May 6, 2009 (by SSgt. Lindsey Maurice) - An Aviano F-16 Fighting Falcon #89-2057 reached a major aerial milestone on May 5 surpassing the 7,000 hours flight mark.
Capt. Kevin Di Falco, 510th FS pilot, taxies before taking off on a routine training mission on May 5th, 2009. This particular flight pushed F-16C block 40 #89-2057 past its 7,000 flying hour-mark, which is a first in the Aviano F-16 fleet. [USAF photo by SSgt. Lindsey Maurice]
At 20 years old, aircraft tail number 2057, is the first F-16C to reach this milestone in the Aviano fleet .
"The F-16 was never originally designed to fly to this milestone," said Lt. Col. Matthew Sanford, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "It was originally designed for 4,000 hours until a new platform was designed. Only through significant structural upgrades, such as our recent Common Configuration Implementation Program and Falcon Star modifications, together with our continuous and meticulous flightline and phase inspection criteria will this fleet of aircraft meet its currently programmed 8,000 hours. So, it's amazing to think how far along aircraft 2057 is compared to the rest of the fleet."
Part of the crew that keeps 2057 in top shape are dedicated crew chief Staff Sgt. Corey March and assistant dedicated Airman 1st Class Richard Sprott of the 31st AMXS.
Airman Sprott, who's been teamed up with 2057 for almost 18 of his first 21 months in the Air Force, said he has a special attachment to the jet.
"This is the first jet I've ever been assigned to," he said. "It has my name on it."
As a dedicated crew chief, Airman Sprott's duties include inspecting the jet to make sure it is ready to fly, conducting repairs, overseeing maintenance, performing scheduled maintenance, cleaning it and keeping its associated paperwork in order.
"I'm happy I became a crew chief," he said. "It's a lot of fun getting to launch out an F-16 fighter jet."
Capt. Joseph Miranda, 510th Fighter Squadron pilot, also holds a special bond with A2057, as he is the lead pilot of the jet, his name is also placed prominently on the aircraft by the cockpit.
"Flying any of our aircraft is a privilege and honor, but it is a great feeling to see your name painted on the side of a jet," said Captain Miranda.
Having gone through pilot training in 2004, the captain has flown the F-16 since 2006, 2057 in particular, since the fall of 2007. He currently holds about 700 hours of flight in the airframe.
"The F-16 is the greatest fighter ever built," he said. "It's difficult to imagine a more challenging or rewarding way to serve our country, and the community of operators, maintainers and support personnel that make every mission possible."
During Captain Miranda's time with 2057, he also had the opportunity to deploy with it from January to May 2007 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"While flying 2057 on Jan. 27, 2007, I dropped two 2,200-pound GPS
-guided bombs on a bridge in Iraq, closing a path used to funnel weapons into Baghdad by insurgent forces," said Captain Miranda.
The captain added that the aircraft's ability to conduct such a mission at its age is a testament to its maintenance crew.
"The 7,000-hour-mark is a testament to the care and attention to detail of our maintenance team," he said. "Although 2057 has flown in combat in multiple theaters (Balkans, OIF) and thanks to a recent avionics upgrade, the jet is more lethal now than at any point in its life."
Colonel Sanford echoed the captain's maintenance team kudos, attributing this milestone to all maintainers.
"Our AMXS team is only partly responsible for 2057's achievement," he said. "The truth is this would not have happened had it not been for the outstanding teamwork between the maintenance professionals on the flightline, in the backshops and within our maintenance support agencies such as quality assurance and plans and scheduling all working together to ensure our fleet is mission-ready.
"The business of aircraft maintenance demands attention to detail, day or night, rain or shine, in garrison or deployed and the men and women of the 31st Maintenance Group make it happen."
With one major milestone under its belt, 2057 continues to accumulate more hours on its way to the next victory of 8,000 hours - only 998.7 hours to go.