F-104 Starfighter: How Dangerous Was the “Widowmaker”?

YouTube / Military Aviation History

The F-104 Starfighter is quite infamous for its accident rate. So, how dangerous was the so-called “Widowmaker?” 

Crashes and Fatalities

Data gathered by the Military Aviation History shows the number of WWII warbirds and their ratio of fatalities.

The lower the numbers are, the lower the chances that an accident with a destroyed aircraft will result in death.

Based on this data, it’s safe to assumed that the Starfighter is doing remarkably well – comparatively speaking.

Accounting for Flight Hours

To get a better sense of safety, flight hours should be accounted for to get information on the aircraft’s reliability across their operational use. 

YouTube / Military Aviation History

By adjusting for flight hours, we can see how the picture completely changes. Now, the F-104 suddenly has the least amount of flight hours per fatality.

With the initial data on “Destroyed Airframes versus Aircrew Deaths” were lower for the Starfighter, one can safely assume that they WILL have an incident in it much sooner than any other aircraft.

Incidents in Other Countries

Wikimedia CC / SDASM Archives

What about other countries, though? According to Aviation Safety Network’s website, there were just under 1,200 major incidents of Starfighters, and about 1,000 destroyed F-104s with about 360 fatalities.

That’s a lot of accidents for an aircraft!