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Old 15th Oct 2009, 21:23   #1 (permalink)
 
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How thick were the F-104's wings?

Okay, so I'm reading Kelly Johnson's autobiography, "More Than My Share of It All," and in it, he claims that the F-104 (which he designed) had wings "about as thick as a pair of razor blades." An exaggeration, right? I'm doing an article on Johnson for Aviation History magazine, so can anybody tell me roughly how thick a Starfighter's wing was at mid-chord?
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 21:30   #2 (permalink)
 
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What wings?
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 21:31   #3 (permalink)

Evertonian
 
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Can't tell you the actual thickness, but I believe they had to put covers over the leading edges to stop people getting injured!

(Great aircraft btw!)
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 21:36   #4 (permalink)
Per Ardua ad Astraeus
 
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I'd guess no more than 5 inches at the root and bleedin' sharp at the front and back! Cannot now remember the wingspan, but I guess around 20ft.
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 21:40   #5 (permalink)
 
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One Google link says "The actual thickness of the wing varied from a maximum of 4.2 inches at the root to 1.96 inches at the tip.".
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 21:43   #6 (permalink)
 
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Replied in Mil.
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 21:44   #7 (permalink)
 
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WIKI for once has the right answer. "Kelly" was quote also by F104's test-pilot Tony LeVier on the thickness-to-chord and razor-blade comparison...

PZ
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 21:49   #8 (permalink)
 
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Buster & BOAC are just about right - though I never actually noted the depth of the stubs, they were about 7/8ft long each and about 4-5 inches deep(from memory).

And I did put guards on the leading and trailing edges to stop damage (but to what/whom?).

I used to chuckle at the rescue markings below the canopy (to be read in a yorkish accent) "Break Glass and Pull 'T' Handle..."
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 02:25   #9 (permalink)
 
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I had a look round an ex-Luftwaffe F104G recently, and bearing in mind the old 'razor blade leading edge' thing found the reality to be no worse than the leading edge on a metal propeller. In other words, although the wing is comically thin, even for a fast-jet, it isn't a problem to run your hand along the leading edge.

I could only see a problem for dwarves running into the unprotected wing at high speed.
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 02:31   #10 (permalink)

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Angry The Widowmaker

Saw pair of Dutch 104s attempt a formation take-off with full afterburner at RAF Leeming after they had diverted there back in the seventies.
The leader got airbourne demonsrating a sensational rate of climb. His no.2 sat on the piano keys blowing massive amounts of smoke until he shut the beast down exited the aircraft and proceeded to take f****** large fast steps across the grass.
I reckon he could have won a medal at the Olympics.
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 04:25   #11 (permalink)
 
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F-104 Starfighter - Modern Combat Aircraft 9
by Arthur Reed, Ian Allan 1981 (p.18) states:

Quote:
From the side of the fuselage to the tip, each was only seven feet seven inches long. With a thickness ratio of 3.36%, and with a maximum thickness of 4.2in next to the fuselage, it slimmed down to only 1.96in at its extremity. The theory in Lockheed was that its leading-edge flap was sharp enough to cut steak with. Whether anybody ever tried is not recorded. What is fact is that it was such a dangerous object for ground staff to walk into that special felt pad guards were provided.
My personal favourite nickname for the F-104 is "Bullet and Blades"

Rgds
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 06:11   #12 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Saw pair of Dutch 104s attempt a formation take-off with full afterburner at RAF Leeming after they had diverted there back in the seventies.
The leader got airbourne demonsrating a sensational rate of climb. His no.2 sat on the piano keys blowing massive amounts of smoke until he shut the beast down exited the aircraft and proceeded to take f****** large fast steps across the grass.
I reckon he could have won a medal at the Olympics.
Your point?
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 06:42   #13 (permalink)

Victor B1a
 
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Question

Just a true story. Looked very nasty to me.
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 06:44   #14 (permalink)
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Was sat behind one once in line for take off at Torino
We were having to lumber through France as we would be unable to cilmb direct through the Alps
They cleared him for take off and asked him to "call when passing FL250"
Bugger me, he took off climbed in a right turn and when crosswind called through 25 grand!
"Bueno, call Milano, ciao"
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 09:57   #15 (permalink)
 
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Those leading edges were certainly not "razor sharp". You could not use them like a knife's blade or something. The metal-propblade comparison above seems quite right. The wing stubs are still impressively small. Especially on the stretched nuke-bomber version we had back then. And blown flaps she had.

BTW is NASA still flying it's used german F-104G's?
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 10:03   #16 (permalink)

Yes, Him
 
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Quote:
but perhaps you old farts are more knowledgeable...
More than you anyway.
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 11:19   #17 (permalink)
 
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These photos photos of a Luftwaffe F-104 in the Deutsches Museum - Flugwerft Schleissheim near Munich some idea of the wing thickness.



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Old 16th Oct 2009, 11:32   #18 (permalink)
 
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Fris B has given the correct answer.
The wing thickness/chord ratio was 3.36.

Schhh.......I've flown it.
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 14:56   #19 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
They cleared him for take off and asked him to "call when passing FL250"
Bugger me, he took off climbed in a right turn and when crosswind called through 25 grand!
Which just serves to remind us all what a poor turn performance it had!
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 15:18   #20 (permalink)
 
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I might add that one of the things I've already learned from the knowledgeable and experienced people who have replied is that though for decades "aviation journalists" have witlessly perpetuated the myth that the F-104's wings were literally razor-sharp, that's an urban myth. they're apparently "sharp" for an airfoil but no worse than a prop blade. I've walked into many a stopped prop when preflighting an aircraft, and I'm still here--slightly bloodied at times, but never scalped.

That's why coming to the pros is often better than "research."

Oh, and by the way, my "old farts" remark was in jest. I'm 73.
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