Browsing Tag: Starship Quest

Beechcraft Starship NC-51 (N514RS) at SNA

Beechcraft Starship NC-51 (N514RS) at SNA

The time has come. In April 2010, after watching movies of the Beechcraft Starship online, I set myself on a quest to try and get a ride in one. I figured the chances of a flight happening were pretty small, but why not go for it? I was very happy to hear from Robert Scherer, who not only owns one of the five flying Starships, but also all the left over parts to keep those five flying for a long time.

Scherer and I had the opportunity to meet at Oshkosh 2010 and he was kind enough to give me a tour of his Starship. Even though I often see the one hanging up in the Future of Flight, Scherer’s had an energy about her, almost a life about her, that the static display just doesn’t possess.

The beginning of next week, I will be flying down to Aspen (via Denver on Frontier) and meeting Scherer. We will be taking a VFR flight low, over the mountains to Meeker (EEO) for fuel, then a high altitude flight to John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange, CA. To say I am excited would be a total understatement.

As we celebrate Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier building airplanes made out of composites, Burt Rutan started the trend long ago with the Starship. To think that the Starship was developed in the early 1980’s and first flew in 1986 just blows me away. Seeing the aircraft in person and getting inside was one thing, but taking a flight on her will be totally different. What a way to start out 2011!

My Quest to Ride on a Beechcraft Starship:
IDEA | CONNECT | TOUR | FLIGHT-PLAN | FAIL | FLIGHT | PHOTOS | VIDEO

Image: RPS3.com
That's me and Starship NC-51 (N514RS) owner Robert Scherer at Oshkosh

That's me and Starship NC-51 (N514RS) owner Robert Scherer at Oshkosh

The quest continues for getting a flight on a Beechcraft Starship. As stated before, I have been working with Robert Scherer who is the owner of Starship NC-51. When I was at Oshkosh a bit over a week ago, I knew he was going to be there so we arranged to meet.

His Starship wasn’t parked at any of the main display areas, but way on the other side of the field in a hangar. Robert was kind enough to take me over to have a look. How could I say no?

Robert is a true aviation enthusiast and he knows what a rare treat he has and he loves sharing it with other airplane lovers. I felt like a kid going to Disneyland heading over to see the Starship in person. I had already seen amazing planes from around the world at Oshkosh, but this one got me the most excited.

Before we headed over, Robert got word that someone had made his Starship into a paper model. We tracked it down and it is obvious someone spent a lot of work re-creating Robert’s Starship.

Even when the Starship was tucked away in the corner of the hangar, she was beautiful. Luckily I had blog reader, San Jose Airport Commissioner and aviation enthusiast, Ian Kluft there with me to help take some photos. Robert was extremely patient and understanding as we took our time to get inside the cabin and take photos.

Her exterior and interior still look futuristic in my opinion. You can easily tell the plane is something different, something special. We weren’t able to do a flight, but Robert assures me it will happen. We are still looking to fly from Aspen, CO over to Orange, CA and hope to do it in the next month or so.

Robert had the special honor of flying Burt Rutan (the man who designed the Starship and SpaceshipOne, Voyager and many others) from Mojave to Oshkosh, as he has over the past few years. NC-51 is the only Starship that Burt has flown in and what a great way to arrive to Oshkosh.

I can’t wait to listen to those engines start up and fly in an airplane that has helped inspire me since I was a kid!

Check out the other photos Ian and I took of N514RS at Oshkosh

My Quest to Ride on a Beechcraft Starship:
IDEA | CONNECT | TOUR | FLIGHT-PLAN | FAIL | FLIGHT | PHOTOS | VIDEO

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:
IDEA | CONNECT | TOUR | FLIGHT-PLAN | FAIL | FLIGHT | PHOTOS | VIDEO

Images: #1 Carlos J Images, #2 Rob Scherer,  #3  kittel
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 ([email protected]).

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:
IDEA | CONNECT | TOUR | FLIGHT-PLAN | FAIL | FLIGHT | PHOTOS | VIDEO