February 12, 2009 (by Justin Oakes) - After spending more than 24 years helping train the world's greatest F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilots and maintainers at Luke AFB, the Air Force's highest flying time F-16 leaves for a new destination.
USAF F-16D block 25 #83-1178 of the 61st FS coming back from the range on April 19th, 2007. [Photo by Jason Hyatt]
, an F-16D model currently assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron, has accumulated 7,238 hours of flight time, but its mission is far from over.
Lt. Col. Karl Schlimm, 301st Fighter Squadron pilot, will fly the historic aircraft to its new home with the 162nd Fighter Squadron, an Air National Guard unit at the Tucson International Airport.
"I'll be flying 178 to Tucson today, and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to do so," said Colonel Schlimm. "I've enjoyed flying the aircraft over the past few years and have enjoyed working with its crew chiefs, Staff Sgt. Eric Hayes and Senior Airman Jeremy Roe, as well."
All three Airmen's names along with Lt. Col. Manoj Ravi, the squadron's flight surgeon, will be placed on No. 178 before it makes its way to the largest ANG
fighter wing in the country.
"It is a tribute to all of the maintainers whose outstanding knowledge and craftsmanship led this jet to fly for so long," said Airman Roe. "You must be the best to do what we do."
F-16s, commonly referred to as Vipers, were designed to fly approximately 3,000 hours. By undergoing certain upgrades, the life expectancy can extend past 6,000.
"It's challenging enough for any maintenance unit to keep a Viper flying considering the torturous conditions they are subjected to out here," Colonel Schlimm said.
"Aircraft 178 has flown hours never envisioned by Lockheed or the Air Force, but were made possible due to the maintenance and hard work of Air Force individuals here at Luke," said Maj. Michael Dunn, 61st FS
director of operations.
The F-16 whose tail number once read LF 83178, which has spent its entire life at Luke, now bears a new mark. It's time is not yet finished as it will continue to accrue more hours and serve the Air Force -- but just in a different home.