October 5, 2007 (by Capt. Miki Gilloon) - The 56th Fighter Wing closed out fiscal 2007 by flying 38,959.7 hours.
Luke's 56th FW Commander's F-16C #89-2056 belonging to the 63rd FS. [USAF photo]
In the packed, 12-month period with more than 29,038 sorties flown for FY 2007, the 56th Fighter Wing kept its mission going by training the world's greatest F-16 pilots and maintainers while deploying mission ready warfighters.
"Flying more than 38,000 flying hours is a challenging feat for the entire wing because it requires a total team effort to meet the Air Force's largest fighter wing's sorties and flying hour goals," said Brig. Gen. Tom Jones, 56th FW commander. "Everyone contributes to the success of our mission, and the number of flying hours we accomplished this fiscal year underscores the teamwork, dedication and commitment of our Thunderbolts and the unique partnership we have here with the 944th FW in training the world's greatest fighter pilots."
Although the wing fell about 12 hours short of its 38,972 flying hour goal, Tech. Sgt. Flint Whitesell, 56th Operations Support Squadron current operations superintendent, said that this did not impact Luke's training. "Although we underflew our hours, all student program flying training and instructor continuation training goals were met."
Each year, Air Education and Training Command allocates flying hours to Luke based on the number of aircraft on the ramp and the number of F-16 pilot graduates required for the Combat Air Forces. "We take the hours allocated by AETC
and divide them amongst the fighter squadrons based on how many aircraft they own and how many students they are forecasted to produce," Sergeant Whitesell said.
Holidays, family days, safety days and historical attrition numbers are also taken into account as to how many sorties the wing can expect to fly per month.
"Squadrons use this information to plan the appropriate number of sorties to meet their monthly goals. Once the fighter squadrons and maintenance units agree upon plan, they sign a contract to achieve their goals," Sergeant Whitesell said.
Over the course of the year, the 56th OSS closely monitors each squadron's progress and compares numbers between operations and maintenance on a monthly basis to ensure there are no discrepancies. Careful planning and monitoring are also critical to ensure Luke graduates its pilots on time as stays within the number of hours allocated by AETC.
The efforts of the 56th OSS current operations in conjunction with the fighter squadrons and maintenance units produced near perfect results this fiscal year.
"It is challenging to meet these goals," Sergeant Whitesell said. "The 56th OSS meticulously monitors the flying hours to ensure all units are on track, and the goal is to be within four percent of the monthly goals to ensure hours don't run out or there is excess at the end of the fiscal year."
As an additional note, the numbers do not include hours and sorties flown by pilots from the 425th Fighter Squadron and 21st Fighter Squadron, which are funded from separate accounts due to their training missions in producing pilots from the Republic of Singapore
When numbers from those two squadrons are included, the 56th FW flew a total of more than 45,842 hours and 34,222 sorties this past fiscal year.