Hornets for NASA

Last revised September 1, 2000

In the mid to late 1980s, the Navy transferred eight F/A-18As and one F/A-18B to NASA to be used by the Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility for chase and proficiency flying. They eventually replaced all of the F-104 Starfighters that had previously been operated by NASA. NASA has also used its Hornets for a variety of research projects, the first of these being the High Alpha program begun in 1987 to study airflow surrounding the aircraft in high angle-of-attack attitudes.

In the 1990s, three more F/A-18s were transferred to NASA.

The Bureau of Aeronautics serials of the Hornets assigned to NASA were:

160780		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-2-MC Hornet
			to NASA as 840 in 1985 
160781		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B-2-MC Hornet
			to NASA as 845 in July 1986
161213		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-4-MC Hornet
			to NASA as 844.  Crashed 10/7/88
161214		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-4-MC Hornet
			to NASA as 842 in August 1987
161216		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-4-MC Hornet
			to NASA as 841 in October 1985
161217		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B-4-MC Hornet (Lot 3)
			to NASA as 852.
161250		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-4-MC Hornet
			to NASA as 843 in October 1987.
161355		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B-5-MC Hornet (Lot 4)
			161355 to NASA as 846.
161520		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-7-MC Hornet
			to NASA as 847 in September 1989.
161703		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-8-MC Hornet (Lot 5)
			to NASA as 850.
161949		McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-12-MC Hornet 
			to NASA as 848 in December 1989.  

One of the F/A-18As (160780) was later converted into the HARV research aircraft. I also have evidence of an F/A-18 with a NASA number of 851, but I don't know the BuNo. Anyone out there?


  1. Flying the Frontiers--NACA and NASA Experimental Aircraft, Arthur Pearcy, Naval Institute Press, 1993.

  2. E-mail from Jan Evert Leeuw on NASA numbers.