Withrow and pilot Eric Hansen said they decided to store the Firebird at the Lumberton airport because it met all of their needs, including runway length, hangar size, a knowledgeable staff, proximity to Fort Bragg and convenient location of hotels and restaurants.
The airport also lent Withrow and Hansen
a fuel truck, which they will drive to Norfolk and return after the Fort Bragg exercise, Withrow said.
said the Firebird can climb as high as 25,000 feet, where temperatures can reach -15 degrees Farenheit.
"I have to wear long underwear and motorcycle boots" to keep warm, said Hansen, who previously worked for Lockheed-Martin Corp.
said the Firebird's wings are 65 feet long and store the plane's fuel tanks, which enable the plane to fly for up to 15 hours.
The cockpit can hold up to 500 pounds of equipment, including radar and surveillance trackers.
Underneath the plane are removable panels that are replaced by ball-shaped cameras for surveillance missions.
"It collects information, finds the bad guys and tells where the bad guys are," Hansen
has a connection with Felix Baumgartner, who recently made an historic plunge - becoming the first person to break the sound barrier without vehicular power by free falling 24 miles from the Red Bull Stratos spaceship on Oct. 14.
"A guy who worked for me worked on [Felix Baumgartner's] space suit," Hansen