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Miles flown for stories
2014: 138,116
2013: 330,818

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EPIC AVGEEK PHOTO: Three Dreamlifters & a Starship at Paine Field

The Dreamlifter Operations Center at Paine Field. Image: Future of Flight

The Dreamlifter Operations Center at Paine Field. Image: Future of Flight – Aviation Center & Boeing Tour

It is rare to catch more than two Boeing 747 Dreamlifters at Paine Field. It is even more special when one is able to catch three Dreamlifters. But three Dreamlifters and a  Beechcraft Starship (NC-50 / N8285Q)? Oh yes!

On November 10th, that is exactly what happened next to the Future of Flight – Aviation Center & Boeing Tour – and what a view. The Dreamlifters were parked at their new Operations Center and the Starship was at a fund raiser for the Future of Flight.

There are four Dreamlifters that have been built (you might have remember that one recently landed at the wrong airport) and they are modified Boeing 747-400s used to transport 787 Dreamliner parts around the world.

My Quest to Ride on a Beechcraft Starship: I FOUND A RIDE!

N514RS Starship Beechcraft from the front

N514RS Starship Beechcraft from the front

About a month ago, I challenged myself to fly on a Beechcraft Starship and I have secured a ride! I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

I have been very surprised how many people have emailed me with suggestions and personal stories of the Beechcraft Starship. There truly is a great following and people love this plane. I thought I might be one of the biggest fans out there, but I might have some competition for that title.

Shortly after my first post I started getting emails suggesting I contact the same person: Robert Scherer. He owns Starship NC-51 (N514RS). He also bought left over Starship parts and runs Starfleet Support (no, not a Star Trek thing), which provides parts  to the remaining flyable aircraft. I was also told that Scherer is a pretty cool guy and has a genuine love for the Starship. My readers were right!

NC-51 - Primary chase for Scaled Composites' Tier One Program. How cool.

NC-51 - Primary chase for Scaled Composites' Tier One Program. How cool.

I tracked down his contact information and sent over an email. He replied that he would be more than happy to help me out in my quest. AWESOME (I know I use that word a lot, but I REALLY mean it this time)!

NC-51 is one cool Starship. It has been used as the chase plane for Spaceship One, White Knight 2, and is even signed by Burt Rutan (the father of the Starship – click that link, pic of Rutan at the door of NC-51).

Scherer is based out of Aspen, CO (ASE) and routinely flies over to Orange, CA (SNA). I have been invited to go with him on one of his flights in the next few months.

When he flies this route, he leaves ASE and heads to Meeker (EEO) for cheap gas. This is a low level, 15 minute flight over some beautiful terrain. Then he goes around 34,000 feet to fly from EEO-SNA. Want to see what the first leg of the flight looks like? Scherer has a video of one of his flights from ASE to EEO. Um…yes please.

N514RS ready for take off from Mojave, CA

N514RS ready for take off from Mojave, CA

This blog has given me quite a few amazing opportunities since I started it in July 2008, but I have to say this one excites me the most. You can be sure there will be lots of video, photos and Tweets from this wonderful experience.

A HUGE thanks to Robert Scherer for giving me and my readers this great opportunity!

OTHER MEDIA:
* See Scherer talk about the Starship on History Channel’s Boneyard
* Video of NC-51 cockpit
* If this professional video of NC-51 doesn’t gives you goose bumps, you aren’t a true Starship fan
* Cockpit night landing of NC-21 into Austin, TX
* See what happened to every Starship

My Quest to Ride on a Beechcraft Starship:
IDEACONNECTTOURFLIGHT-PLANFAIL | FLIGHT | PHOTOS | VIDEO

Images: #1 Carlos J Images, #2 Rob Scherer,  #3  kittel

My Quest to Ride on a Beechcraft Starship: The First Step

NC-51 over Tehachapi Mountains photo by Chad Slattery

NC-51 over Tehachapi Mountains photo by Chad Slattery

I have started a new quest: fly on a Beechcraft Starship. It won’t be easy and I might not be able to, but I am at least going to try. There are five that are currently flying and my goal is try to get a seat on one of them.

I think like most aviation enthusiasts, I have always had a big fascination with the Starship. Seeing one hanging up at the Future of Flight (which I am at often) has fed my motivation to learn more about this amazing aircraft.

Development for the Beechcraft Starship was started in 1979. In the early 1980′s Beechcraft contracted with Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites company to help build proof-of-concept models for the new aircraft. The first full scale test was flown on February 15, 1980 and the first production Starship flew on April 25, 1989.

The aircraft was unique at the time for using carbon fiber, having a canard design, lack of central vertical tail and pusher engine configuration. At the time carbon fiber had not be used on many aircraft and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had a hard time certifying the plane. Playing it safe,  the FAA required the Starship to increase its structural supports , which added overall weight to the airframe. The Starship was supposed to have a max cruise speed of 352 knots and fly for over 2,500 nm, but after the modification, the speed was reduced to 338 knots and a range of only 1,575 nm.

The added weight, economic slowdown and high tax on luxury items at the time meant that Beechcraft was only able to sell seven Starships in its first three years in production. The last Starship was produced in 1995 and then in 2003 Beechcraft determined it was not cost effective to support a small number of planes and started destroying the ones left.

Starships waiting to be destroyed. How sad. Photo by: Derek Hellmann

Starships waiting to be destroyed. How sad. Photo by: Derek Hellmann

Different sources state different numbers of how many are actually flying. I have found anywhere from three to nine. However with more research it looks like there might be six still flying, one of which is in Mexico somewhere. That leaves me with five StarShips I can hopefully hitch a ride on:

* N8244L NC-29 Owner: Radio Flyer, LLC
* N8074S NC-33 Owner: Allen Investments Aviation & marine
* N45FL NC-45 Owner: Tulsa Renaissance Energy, LLC
* N8285Q NC-50 Owner: Starship Holdings, LLC
* N514RS NC-51 Owner: Scherer, R – chase plane for SpaceShipOne

Stage one was to track down which planes are still around. Stage two will be to try to contact the owners of these planes and talk them into giving me a ride in their plane, which I can blog about. Will it happen? Maybe, but even if it doesn’t, I will enjoy learning more about the plane. Either way, I will be sure to blog about this experience.

Of course if anyone has any connections to the owners of one of the planes, I would love to touch base with you (david@airlinereporter.com).

Website: Great page on the Beechcraft Starships + Thanks to Ed at Future of Flight for all his knowledge!

My Quest to Ride on a Beechcraft Starship:
IDEACONNECTTOURFLIGHT-PLANFAIL | FLIGHT | PHOTOS | VIDEO