ben parted with the beloved starfighter and contributed to the operational success of the F-117. In 1987, Ben McAvoy retired after 31 years at Lockheed and was finally able to devote himself to his star fighters again.As a technical advisor, this time independent, he steered activities with advice and action to make old starfighters airworthy again and to keep the few flying specimens airworthy. Just as in 1976 as Wart he had supported Darryl Greenamyer's project to successfully break the low-flight speed record with a privately built F-104, so Ben now advised museums and private owners on how to deal with their star fighters.

From 50 years of F-104 starfighters, Ben McAvoy has seen 48 years. So there was never any question that he would be an active member of the only Starfighter organization, the Cactus Starfighter Squadron. Even if only in the back seat, at least as far as is known, Ben has accumulated enough flying hours to be able to stand by at the night flight briefing and at the bar. Kelly Johnson, who designed and built the Starfighter in 1953, once put it that way. "Ben McAvoy knows the F-104 Starfighter better than I do." There is nothing to add.

Ben McAvoy died on May 14, 2004. He was honored at a memorial service on June 12, 2004 in his home by friends, acquaintances and the Cactus Starfighter Squadron. His ashes were scattered over Cold Lake, Canada on July 18, 2004.
From an F-104 Starfighter, of course.