F-16 Fighting Falcon News

First 944th jet departs

August 24, 2006 (by SSgt Stephen Razo) - The first of 17 F-16s from the 944th Fighter Wing departed Luke on Tuesday for Hill Air Force Base, Utah, where it will undergo Falcon Star, a life-extending set of upgrades.

USAF F-16C block 32 #86-0273 from the 944th FW taxis out to the end of the runway.

From there, aircraft 86-273 will make its home at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

The 944th FW flightline was lined with members of the Reserve unit who came to witness a moment of history for the wing. Hearing her come to life on the flightline was no consolation for the maintenance crew, who also knew they weren't going to put her to bed that night - this was good-bye.

The event marks the beginning effects of the latest Base Realignment and Closure actions. In the following months, the 302nd Fighter Squadron will begin to scatter the remaining 16 of their Fighting Falcons to various locations, including the Tucson National Guard headquarters; Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; and Fresno Air National Guard in Fresno, Calif.

"It's a little sad taking the first jet off the ramp," said Maj. Scott Crogg, 302nd Fighter Squadron pilot. "Since the 1950s, the Air Force has been right sizing. We do what we can and look to the future."

The future for the 302nd Fighter Squadron is at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, where the unit's historic flag will reside as a Reserve associate squadron.

The 302nd FS will join two active-duty squadrons flying the Air Force's next generation aircraft, the F-22 Raptor.

A little nostalgia shadowed crew chief, Master Sgt. Rob Taylor, throughout the day. Sergeant Taylor said goodbye to an aircraft he accepted upon its arrival at Luke in 1990 from the 64th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., and also became her first crew chief.

"Reality really starts to set in when you see the first jet leave," Sergeant Taylor said. "I said hello to this aircraft 16 years ago and now I have to say good-bye."

Courtesy of 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs