Convair F-106B Delta Dart
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Convair F-106B Delta Dart
The Delta Dart was a supersonic, all-weather interceptor from the 1960s through the 1980s. It was the last dedicated interceptor in the US Air Force. The surviving aircraft were converted to drones to be used for target practice with the last destroyed in January 1998. A handful were retained by NASA for test purposes, with the last at NASA Langley being retired in May 1991. Originally envisioned as an advanced derivative of the F-102A Delta Dagger and given the designation F-102B, the aircraft entailed such extensive changes that in 1956, the designation was changed to F-106.
Although contemplated for use in Vietnam, the aircraft was never used in combat. Initially, problems with the ejection seat resulted in the deaths of the first 12 pilots to eject from the aircraft. In December 1959, Colonel Joe Rogers piloted that F-106A to a world speed record of 1,525.695 mph, the fastest single-engine turbojet-powered airplane.
The design of both the F-106 and its predecessor, the F-102A, is closely related to NASA Langley and the development of Whitcomb's area rule. Area ruling enabled the YF-102A (see 4X4-Foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel and Cold War) to easily exceed the speed of sound, leading to approval for the advanced version of the aircraft, the F-106. Extensive testing of the F-106 was conducted in the Unitary Tunnel during 1957-1958.
The NASA aircraft, designated NASA 816, was transferred to Langley in January 1979 where it was associated with buildings 7X10 High-Speed Tunnel, the Full-Scale Tunnel, and the hangar. Tunnel research focused on developing a specially shaped wing flap to trap a vortex along the leading edge, resulting in improved lift-to-drag ratios. Research at the hanger was associated with the Storm Hazards Program. This program was designed to provide data from in-flight measurements of direct-strike lightning characteristics to determine the threat to aircraft constructed of composite materials and utilizing digital control systems. The program also provided data on the location and strength of storms. The NASA 816 conducted 195 research flights, receiving 714 direct lightening strikes. See a video on the airborne lightning research which includes flight footage.
|As the last piloted Convair F-106 anywhere, NASA 816 saw service at Langley researching storm hazards, experimenting with an Off-Surface flow visualization system and testing a vortex flap. The Delta Dart was not turned over for target drone duty as were the vast majority of F-106s, but retired to the Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton, Virginia.|