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Everyone Loves a Northrop F-5A

Civilian-owned jet fighter at AirVenture is comfortable, easy to handle

By Frederick A. Johnsen

July 28, 2018 - Its curvy good looks are timeless. Some say the Northrop F-5A should be the picture that shows up in the dictionary under “jet fighter.” And Jeffrey Kaney of Rockford, Illinois, beams as he talks about his very own F-5A at EAA AirVenture 2018.

It’s a veteran of Cold War service with the Royal Norwegian Air Force. When the F-5 was developed by Northrop as the N-156F prototype in the late 1950s, the goal was to create a potent, yet simple jet fighter intended for use by America’s allies. Kaney said his airplane sometimes flew with a modular photoreconnaissance nose, which was put to good use since Norway shared a border with the former Soviet Union.

When this 1968 jet was declared surplus by the Norwegian Air Force, it was brought back to the U.S. in 1988 and purchased by Chuck Thornton two years later, Jeffrey, EAA 566827, explained. The company Chuck, EAA 237824, created maintains F-5s and similar T-38s for research projects and film use at Van Nuys, California.

Jeffrey, who also flies a MiG-17, said his love of the F-5 goes back to childhood. A sketch of the shark-like jet he made as a 7-year-old was submitted by his mother to the local newspaper, where it was printed. True love never dies, and today Jeffrey has the jet fighter of his childhood dreams.

“It’s very comfortable to fly,” he said. Comparing it to the similar T-38 trainers he once flew in the Air Force, Jeffrey said the F-5 “has better handling characteristics in the takeoff and landing pattern” because of its leading edge slats. It may be heavier than a T-38, but it also has more thrust, he noted.

Every takeoff is in afterburner until the airspeed indicator registers 240 knots, he said. Jeffrey bought the aircraft from Chuck in 2016. This F-5A has about 3,500 hours total time on it. “I’ll be the caretaker of it for some length of time,” he said. “It’s a dream come true to own and fly it.”
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