One-of-a-Kind Research Aircraft


By Steve Markman and Bill Holder


One of a Kind Research Aircraft is unique book covers the aircraft that did, and still perform, the day-to-day research that is so important in developing new aircraft.  It details In-Flight Simulation Aircraft:NC-131H Total In-Flight Simulator, VISTA/NF-16D, NT-33A, Calspan Learjet, Variable Stability B-26, Gulfstream Shuttle Training Aircraft, ASTRA Hawk, P-2 Variable Stability Aircraft, S-76 Shadow, Tu-154M, VFW-614 ATTAS. Testbed Aircraft:F-16 AFTI, YF-16 CCV, B-47 Fly-by-Wire, A-7 DIGITAC, F-4 Fly-by-Wire; F-8 Digital Fly-by-Wire; B-52 CCV, F-8 Supercritical Wing, F-15 ASAT; F-15 IFFC, F-15 STOL/MTD, Carrier Testbeds, F-15 Streak Eagle, F/A-18 EPAD, F/A-18 HARV, F/A-18 SRA, JF-100 Variable Stability Testbed, F-102 Low L/D, F-104 Aerospace Trainer, F-111 AFTI, and many more!


ISBN: 0887407978, 8 1/2" x 11", Hard Cover, 152 pages, Over 200b/w and colorphotos. 


Schiffer Publishing -

One of a Kind was my first book. Here's how it came to be.

Back in the early 1970s I was a young aerospace engineer just out of college. I had a new job, new home, new wife, and lots of dreams for the future. One of them was the plan some day to own my own World War II fighter. I dreamed big back in those days! I also read lots of aviation magazines back then (I had lots of time, too!), especially ones about the great fighters and bombers of World War II. A name I used to see on a lot of articles was Bill Holder. Bill could make those old aircraft come to life…almost like I could jump into the cockpits and put my hands on the controls. Somewhere I learned that Bill also lived in Dayton and also worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. We may very well have passed each other many times over the years without ever knowing it.

Eventually my interests turned elsewhere as I realized I’d never own that Mustang or Thunderbolt. My work eventually led me into the fascinating business of flight testing…not as a pilot, but as a program manager for the Air Force’s fleet of in-flight simulator aircraft. Projects often led me to aircraft flight test centers, aircraft factories, and modification centers throughout the country and overseas. I met lots of fascinating people throughout the flight test business. I wish I had a dollar for every meeting I attended with some famous test pilot or astronaut. Also, I saw lots of aircraft modified for test programs. These weren’t famous aircraft, but the ones that did the day-to-day work of pushing technology just a little further with every program they did. They’d fly a program for a month or so, then get modified for another program, over and over again, year after year.

I often browsed through aviation books at the library and book stores. There were many books about famous aircraft like the X-1, X-15, and X-29, but I seldom saw any mention of many of the testbed aircraft I had seen. I often thought that someone was missing a great opportunity to tell their fascinating stories to the world. Although I enjoyed writing, I had no idea where to start and felt such an effort was beyond me.

Jump ahead a few years to about 1990. Late one Friday night I was on a flight home to Dayton from Washington, DC. Trying to get comfortable, I happened to notice the name on the brief case of the man seated next to me…Bill Holder. Finally summoning the courage, I asked, “Excuse me, but are you Bill Holder the aviation writer?” To make a long story short, obviously he was. We chatted most of the way home, during which time I talked about my book idea. Bill became fascinated with the idea also. By the time the flight ended, we had roughed out an outline and agreed to pursue the idea.

The rest, so to say, is history.

Do I have any favorite aircraft? You bet I do! For about twenty years I was the program manager for the Air Force’s fleet of in-flight simulator aircraft. These are highly-modified aircraft that can change their flight characteristics to match those of another aircraft. As the pilot moves the controls in the F-16, it can be made to respond like an F-22, or almost any other aircraft! Hence the name in-flight simulator. You can read all about them in One of a Kind Research Aircraft.   

The NT-33A (above) was built from a T-33 trainer. It was in service as an in-flight simulator from 1957 until its retirement to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in 1997. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Museum, look closely under the front cockpit—my name is there!  

The NC-131H Total In-Flight Simulator (above), commonly called the TIFS, went in service in 1972. It has since been leased to the Calspan Corp and is based at the Niagara Falls International Airport, where they continue to use it as the unique national asset that it always has been.    

The NF-16D Variable Stability In-Flight Simulator Test Aircraft (above), called the VISTA, went into service in 1995 and replaced the NT-33A. It was transferred to the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California, in 2001, where it still is used as a research aircraft and to help train new Air Force test pilots.

You can read all about my adventures as the program manager for these aircraft in Out of the Blue, which should be out some time this Summer. Keep checking for release information.