June 8, 2020 (by SrA Collette Brooks) - Airmen with the 8th Aircraft Maintenance Unit painted their F-16 Viper flagship during late May to early June.
USAF F-16C Block 40 #88-0454, 8th FS flagship sits at the 8th AMU, June 5, 2020, at Holloman AFB. The aircraft received a repaint which is a long stand tradition that allows the aircraft to be showcased with distinguishing and identifiable markings of their respective unit. [Courtesy photo by TSgt. William Garcia]
The repainting tradition showcases the legacy and heritage of the AMU's flagship while also giving the aircraft distinguishing and identifiable markings. On average a repainting takes a team of approximately six Airmen 5 -11 days to complete.
Prior to being painted, the tail reflected the standard Air Force aircraft markings which showcase the base and assigned a tail number. After painting the tail, horizontal stabilizers, and ventral fins the aircraft now displays the 8th AMU's heritage colors and squadron emblem.
"We submitted designs we created to the 19th AF for authorization, to custom paint the flagship in a way that honored the legacy and tradition of the unit," said Master Sgt. Brandon Daniel, 49th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance section chief.
The painting process requires multiple steps to include preparation, execution, and clean-up.
"Painting is a very tedious task that requires a lot of preparation to be successful," said Daniel. "We began the tail painting process by removing the old marking and roughly sanding the aircraft's surface with different degrees of sandpaper. After that is complete we began laying down barrier paper and tape to prevent overspray. Before we begin any painting it's paramount that the surface is clean and free from debris, so we take our time to make sure of that."
After preparing the jet, the 49th EMS Airmen begin to facilitate the painting process, coating the jet in multiple colors and designs. Repainting the aircraft tails, while also completing touch-ups on the fuselage, helps ensure the aircraft structure remains protected and visually appealing.
"Full paint frequency varies depending on the environmental conditions to which an aircraft is exposed and here at Holloman we expect ours to require full paints every 10-12 years," said Tech. Sgt. William Garcia, 49th EMS wing corrosion manager. "Aircraft receive paint touch-ups as the condition of the coating worsens and based on the availability of the aircraft."
Not only are aircraft evaluated on their performance, but so are the 49th EMS Airmen.
"Our Airmen have been nothing short of amazing," said Garcia. "They've maintained our fleet and equipment using minimal capabilities to paint custom-designed aircraft. They take great pride in their work and have always strived to do their best. The skills needed to paint a heritage tail or any other design, in general, takes a person who is self-motivated, hardworking, and determined to see the project through."