February 1, 2023 |

Starhawk featured in the SUN ‘n FUN 2023 Calendar for February

By: Valin Thorn

STARHAWK is the customized Lancair Legacy airplane built by retired NASA “Rocket Scientists” Valin & Allyson Thorn.  The two aerospace engineers developed improvements to many aspects of the basic airplane design more than doubling the time to build the basic kit without modifications.  Work on the project was fit into their busy schedules and with persistence it was finally completed after more than a decade and with first flight just a month after their retirements from NASA in 2015.

Valin & Allyson are high school sweethearts and grew up in Arizona.  Valin started flying at age 17 during his first year of college and worked as a flight instructor before graduating and heading off on an engineering career.  Allyson completed some flight training in college before launching her engineering career.

The Thorns were drawn to the Lancair Legacy because of its beautiful design, refined engineering as Lancair’s 3rd generation 2-seat airplane, and its high-speed performance.  The organic flowing design of the Legacy’s exterior was not reflected in the cockpit which was more utilitarian and orthogonal — so Valin committed to reworking it from the beginning and STARHAWK’s interior is flowing and organic in complement to the Legacy’s overall form.  Some of STARHAWK’S improvements also include adjustable rudder pedals, engine throttle quadrant, adjustable seats, air conditioning, low drag flaps, engine fire suppression, canopy locking, and wing tip landing lights.

STARHAWK’s name and paint scheme/livery reflect the couple’s careers in human spaceflight.  The livery suggests STARHAWK is flying so fast it is opening a warp in space and the cosmos can be seen through the opening.  Its base metallic silver color was selected with some irony as the underlying core structure is black carbon fiber, though it almost seems metallic in this finish – minus the seams and rivets!  STARHAWK’s registration number, N321TF, is also a spaceflight reference, where a rocket launch begins with the countdown, 3 – 2 – 1 Liftoff!   STARHAWK’s N-number suggests, 3 – 2 – 1  Take Flight!

The Experimental Aircraft Association awarded STARHAWK the Kit Built First Place Gold Lindy Champion in 2016.  The Copperstate Fly-In also named STARHAWK their 2016 Grand Champion. STARHAWK is based in Colorado with most of its flights in the western United States – though, it might make its first appearance in the east at Sun ‘n Fun in 2023!

Get your copy of our 2023 Aviation Calendar, which features beautiful photos of uniquely themed aircraft or creative art submitted by contestants. To purchase a 2023 SUN ‘n FUN Calendar, click here.

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