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F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Fighter era ends as new mission begins

August 8, 2010 (by SrA Tony Graham) - Col. Mike Roberts, 178th Fighter Wing Commander; Col. Craig Wallace, 178th Vice Commander; Lt. Col. John Thompson, 162nd Fighter Squadron Commander; Lt. Col. Nathan Thomas, 162nd Director of Operations; fly their final missions in the F-16 Fighting Falcon at the 178 FW, Springfield, Ohio on July 30th.

Pilots from the 178th FW gather in front of F-16C block 30 #86-0364 from the 162nd FS on July 30th, 2010 in Springfield, Ohio. It is the last time these pilots would fly together here at Springfield. [USAF photo by SrA. Anthony T. Graham]

This final flight, or "fini-flight," was the final mission flown by the American F-16's at the 178 FW. This flight will mark the end of a long and proud history of flying fighter aircraft for the 178 FW which began in 1948 with the F-51 Mustang in Vandalia Ohio.

"We've been single seat, single engine since day one. The most prolific fighter that has ever been at Springfield is the F-16. It's been here longer than any other fighter - it means a lot," said Colonel Thompson. The F-16 has been at the 178 FW since 1993, emotions run deep as the fighter era ends here.

Currently the pilots of the 178 FW have a combined total of 79,273 flying hours, with 54,288 of those hours being in the F-16. This final flight of four has accumulated over 100 years of flying fighters and boasts a total of 15,920 fighter hours with 12,380 hours being in the F-16. Colonel Roberts, Colonel Thompson, and Colonel Thomas began their military careers in the active duty Air Force. Colonel Wallace has spent his entire career with the Ohio Air National Guard.

Colonel Wallace feels blessed to have been able to fly fighters for 30 years and to have been able to accumulate 4062 hours in fighters...

"I'm a lucky guy," said Colonel Wallace, "Most pilots don't get the opportunity to fly their entire career, and those who do usually end flying at the 20 year point. Sure I am going to miss it, but I try to keep it in perspective. In regards to being a fighter pilot, the only thing worse than walking out to your jet knowing it's your last flight is walking out to your jet NOT knowing it's your last flight. I had four friends that never knew it was their last flight. To that end, it's hard to be sad about this fini-flight."

"Every other fini flight I had, I knew I was going somewhere else to fly an airplane," said Colonel Roberts, "This one is obviously different because I know that this is THE last time that I will be stepping down off of that ladder. It is sad in a lot of ways."

Fini-flights were created during the Vietnam War when pilots would complete their 100th combat mission. Once the pilots safely landed, they were greeted with champagne from their fellow comrades. Pilots today use this same tradition to mark their last flight in a particular aircraft or at their duty station.

The 178 FW must now turn its focus from flying fighter aircraft to establishing two new mission groups. The Reconnaissance Group will be flying the MQ-1 Predator and will be an ACC gained unit, the Intelligence Group will consist of four Intelligence Squadrons that will cover: Cyber, Space, Geospatial Intelligence, and Technical Exploitation. The Intelligence Group will be an AFISRA gained unit.

Colonel Thompson is looking forward to the challenges ahead...

"From a squadron commander's perspective, when tomorrow is over and it's done, I'll have some relief. We can now concentrate on the new mission."

Colonel Wallace advises Guardsmen to "step outside their comfort zone, try something new because the direction we are going is the future. What we're going to learn here in the future is going to be very relevant for years to come. There's going to be lots of job opportunities beyond that."

Colonel Thomas is looking forward to the new challenges ahead..."It's not really the end, it's the end of the flying, but it's the beginning of a new part of my career."

"From everything I've seen, the Predator will be here for many, many years. This is definitely a good solid long term mission that we're going to have for awhile," said Colonel Roberts.

As the jets depart Springfield for the last time, and the 178 FW prepares for their new missions, they can be assured that the new missions will be vital to the Air Force and protection of our country and that the unit's viability is secure for many years to come.

Courtesy of 178th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Additional images:

Members from the 178th AMXS salute Col. Jack Thompson as he taxis in F-16C block 30 #86-0315 from the 162nd FS down the runway on July 30th, 2010 at the 178th FW, Springfield, Ohio. Colonel Thompson was one of four pilots that participated the final F-16 Fighting Falcon flight at Springfield. [USAF photo by SrA. Anthony T. Graham]

Lt. Col Nathan Thomas and Lt. Col John Thompson discuss preparations for the final flights at Springfield ANGB on July 30th, 2010. Colonel Thomas and Thompson were taking their final flights in F-16s before the planes were moved to a new base.[USAF photo by TSgt. Seth Skidmore]

Col. Harry M. 'Mike' Roberts, Lt. Col John Thompson, Col. Craig Wallace, Lt. Col Nathan Thomas pose in front of F-16C block 30 #86-0364 from the 162nd FS after their final flight at Sprinfield ANGB on July 30th, 2010. The four pilots took their final flights before the planes leave the base. [USAF photo by TSgt. Seth Skidmore]
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