A Convair F-106B Delta Dart rolls to the right to reveal the two research engines installed under its wings by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Lewis Research Center. Lewis acquired the aircraft in October of 1966 to study inlet and nozzle designs for the supersonic transport engine program. Two General Electric J85 engines were mounted beneath the F-106B’s wings and operated from Mach 1 to 1.5. The right wing always carried reference nozzle for which the performance was known. Six supersonic nozzle variations and two inlets were tested on the left engine. The designs had already been studied in the Lewis wind tunnels, but those tests were limited by shock waves in the tunnels.
Most F-106B flights were flown in a 200-mile path over the lake between Buffalo and Sandusky, known as the Lake Erie Corridor. The 1100-mile-per-hour flight took only 11 minutes at an altitude of 30,000 feet. The aircraft almost always returned with a depleted fuel supply so a Visual Flight Rules operation was required. Following the crash of another jet fighter at Lewis in July 1969, the F-106s were stationed at Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan. NASA pilots flew transport planes each morning to the base before commencing the F-106B missions.
After the supersonic transport program was cancelled, the F-106B was used as a test bed for additional engine exhaust nozzle configurations. The F-106B was also used to test inlet configurations for the noise reduction program.