F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Frank De Winne first non-American to receive Semper Viper Award

October 23, 1997 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Frank De Winne, test pilot with the Belgian Air Force, became the first non-American to receive the Joe Bill Dryden Semper Viper Award.

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He demonstrated his airmanship and systems knowledge during a flight on 12 February 1997 when his aircraft experienced an engine anomaly. He successfully restarted the engine and landed safely, despite challenging weather conditions that forced him to rely on standby instruments during the engine-out portion of the flight. DeWinne made a daring emergency landing in a densely-populated area near Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, to avoid ditching in the Ijsselmeer.

He saved the aircraft for his country and attained a personal goal for himself - he made it home for his son's tenth birthday.

For this feat, he became the first non-American to receive the Joe Bill Dryden Semper Viper Award.

Frank De Winne, an engineer and test pilot with the Belgian Air Force, was born on 25 April 1961 in Ledegem near Ghent. He graduated in 1984 as a communications engineer at the Royal Military Academy, and became a fighter pilot in 1986. In 1998, he was commander of the 349th Squadron of the First Tactical Wing at the Kleine Brogel base. Frank De Winne is the second Belgian in Space.

After obtaining his degree in telecommunications and civil engineering, he attended the Basic Flying School for his pilot training, after which he went for additional training at the Empire Test Pilot School in Boscombe Down (U.K.). He was an Air Force pilot for a long time. As a pilot, he was responsible for some years for the test flights of the Belgian Army.

Epilogue(This information has been added to this article in 2004)
During the NATO operation Allied Force in the Balkans in 1999, he was commander of the Deployable Air Task Force, a Belgo-Dutch operation which flew over 2000 sorties. In the context of that mission, he was awarded the distinction of Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau by Queen Beatrix. De Winne's total number of flights was over 2300.

Frank De Winne was selected as an ESA astronaut, underwent training in the Netherlands, and then close to Moscow.

On 30 October 2002 he was launched into space on board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at which he arrived on 1 November 2002.