J58 Last Run

A Pratt & Whitney J58 in the test stand at Edwards AFB preparing for the last run of this great engine. Note the beefy cables and steel rods to tie this giant down.

The evening of Thursday, September 12, 2002 was the last time a Pratt & Whitney J58 filled the night sky at Edwards AFB with noise and light.

To experience a J58 in full burner close up and personal is hard to describe. Picture a gigantic blow torch, 40 inches in diameter, putting out a blue-yellow-orange flame over 50 feet long. Imagine standing 30 feet from this, feeling the vibration and heat. You wear both foam plugs and earmuffs. Your ears still ring afterward, because the sound is conducted through your body. The back half of the engine transforms from dull gray to bright orange, seemingly transparent. The flame has little three-dimensional diamond shaped shock patterns about every two feet. I lost count at 13. It is both frightening and beautiful, an amazing demonstration of perfectly controlled power. And to think - this was done with 1950s technology.






Images of a P&W J58 on display in Palmdale, California, next to the entrance of AF plant 42.
Contributed by Robert Nocera