Finding the Right Stuff
 

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Having seen the NF-104A accident depicted in the motion picture The Right Stuff, Tony Moore and Pete Merlin were very interested in visiting the crash site. Yeager's ejection from the stricken Starfighter was a part of Edwards lore.

Tony and Pete researched the accident extensively, combing through records at the Air Force Flight Test Center History Office and interviewing people who had been involved with the Aero-Space Trainer program.

In November 1992, Tony had an opportunity to search for the crash site. While exploring desert north of Mojave, he found an impact crater surrounded by aircraft debris. After a cursory examination he determined that the material definitely came from a Lockheed F-104. There were numerous pieces of internal structure and external skin. Some of the latter had stenciled markings. Part numbers and data plates confirmed the aircraft type.

Tony returned to the site with Pete in December for a more detailed investigation. This time they found numerous items from the cockpit, some of which were specific to the rocket-augmented NF-104A.

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NF-104A LEFT FORWARD PANEL FRAGMENTS THESE PANEL FRAGMENTS INCLUDE SECTIONS FROM THE LANDING/TAXI LIGHTS SWITCH, ENGINE START/STOP SWITCH AND FOUR PIECES FROM THE LANDING GEAR EXTENSION/RETRACTION HANDLE
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NF-104A ROLL DAMPER SWITCH COVER THIS ROLL DAMPER SAFETY SWITCH COVER FROM THE REACTION CONTROL SYSTEM PANEL IS SHOWN IN ITS POSITION ON THE AIRCRAFT'S CENTER COCKPIT PANEL DRAWING AT RIGHT

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NF-104A VERTICAL STABILIZER FRAGMENT FRAGMENT OF THE NF-104A's VERTICAL STABILIZER KNIFE SHARP LEADING EDGE.THIS SECTIONS LOCATION, FROM THE LOWER PART OF THE STABILIZER WHERE IT MEETS THE FUSELAGE IS CIRCLED AT RIGHT
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NF-104A ROCKET THROTTLE PANEL FRAGMENT THIS FRAGMENT OF THE NF-104A's LR-121 ROCKET THROTTLE PANEL WAS IDENTIFIED ON THE AIRCRAFTS INSTRUMENT PANEL DRAWING, SHOWN PARTILLY AT RIGHT. THE WORD "READY" FROM THE STAND-BY POSITION OF THE THROTTLE IS CIRCLED IN THE DRAWING AND IS VISIBLE ON THE PANEL FRAGMENT ABOVE

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NF-104A INSTRUMENT PANEL FRAGMENTS VARIOUS AIRCRAFT INSTRUMENT PANEL FRAGMENTS INCLUDING A PIECE OF THE "IFF - IDENTIFICATION FRIEND OR FOE" BEACON PANEL
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NF-104A DATA PLATES SHOWN ABOVE ARE SEVERAL TYPES OF AIRCRAFT DATA PLATES. THE "AIRCRAFT MODEL" PLACARD ON THE UPPER RIGHT HAS "F-104-A" CLEARLY STAMPED ON IT

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NF-104A COCKPIT PARTS 1.INSTRUMENT MECHANISM 2."CONSOLIDATED ELECTRONICS CORP."INSTRUMENT PLACARD 3.SAFETY SWITCH COVER FRAGMENT 4.SWITCH FRAGMENTS 5.LANDING/TAXI LIGHTS SWITCH FRAGMENT 6.COCKPIT STRUCTURAL FRAGMENTS 7.COCKPIT INSTRUMENT PANEL LIGHTS 8.INSTRUMENT CASE FRAGMENTS 9.WARNING LIGHT FRAGMENTS 10.LANDING GEAR POSITION INDICATOR LIGHT 11.INSTRUMENT CASE RING 12.SMALL HINGED COVER
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NF-104A FUSELAGE FRAGMENTS 1.PIECES OF A CORNER AND SIDE OF BLACK NUMBER OR LETTER STENCILING 2.FRAGMENTS OF THE AIRCRAFT'S WING WHICH WAS PAINTED WHITE 3.FRAGMENT OF THE LETTER "E" FROM THE YELLOW "RESCUE" PLACARD

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NF-104A MISC.PARTS 1 1.SAFETY WIRED AIRCRAFT PUENMATIC SYSTEM VALVE 2.WINDSHIELD PLEXI-GLASS 3.SMALL STRUCURAL FRAGMENT WITH PENCIL MARKINGS FROM THE LOCKHEED MECHANICS WHO ASSEMBLED THE AIRCRAFT
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NF-104A MISC.PARTS 2 1.AIRCRAFT INSTRUMENT GEARING 2.CONTROL CABLE PULLEY FRAGMENT 3.J-79 JET ENGINE COMPRESSOR BLADE 4.SMALL STRUCTURAL FRAGMENT WITH DRILL HOLES MARKED IN PENCIL FROM ASSEMBLY AT LOCKHEED

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NF-104A CONTROL STICK SWITCH ONE OF SIX PUSH BUTTON SWITCHES LOCATED EITHER ON THE CONTROL STICK GRIP, ENGINE THROTTLE OR THE RCS CONTROL HANDLE
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NF-104A ENGINE BYPASS HANDLE THIS HANDLE WAS USED TO OPEN OR CLOSE FLAPS THAT BYPASSED THE J-79 JET ENGINE DURING THE AIRCRAFT'S ZOOM CLIMB. THE RED "BYPASS" LABEL WAS FOUND AT THE CRASHSITE SEPARATELY AND LATER MATCHED TO THE ADHESIVE MARKS ON THE HANDLE


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