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  MSgt. Donald " Skosh" Graves (Ret.)

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Name MSgt. Donald Graves (Ret.)
Unit 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron "Skulls"
Crewing F-16s from 1977 until 1993
Contact dchingo Send me a private message
I started on the F-6 as part of the F-16 Joint Test Team at Edwards AFB, CA. I worked on 75-0745 with the civilians who tested it. I was the second person assigned as a USAF crew chief to 75-0749. I was the second crew chief to get engine run certified because I was on the night shift. I went with 749 to Eilson AFB, Al for cold weather testing and to the climatic lab at Eglin AFB, FL to solve the inlet strut icing issue. I got to run the acft in full afterburner while it was up on jacks indie the climactic lab. That was interesting. I was at Kunsan for the bed down for F-16s replacing the F-4s there. I was at Eglin AFB for weapons testing. My last assignment was at Misawa Japan withthe F-16.

Current or Favourite assignment

If I got the right unit above then this was the test group at Edwards. I started there on he F-15 Test , then fought for a transfer to the F-16 when it opened up. I loved working the Test Team. Every day was an adventure.


My first base was RAF Alconbury, England with RF-4Cs. Then I went to Edwards and was on test fro the F-15 and F-16. I passed on the opportunity to move the A-10 Test Team. Next I went to Kunsan Korea, then Eglin AFB, FL. The last base I was assigned to was Misawa AB, Japan. I went on TDYs with the F16 to Alaska, Florida and Clark AFB in the Philippines. It was a shame a volcano took out Clark.

My Jets & Assignments

Unit 10th Tactical Fighter Squadron "Fighting Tenth" [History]
Period 1974 - 1976
This was my first base. It was right after Nam and the force had been gutted by peace-nick politicians. We were so undermanned that as an A1C I crewed 4 RF-4Cs by myself. Each flight had as many as 5 can birds. Our motto became, "We have done so much with so little for so long that now we can do anything with nothing." My favorite jet was 66-0425. That acft flew many code 1 flts. I flew it for a week on a black last name initial. QC was all over it, but as soon as they got done I had it back to a black last name initial by the end of the day. I first saw the F-16 at an airshow there in 1976.
Unit 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron "Skulls" [History]
Period 1976 - 1977
I always thought the F-15 was to big for a fighter. It was a good jet, but the F-16 had my heart. I applied to transfer as soon as the F-16 Test Team opened up.
75745 [Detailed history of this F-16]
Unit 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron "Skulls" [Unit History]
Period 1977 - 1982
Current: 75745   F-16A [ i/a]
In the beginning there were no USAF crew chiefs on the acft. The AF did not own any acft when I started on the Test Team. We helped the civilian maintainers fly the tests. It was awsome. Every day was an adventure. You never knew if you were going to turn the wings backwards just to see what happened. There were no TOs. We worked from blue prints and General Dynamics instructions. Crew Chiefs were considered to be able to do everything on a jet except munitions. We had no specialists. One historical note is the these early F-16s did not have the ACES seat. They had a Stencil seat with red pads. Eventually we received drafts of the TOs that we had to try out and recommend changes to. That was fun. Take things apart just to see if you can put it back together from the draft TO instructions.
75749 [Detailed history of this F-16]
Unit 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron "Skulls" [Unit History]
Period -
Current: 849   F-16XL/A [ pre]
This was the acft we took to Alaska in January to see how it$ would act. There was no difference whatsoever. We also did a first test of launching the F-16 from an alert facility. From sitting in the break room to acft roll out on the first and only test was less than 30 seconds.
Unit 8th Fighter Wing "Wolf Pack" [History]
Period 1982 - 1983
Worked several different tail numbers. Was night shift chief. Went tdy to Clark AFB Philippines from here. KUnsan, "The Kun" was a remote assignment. Lots of alerts, and not a lot of amenities. BY the end of your year you were ready to go.
Unit 3246th Test Wing [History]
Period 1983 - 1991
Eglin AFSC would simply keep you forever. I worked many different positions related to the F-16 flight then moved to QA.
Unit 432nd Fighter Wing [History]
Period 1991 - 1993
This was my last base. Unfortunately I had no flight line time here. I ran the Product Improvement section of QA for both years I was there. Misawa is a great base. One of those well kept secrets in the USAF. Japan is a wonderful place to be stationed, although it is expensive.
Visitor Comments
F-16 Joint Test Force @ Edwards, Jan '78 to Apr '79
Gary Roberts, MSgt, USAF (Ret), Oct 27, 2010 - 04:00 AM

Hi Don!

I remember you!

I was an Egress Tech, SSgt, when I was assigned to the JTF. Worked ot of those two hangars separated by a GD break room, etc.

I believe all of the jets, A1 through A5 and the B models, had ACES II seats by then. Like you said, we had to take everything apart and see if we could put them back together with draft T.O.s or engineering drawings. What were they thinking? Some of the steps were absolutely impossible!

I went to Panama and Alaska on the climatic flight tests -- if I remember correctly, we got back from Panama just before x-mas '78 and left for Alaska not long after x-mas -- talk about jumping from the fire to the freezer!

Remember the "Alaskan Horney Critter" the locals stenciled on the tail (in RED) after we tagged several of their jets??? LOL... Remember the F-4 and F-16 taking off together (F-4 had a head start) and the F-16 was able to take off, do a loop and and come back on the tail of the F-4 while it was still climbing out? I think Lt Col Tuck McAtee (or was it Maj Gary Matthews?) was flying that day...

After coming back to Edwards I was selected to participate in a program called "Participation with Industry" or PWI, where I was actually assigned as an Assistant Crew Chief on "B1" # 75-0751, working for a General Dynamics Crew Chief! Man, what an experience! I remember its intake cover had "SOSSF" stenciled on it (Stamp Out Single Seat Fighters).

Edwards was one of the two best assignments I ever had!

I cross-trained into computer programming in Apr '79 and returned to Edwards, working in Ridley Mission Control Center during the Cruise Missile fly-offs and the first two Space Shuttle missions. I'll always cherish my assignment to Edwards!


6515 Test Support Sq @ Edwards AFB 1972 -1988
Larry Stencel, MSgt (ret), Jun 27, 2015 - 08:00 PM

Hi, guys. Don't know if you remember me but I served on the F-16 JTF cum CTF four different times. I worked in Flight Test Instrmentation (the guys with the orange wires). I was on the European Test & Eval Team in 1979 and was NCOIC of the LANTIRN/F-16 Integration Test force 1983-84. I was the last 'Charter' member of the TSS when I retired 1Jul1988. Thereafter, I worked for Northrop on the B-2 before retiring a second time in 2006. These days, I divide my time between homes in Florida and Wisconsin.

Ironically -- long story how it evolved -- I talked with Tuck McAtee just this AM. He's a general aviation pilot these days and we resolved to meet up at the giant Oshkosh Airventure airshow in July.

HI to all from the early days of the F-16 JTF.

F-16 JTF Edwards AFB from 1977-1979 and CRS SQ from 1993-1997.
Steven D Hoessli CMSGT (ret), Nov 14, 2017 - 05:13 AM

Worked on 745 from 1977-1979 as an Environmental Systems Tech. I remember Mr. Catarini from General Dynamics. Did alot of TO validation and verification on the Environmental System. Came back to Edwards AFB when the 4950 Test Wing was transferred from Wright -Patt. Edwards was a very enjoyable assignment, both times.

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