July 30, 2006 (by 1st Lt. Adrienne Stahl) - Two F-16s block 40 assigned to the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron passed 6,000 flying hours during two recent Operation Iraqi Freedom combat missions over Iraq.
Front view of USAF F-16C block 40 #88-0471 from the 421st FS is adorned with the bossbird colors in a shelter in Iraq.
Flown by Lt. Col. Mark Cline, 421st EFS commander, and Capt. Nick Edwards, aircraft numbers #88-0471
were the first block 40
F-16s to achieve this milestone in combat.
This accomplishment is rare, officials said. Only one other Block 40 F-16 in the Air Force inventory has reached the 6,000 flying-hour mark.
Designers of the F-16 forecasted the aircraft design life to be 8,000 flying hours, according to Lockheed Martin officials. However, Air Force officials expect the F-16 to be in service beyond the year 2020, taking the jets beyond 8,000 flight hours.
was accepted into service in September 1989 and aircraft #88-0471
was accepted in January 1990 and assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, ever since. Both were deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm, four times in support of Operation Southern Watch and three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The crew chief on aircraft #88-0471
is Senior Airman Trent Nelson, with assistants Senior Airman Jason Wall and Senior Airman Tom Manues. The crew chief on aircraft #88-0428
is Senior Airman Victor Alvarez with assistant Senior Airman James Speicher.
"It is an honor to crew such a great jet, especially doing what she was made for here in a combat zone," Airman Nelson said. "It's a great feeling to crew the flagship and launch Colonel Cline for a milestone like this, but it's just the pride of the squadron taking care of business."
Upgrades and improvements to the engines and parts of the jets through the Service-Life Extension Program have helped extend the life of these aircraft, said Capt. Mark Sloan, 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge.
For these jets to have reached this milestone is a testament to the maintenance professionals who work these jets every day, said Chief Master Sgt. Dave Edwards, 421st AMU noncommissioned officer in charge.
"I've seen these jets roll over the 3,000, 4,000 and 5,000 flying hour mark, and the incredible thing is that after all these hours, they are flying as well today as they did when they were accepted off the production line," the chief said. "The reason these jets have performed this well, for this long, is the blood, sweat and tears the maintainers pour into these aircraft."