NASA's Dryden Flight Research Centre is examining the feasibility of returning to flight one of two unique cranked-arrow wing F-16XLs kept in "flyable" storage for a decade.
The agency hopes to award Lockheed Martin a contract to study the cost of upgrading and returning Ship #1, the single-seat F-16XL, to flying condition to help with research into sonic boom propagation and mitigation.
First flown in 1982 the F-16XL could be dusted off and take to the skies again
Upgrading the aircraft - first flown in 1982 - to a standard similar to the US Air Force's Block 40 F-16s would make it easier to support. "We're blowing off the dust and putting air in the tyres," says NASA.
In 1996 and 1997, NASA used both aircraft to study supersonic boom and laminar flow as part its High Speed Research programme, which was cancelled in 1999.
General Dynamics originally built the two prototypes to demonstrate supersonic cruise and the F-16XL was offered to the USAF in a competition ultimately won by McDonnell Douglas with the F-15E.
If the price is right and NASA headquarters approves, Dryden officials say the F-16XL could be back in the air by late this year. In the meantime, they are planning a series of taxi tests, which do not require headquarters approval.