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After much anticipation and speculation, the KF Centre for Excellence is pleased to (finally) officially announce the acquisition of a 1962 CF-104D Starfighter.

“We feel truly lucky to have been able to acquire this piece of Canadian military aviation history,” says KF Centre for Excellence Executive Director, Paula Quinn.

“This is an aircraft that holds a special place in the hearts of many veterans and aviation enthusiasts alike, and we are incredibly excited to bring it back to Canada, recognize its contributions, and be a part of its next chapter.”

Built by Lockheed, (now Lockheed Martin) this Mach 2-capable ex-RCAF two-seat training aircraft, acquired by the Centre in 2022, was flown for over ten years by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

It served with the test squadron at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Cold Lake (commonly referred to as 4 Wing Cold Lake) in Alberta from 1962 until 1973, when it was sold by the RCAF to the Norwegian Air Force.

After the Norwegian Air Force sold the aircraft to a California museum in 1984, this CF-104D spent the next 10+ years in the United States under several private owners. From 1996 until its acquisition by the KF Centre for Excellence in 2022, it had been privately owned and based in Mesa, Arizona.

While flown approximately 200 hours over the past two decades and still in near-airworthy condition, the decision was made to ship the CF-104D on two flatbed trucks from Mesa, Arizona to the KF Centre for Excellence earlier this month – with one truck carrying the main fuselage and the other carrying the wings and miscellaneous parts. The decision to drive, rather than fly this 104 to the Okanagan, was made due to the desire to take as many additional precautionary measures as possible in order to ensure the safety of our crew, while also respecting the advanced age of the aircraft.

So, what are our plans for the Starfighter? We are so glad you asked!

Currently, our aircraft maintenance engineers are hard at work, combing through the aircraft piece by piece, bolt by bolt, to ensure its structural stability. Any part big or small that looks even remotely questionable will be replaced or repaired by our expert team, in an effort to restore it to an airworthy state. As one can imagine, this process will take some time.

Next, the plan is to re-paint the aircraft back to its original RCAF livery (paint job) in order to recognize and pay tribute to the pilots who flew CF-104 Starfighters. Some of those same pilots live right here in the Okanagan Valley, so naturally, we tracked down as many as we could, and invited them to observe the arrival of our Starfighter earlier this month, which was an emotional experience for all in attendance.

“It means so much to us to see the looks on the faces of these veterans,” says Quinn.

“It reminds us why we do what we do, and why it is so crucial to preserve Canadian aviation history.”