December 26, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - One of three F-16s that patrolled the skies over Washington, D.C., during the 2001 terrorist attacks now headed to the McChord Air Force Base Museum in Washington state.
USAF F-16A ADF #82-0929 here seen at London Ontario AB on June 3rd, 1994.
The three F-16s had been on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia on 9-11, when they were scrambled to protect the nation's capital.
Lt. Col. Brad Derrig, who flew the alert mission over the nation's capital on Sept. 11, 2001, piloted the last flight aboard the retired aircraft (#82-0929
) on Tuesday morning. He called the cross-country trip a historic moment for the Fargo-based 119th Fighter Wing, known as the Happy Hooligans.
Another one of the F-16s (#82-0926
) will be displayed at the North Dakota Air National Guard base in Fargo.
Once being part of several F-16 units in the NORAD
air defense chain flying the F-16 ADF
version, the 178th "Happy Hooligans" FS
is the last operational ANG
unit flying the block 15
F-16 ADF version.
Following the 2005 BRAC
decisions, the Fargo base is making the transition to unmanned aerial vehicles and light cargo aircraft. The military has built a UAV
command and control center at Fargo's Hector airport.
The Happy Hooligans have recorded 3,920 individual F-16 sorties. The group also set a record of 70,000 hours of accident-free flying.
The planes no longer are "relevant and useful" to the Air Force, Derrig said. Eighteen of the planes will be flown to a military bone yard in Arizona, he said.
The other block 15 F-16 ADF jets have been sent to AMARC
to be mothballed, thus ending the USAF operations of the F-16 ADF variant.
The 119th once had 20 full-time crew chiefs, each of them assisted by two or three people. Tech. Sgt. Darby Plath, 28, one of the crew chiefs, said it was difficult to see the F-16 go Tuesday. "I've been working on this for probably four years now," Plath said. "I'm going to miss her."
Some milestones achieved by the 119th FW:
- March 1990 - Converted from F-4Ds to block 15 F-16A/Bs. These Vipers were later converted to the ADF standard.
- October 1994 - Won the bi-annual "William Tell" air defense competition at Tyndall AFB, FL.
- September 1998 - Assumed the alert det. at Langley AFB, VA.
- March 1999 - Adopted a general purpose mission still flying the F-16ADFs and manning the alert det. at Langley AFB.
- September 11 2001 - Scramble of the three alert aircraft out of Langley AFB, VA and taking an active part in Operation "Noble Eagle"/homeland defense in the years to come.
- March 2006 - Conducting more than 70.000 accident free flying hours.